From Diary 2 The tour
continues in the north-western Cambodia.
6/1 It is a bit overwhelming to plan the day at Angkor Wat: It is so big! The first map is 40*40 kilometres, but many of the sights I want to see, are marked on the edges of the map: Banteay Srei and its carvings:19 km north, Beng Mealea and its decay: 46 km east, Kbal Spean River and its carvings within the river: 37 km north. And there are several temples and alike within the Angkor Wat complex. It might take an extra day.
I start with a Healthy Breakfast, and then head straight to the main temple; Angkor Wat. It is the largest religious building in the world - and Tomb Raider was filmed here. Besides from the central temple, numerous others are found around the vast area. All made between 600-1400 AC.
Angkor Wat have a several hundred meter wide moat,
and the island within is around one square kilometre. Here are 800
metres bas-reliefs, and the central tower raises 55 metres. Most are general intact, although it was build by Suyavarman II, who ruled from
1112 to 1152.
I do several loops around the large complex within
Angkor Wat, but I refuses to stand in line for over a hour, to get to the
central tower. Here are all the tourists I haven't seen anywhere else!
Luckily, it seems like most are in the line to the central tower,
enclosing several sides of the temple.
Within the buildings, numerous Buddha and other
statues are displayed. Outside, it is the bas-reliefs that catches the eye -
and the share size of the buildings. The outer corridor is one long
bas-reliefs with a story to tell. Read about it elsewhere...
The next is within the Angkor Thom area with its moat and wall, and this area dwarf Angkor Wat in size - by ten times! That said, the central building is smaller. Bayon was build by Jayavarman VII around 1200, and it have the classic "angry men holding Snakes- bridge". Here, several of them still have their heads. The large entrances have the huge faces the Bayon is known for, and while it might look like a big pile of gravel from a distance, the carvings and walls are impressive close-up. 11.000 figures, 1.200 metres of carvings, and numerous towers.
Again, I do several loops while I try to capture
some of the essentials. Actually, I think the best photo is from the
outside, where a big,
fat pig lies in the mud. Again, here are so many tourists, and I can't
avoid them. I try to get some of the huge faces, steering out in the
a minute part of the bas-reliefs.
On my way to the next sight, I do a small stop at Ta Keo; a almost pyramid-shaped temple, if it wasn't for the towers. Despite the height, the view is disappointing, and I head on - to lunch. A tent offers egg-noodles with vegetables. I guess it is freshly cut, and noodles and vegetables are just drowned in steaming hot water. Anyway, it taste good, and with a large pineapple shake, I have to pay $4.
Next temple is Ta Prohm, which is
but I especially like the huge fig trees that is reclaiming
the area. After Angkor Wat and Bayon, it is hard to be impressed. One of
the buildings are being re-build, and that is quite some puzzle.
Pre Rup is another red temple, but I have to focus
on the primary targets, and leave the central Angkor Wat area. Banteay Srei
is 19 kilometres north of the main area. Ann
recommended it to me because of its carvings.
Banteay Srei is not big, but the carvings are
truly something else. Had they been made of clay, they would have been
impressive, but it is carved out of sandstone! I try to get photos of
it, but somehow, I fails.
The last sight of the day; Kbal Spean is 60 kilometres north of Angkor Wat, and I'm not sure I got it right. A three kilometre walk through the forest, in what appears as a dry river, lead out to a wet river. Carvings have been made within the river and on the big boulders along it.
The walk through the nature is interesting, while the wet carvings somewhat less. I find some strange orchids on a single of the huge boulders, while I wonder why someone have made carving under water? And why there are no proper road to them. I see the waterfalls and the great view over the canopy before I hurry back. It is getting late, and I would like to be back before dark.
I reach my hotel at six, just at dusk. A quick
meal next door, and home to work. First a bit of homework, then at
eight, I start on the more than 500 photos of the day and the diary. I
figure the pictures have to be divided a bit.
Bayon, Ta Prohm,
Banteay Srei and
7/1 It is a bit greyish day to start with, but I have a long drive ahead to Beng Mealea, and it clears up eventually. I do a breath stop halfway in Dam Daek, which - not surprisingly - have a big market. Here are the usual things, and I try to limit the amount of photos.
It is truly countryside from here. The Preah Vihear district is known for being rural, and it sure is. Here are large banana fields, sweet potatoes, mangoes and a lot of grass land. The further north I get, the dryer it seems to be. It is quite clear; it all use to be forest. Actually, Cambodia have only one percent of forest left; it use to be 75%. And I still meet so many rice-tractors loaded with timber and firewood. I wonder what they will do, when it all is cleared?
The few huts along the way is rudimentary at best. They stand on tall posts, and are made of wood. Some with palm-leaf roof, some with rusty tin-plates. The waste grass fields are scarcely grassed by skinny cattle. The small rivers mainly dried out.
Beng Mealea is a large temple, build around
1200 AC by Suryavarman II. The earth-shakes have not been kind to
it, nor have the huge trees. The moat is looking like a rice path,
although the 900 times 1200 metres make it a big one! Some of the
vegetation have been cut back, and one can get an idea of, how it have
looked in its glory days.
A boardwalk leads right through its centre parts, crossing the tall walls and offering some good views. It was made in 2004 to shoot the film; Two Brothers by Jean-Jacques Annaud. The temple will do nicely for a Indiana Jones meet Tomb Raider film.
But taking pictures is a challenge without artificial lightning. The few open spots in the canopy does lead light down, but only in bright spots within the else so dark interior. I try some larger panoramas, but think the small ones will work better, although the share size are lost then.
The carvings have been great, and at least some
are still in place, although getting near them is a problem. Other areas look
like a pile of big, square boulders. Only a few of the hallways are
intact, and only one can be entered. Many bridges have lead in to the
centre, and some are still intact on their one meter tall posts.
I do the tour around and across, and when I exit by the wrong entrance, there are some food tents. It is noon, and I celebrate it with some fried rice - mainly because that is the only vegetarian course I can find. I do a small tour around the settlement, but here are not much to see - except for the local kids, whom I puzzles.
I set the GPS for the temple of Prasat Preah Vihear, although I'm not going to see it today. The GPS have a significantly shortcut, leading right through the Preah Vihear area, I want to see. Considering its alliance with the car, and their mutual fear of gravel, I give it a try, despite my map don't show a proper road.
It is truly a rural area I drive through, but the road is well maintain. Only a few villages at the major intersections, scares farmers huts along the road and a lot of grass land. Here are bananas and pepper? along with the sweet potatoes at first, then the grass land takes over. Again, it is clear to me it was forest not so long ago. A few smaller trees are left, and they have been growing in the shade until recently.
I see a snake on the road, and manages to get some
all right pictures of this cobra. I take a walk around a rare pond, and
a few other places, but here are not that much interesting to see in
this dry area.
The hotel is brand new, and my balcony overlooks the almost untouched area behind the hotel. A walk in the bushes does not reveal anything interesting, but thorns. A walk around the village result in a cup of tea and some pictures from their market. I know, I should stop taking them....
Back at the hotel at five, I start on the days photos and diary, hoping to catch up with yesterdays photos as well. At six, I plug in the computer - and the power is cut. I find a restaurant with two vegetarian dishes; fried noodles or rice with vegetables. I guess that is what I have to live with and of. And I have to wait until the power is back, but at least it is not a Brown-Out, lasting for twelve hours...
From here, the tour continues into the north of Cambodia in Diary 4