All Templed Out

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Siem Reap, Cambodia

We were down for breakfast by 7.15 am ready for one last day of temples. First on the list was Ta Prohm which can get extremely busy so we wanted to be there before the crowds.

Ta Prohm was built from 1186 and known as the Monastery of the King dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII. Almost 80,000 people were required to maintain or attend at the temple. It is famous for the scene in Tomb Raider where Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft picks a jasmine flower from the tree before falling through the earth.

Trees grow through the temples and then root systems strangle the walls and towers. Many of the corridors are impassable with jumbled piles of stones blocking the way. However, it was not as wild as Beng Malea and Georgia was disappointed at not being able to clamber over the stones. There was a lot of restoration work going on making other parts inaccessible. Still it was very atmospheric to wander through and not too busy.

Next stop was Banteay Kdei, a small temple we had meant to visit the day before but spent too long at Ankgor Thom. It was a Buddhist monastery from the latter part of the 12th century surrounded by four concentric walls and each of the entrances is decorated with Garudas which hold aloft the four faces of Avalokiteshvara. The inside of the central tower was never finished and much of the temple had collapsed due to hasty construction.

As we left the temple, we admired some of the ink drawings being done by a young boy and bought one of Angkor Wat for USD15 as a souvenir of our visit.

We wandered over to look at Sra Srang, Pool of Absolution, measuring 800 x 400 m reserved for the king and his consorts. There were some people in the middle who appeared to be fishing, submerged neck deep in water.

Our final temple was Preah Kahn, Sacred Sword, one of the largest complexes at Ankgor and a maze of vaulted corridors, fine carvings and lichen-clad stonework. It was built by Jayavarman VII around 1190 and probably served as his temporary residence whilst Angkor Thom was being built. We approached over a walkway bordered by a massive stonework depiction of the Churning of the Milk thought most were without heads.

The temple was a mix of corridors and tumbled stones with some trees covering walls with their massive root systems. There was also a curious two storey Grecian style structure in the grounds which was striking but odd and its purpose was not clear. Jonno declared Preah Khan to be his favourite temple and we all agreed it was a good temple to finish on.

We returned to our hotel in the tuk tuk passing back through Angkor Thom for one last glimpse of the Bauphon and the Bayon and back past Angkor Wat and its imposing towers.

Back at the hotel we showered and packed ready to check out by 2pm. We headed into town for one final lunch then back to sit round the pool and relax till our 6pm pick up for the airport. All went to plan and our flight departed on time and we landed in Danang, Vietnam about 20 minutes early. Our driver was there to meet us and took us to Green Tea Homestay where we were greeted with fresh fruit and water and shown to our lovely rooms. By now it was round 11 pm and we were all ready for bed.