The Angkor Temples!
At 8.15am we set off on our chauffered Tuk Tuk which costs $20 for a whole day (£15). An hour away was our first temple Banteay Srei. It was a scenic drive where we passed villages, kids jumping into roadside pools and lakes. We stopped and had a photo taken and a pass printed from the entrance so we could proceed into the area of the temples. Each pass was $20 (£15) so already with just the passes alone, we had spent our daily budjet. But regardless, it was a must and was well worth sacrificing a couple of days budjet for!
As we reached our first temple the tuk tuk driver who spoke little English charaded that we meet him back here. The first thing we noticed was old school tourists everywhere!! It was the smallest temple we visited throughout the day. Only the walls were standing (how could you blame it, it was over 1000 years old!) thinking all the temples looked like this, we gazed in awe at the intricate carving. It was the temple that was in the worst condition but we thought it was beautiful. Little did we know that the other temples would blow our minds. There was a lot of, "ooo thats nice," "loook how cool that is," and then... "aww Daniel look, theres a cambodian band of disabled people!" It was such a cool band with men and women playing old cambodian instruments and 1 guy in particular playing a single green leaf. After sitting and listening for a few minutes i talked Daniel into buying a CD, it was for a good cause as they are all land mine victims so are unable to work, and so choose to do this instead of beg.
The second temple we visited, Ta Prohm, was just out of this world. Larger, better restored and stunning with the added feature of the tallest trees growing out of the temple structures. Yep thats right, this was the temple featured in the Lara Croft Tomb Raidor film! I can't get my head around how it was possible. The trees appear to have started growing from the roof, not the ground, and the thick bulging roots have engulfed the temple walls making it appear as though its from some alien world.
The third temple we visited, Ta Keo, was an unexpected visit. It was not a temple we had planned to go to, but when passing it by and seeing the humungous staircase reaching the heavens it was way to tempting for Daniel just to look at. So off we started climbing. Having just eaten a corneto ice cream, I found it increasingly difficult to hold on and keep my grip on the VERTICAL DROP stair case. More like rock climber than a normal sauter up a few steps. Finally after what must have been 100 tiny steps, we reached the top to find a mini temple of the Buddha looking over the many other temples. We both had become accustomed to the routine, we lighted 3 incense sticks each, held them in our hands in a prayer like motion then, kneeling we bowed 3 times to the Buddha for good luck and fortune and got given a red thread band on our wrists. We met a man in his 60's from cornwall in England. He was sitting on the window sill gazing out at the beauty of the nature, view and of course the amazing cool breeze (something that is increasingly rare in Cambodia). Joining in his slice of paradise was us, a German couple and an Australian who lives in England :) We all enjoyed our little tea party, a chat and a rest. It was just what the doctor ordered.
Back to our loyal Tuk Tuk driver and off we went to the next temple. We had temples growing out of our eyes and ears by this point BUT we wanted to see one of the great wonders of the world - Ankor Wat Temple. Unforunately it was that amazing we had to wait until the end.
Ankor Thom was the temple with the most area to it. Only a small temple but it had a huge brick wall around it making it look bigger than the rest. This temple was having the most reconstruction done to it. Thousands upon thousands of deserted bricks from the temple, all laid out on the grass ready to be re-applied. One section they were working hard to restore was the gigantic reclining Buddha. Cleverly, the Buddha is not obviously protruding from the structure, it is subtly built within the walls of the temple. If you didn't know it was there you would have a hard time finding it (there is a picture in our album). Many makeshift cranes haul rocks and sand as many young Cambodian men work in the seering heat. Because we could not go inside the temple and could only really walk around it, it was not one of our favourites. Still stunning architecture though, you would be blind not to be impressed.
We then came to Bayon, What I nicknamed the temple of the Buddha heads. Gigantic towers and on every side of the tower, the smiling chubby face of the Buddha! This temple had the best carving seen throughout the temples and to have lasted how it has is just utterly mindblowing. This was my favourite out of all the temples just because there was more to explore and so much work was still there to appreciate.
And finally the grand finale.... As we slowly walked up the 800m regal bridge to the Angkor Wat, with the sun starting to set and the enormous temple waiting for us... We decided to go to lunch instead.
Look here! We had been walking up and down, back and forwards through temples ALL DAY since 8 o'clock, it was now 4pm! And with only cornettos in our bellies!
Okay FINALLY the grand Finale. As we slowly walked up the 800m regal bridge to the Angkor Wat, with the sun starting to set and the enormous temple awaiting for us, we were ready to be amazed/ Or as the Lonely Planet put it, "it'll blow your socks off! Not wearing socks? Strap those sandles, as they're in for a wild ride..." It might sound funny and a tad overexaggerated but it was bang on the mark! The temple is on 3 levels being the largest religious temple in the world. The bottom level consists of an outer open string of corridors with wall carvings depicting images of Buddhist stories. The main story being heaven and hell. Heaven would of course be situated at the very top off the wall. Men with luxury food, seats and smiles. Hell situated at the bottom. One image that was disturbing was a man hammering nails into another man. A passing guide mentioned that the executioner will go to another hell, worse than this one! Beautiful carvings that have been restored and kept like new. The corridors were mysteriously quiet, meaning where have all the tourists gone? On approaching the second level our question was answered (I wish I hadnt asked!) Absolutely packed with mainly Chinese tourists all wearing Cambodian hats and t-shirts, laughing in their big groups. Standing for 2 seconds we got given a ticket to go to the top level. Thankfully after us, all the chinese tour groups decided they were ready too.
The ticket allowed us 30mins, it stated to surpress noise such as shouting. We had to be dressed appropriately (t-shirts with sleeves and covering your knees) The top level had great views, and had tiny coves where statues of religious stature were dressed up. The size and intricate carvings on the 2 towers at the top was unreal, mindblowingly clear. So suprised that weathering hadn't eroded away the detail. Although it was crowded with tourists it definately didn't dissapoint.
On the way back down we opted for somewhere to chill out. It had been a busy day with a lot to take in, so on the 2nd level we found a spot that no-one was in and watched the sunset. That was by far one of the best memories of both me and Daniel being together when literally everything in that split moment of time was just perfection to the max. Sheer joy, elation for how far we had come and excited for more adventures to come and lucky that we had each other. Our moment only to be threatened by monkeys having a fisty cuff fight on the roof. Then soon after a young French guy moaned as his sandwiches that had been securely packed in a celephane packet surrounded by cellotape in his bicycle basket was being mutilated by monkeys!!
This was a great way to end the day, to walk back to our Tuk Tuk with an army of monkeys around us. They were not afraid of humans, infact I think they quite enjoyed our company :)