Angkor, Part II: Temple Hopping
Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
351Trip End Ongoing
Amongst these temples and what-not, I met a tour guide, exhausted from two months of daily tours with Korean groups: "I'm sooooo tired. Where you from?"
Once he knew I was from the USA, he wanted to know THE question.
"Is WWE wrestling real?"
I was not expecting this in the middle of the ruins at Banteay Srei, but he needed to know, just like people eventually need to know about the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus
The best part about the WWE is that WWF (the nature organization I work with) sued them (then called WWF) and they had to change their name--the panda bear beat Junk Yard Dog and Hulk Hogan, even after he turned bad.
Needless to say, I didn't come to Angkor to talk about wrestling.
I did come to Angkor to enjoy a good dish of Amok fish, however, with its coconut curry, vegetables, and Tonle Sap fish. The dish, with a couple plates of rice and a couple of Angkor beers is the perfect end to a long day of "temple hopping."
For four days, I biked around the temples, cutting through the thick hot air with my rickety bicycle. During these four days, I learned one thing in particular...
Whatever a moto driver tells you relating to things to do, believe that he's telling you that so that he can make money. This isn't a bad thing because they're doing their job, but...just say "no" (anything else they say is great, fun, polite, cool, etc)
Example: (at the airport) "where you going?"
"Mahogany Guest House."
"They're full, but I can take you to another place."
"Oh really? Then just drop me off at Ya Tep, the sacred tree."
From there, after paying homage to the spirits of Angkor, I went to Mahogany, where there were plenty of rooms available.
All in all, the faces of Bayon, the bas-reliefs at Banteay Srei, and the grandeur of Angkor Wat were highlights.
For the first day, I visited Angkor Wat for four hours including the sunset. I casually walked around, saving the best parts for later. Nevertheless, here she was, her quincunx of towers, her 1,500 apsara dancers, her hundreds and thousands of bas-relief carvings, her galleries, her libraries, her pools, her moat, her causeway, and her enclosing walls all graced by the evening light
For the second day, I arose at four-thirty in the morning and biked under the light of the full moon to the city of Angkor Thom, stopping at the South Gate. Its large faces on the entrance ballustrade, backed by the misty, marsh moat was surreal under the glow of dawn and moonlight. I biked to the center of the city, to Bayon and entered the dark temple, with six Temple Dogs and the full moon. The faces of Bayon smiled in all directions, just like the boy who brought me my stirfry lunch many hours later.
Twelve hours later, I finished the grand circuit, exhausted after having visited terraces, palaces, a dozen temples, and miles of jungle roads. This day called for more Amok fish and Angkor beer.
For the third day, I visited the temple of Banteay Srei, hiring Vanna as a motor scooter driver, as the temple was remote. The bas-reliefs at this site are highly detailed and well-preserved for the most part. For sunset, I climbed the hill temple named Phnom Bakheng, joining hundreds of other tourists at the summit for views over the Angkor landscape.
For the fourth day, I revisited Bayon and Angkor Wat, carefully circling each several times, looking at all the bas-relief carvings in more detail, pounding my chest three times in the Chamber of Echoes for good luck, visiting my favorite apsara again, climbing to the top of each temple, looking face-to-face at the Bayon khmer faces, and watching the sun set once again on Angkor Wat. Today also called for more Amok fish and an Angkor beer (Beerlao is better, by the way).
As it begins, so it ends.