The Grand Tour that I signed up for yesterday started at about nine in the morning. The big tour of Angkor Wat will happen tomorrow. I’m delaying the gratification of visiting that place by exploring some of the other ruins found in this area. This area served as the capital of the Khemer empire for many centuries. There are temples stretching back a thousand years here.
We started the exploration at the furthest one from Siem Reap. My view forward was my drivers helmet but to either side the flat landscape offered constantly changing scenery filled with roadside stalls, buildings and others using the roads.
The initial drive took an hour to cover forty clicks. The temples name is xxxx and it is small but very finely decorated. I felt a bit of excitement as this is the first time since India that I’m doing something like this. This whole area is built around this industry. The volume of tourists everywhere is testament to that.
The day was hot and sunny. It was hard to capture precisely what I was seeing. It doesn’t appear that they used any mortar or cement to bind any of the building blocks together. Quite amazing feat of engineering considering the height of some of the structures.
There is a lot of beautifully carved stone. A lot of the themes are now familiar to me depicting Buddhist mythology. This whole area must have been spectacular at the time of its use.
There was a longish drive to a larger complex. The grandeur of the gate was embellished by the structures on the bridge holding a shape that can only be guessed at now. It’s the tail of a serpent and thematically I’ve noticed it all over the place. I have a book and I’ll fill in those details a bit later.
This temple has a lot of parts that are in need of restoration and some work is being done to stabilize certain portions of it. There are signs warning of danger barring entry. This little bit of danger is offset by the beauty of the ruins that remain. I spent quite a bit of time walking all the different paths set in cardinal directions. They lead to a central structure housing something significant.
There are many smaller buildings that housed different deities and all of them needed to be worshiped at some point. After this area was abandoned nature found a home here plunging its roots deep into the crevices for stability.
Man’s grandeur is dwarfed by the majesty of the trees that took hold. The scars on the temples facade are evidence of their uninhibited growth. It was quite interesting to be there. It gives me a taste of what is to come tomorrow.
It was very hot though and my cold water bottle was very warm now and empty. I went and ate a watermelon by the side of the temple and replenished my water supply. I was served by a young girl maybe seven or eight. She expertly peeled my watermelon and chopped it into eights. She has probably been doing it for a while. I encountered a lot of kids today all asking for money that they need for school. They don’t go to school they do this. I told one of them that was trying to sell me postcards that school is what is going to get her to stop asking people like me for money. I wonder if she understood?
The next place was a monument signifying ingenuity. It lay in the middle of what once was a man made lake they was fed by waterworks. The monument was out of bounds and surrounded by some water. The vast stretches of dead vegetation it what the water used to occupy.
It was a long road to get there but with seeing. There are just a few more to go. There comes a point when one can get tired of sightseeing and in this weather the heat compounds the problem. I didn’t know this yet.
Each new facade has something different to offer and in the crooks and crannies new visions appear. These were and continue to be places of worship. The prayers are different and the rituals seem exotic but they speak to man’s ancient need to venerate. This is a common thread that unites all religions.
Hunger started to creep up on me and before entering the last temple I told my driver I wanted to eat. He said that there was a restaurant down the road he wanted to take me to but I said that the roadside diner in front of the temple would be fine. He said he was concerned about hygiene but I said I survived India and I should be fine besides it’s a nice view.
The food was pretty good. It was a five U.S. dollar meal with the drink. I don’t know if it was worth that but nevertheless we both say there eating together. The family that owned the stand seemed to be happy that I was eating there. The matriarch of the clan cooked my meal.
There were a lot of steps to climb to the top the view from there was worth it though. The heat of the setting sun was dampened by the shade offered by the structures.
It was a good way of ending the tour. I got driven back and enjoyed cleaning myself up of the captured grime that my sweat collected. I had to peel my clothes off. Once refreshed by the water I felt like a nap and happily obliges my body’s wishes. When I woke up I decided to eat but then a curious thing happened we had a power outage here. By this point in the day it was dark already. In the hallway one of the staff informed me that the generators will commence operation soon.
I went downstairs to the restaurant and unwittingly ordered a meal for two. I made a valiant effort to finish it. I left a few vegetables and some rice. I feel bad when I waste food. I listened in on a conversation two couples were having. They weren’t couples but just some people getting to know each other sharing stories. The longer the conversation went on for the more boundaries were discovered once their backgrounds were revealed. Once finished I walked around the city a little bit finding the market and pub street.
I wondered to myself if these were signs in the mystical sense but decided that they were just signs. I have to be up at four to begin the tour at five in time for sunrise.