|This morning I woke up at 8:00 am and after making a PB&J sandwich for breakfast I got into a tuk tuk with two French guys staying at my hostel to go see Beng Mealea. It is a temple about 1 ½ hours away but I heard it is one of the “must see” temples. I'm so glad I decided to go because it turned out to be one of my favorite temples I've seen so far.
At first glance it just looks like a crumbled forgotten temple, but once you realize that you can climb through the ruins and explore the temple from above, it turns into a great adventure. The basic infrastructure of the temple is still there, you can see the three enclosures that go around the temple and still see the basic floor plan of the inside. But within the basic outline of the temple, all the stones are completely collapsed. The chaotic state of the interior is enhanced by trees and vines growing everywhere. I loved how the jungle seemed to be over taking the ruins just like at Ta Phrom (from yesterday). We got to scramble up the giant piles of collapsed stones to the roof level of the temple and explore it from above. We were also able to climb up vines and swing on them. Within a few minutes of walking into the temple area a guide found us and offered to take pictures for us and lead us through the temple. So he showed us where we could climb up to get good views and showed us which vines were safe to climb on. He also showed us where the good photo ops were and took lots of pictures for us. It was definitely the most fun I've had exploring a temple.
One cool moment was when a little butterfly landed on my hand and actually decided to stay there for a few minutes while I walked around. I think it means good luck. Or maybe I just tasted like a flower.
After about 1 ½ – 2 hours of exploring the temple we got out money to tip him (we each took out $1 or $2) but when we tried to hand it to him he shook his head and said it was $10. We should have known that he would charge us money to show us around the temple. He did do a great job so we gave him the money, but I also looked him dead in the eye and said “You did a great job but thats really not fair and not nice what you're doing. I'm going to tell all my friends not to let you lead them around.” Haha. I was just fed up with people taking advantage of tourists and asking for more and more.
We then had lunch and got back into the tuk tuk to see a group of temples on the way back. Side note: The food here is horrible! It really makes me miss the food in Thailand that I got so sick of. For lunch I ordered noodles with chicken and veggies. The noodles were ramen noodles that you buy for like 10 cents at the grocery store. Not so delicious.
Anyway- the temples we saw on the way back were: Lolei, Preah Ko, and Bakong. After exploring the ruins and jungle-like temple of Bang Melea these other temples did not really peak our interest. We got out of the tuk tuk, walked around for a few minutes, took some pictures and got back into the tuk tuk. We joked around that any temple we can't climb up isn't going to be interesting to us anymore. What can I say? After scrambling up ruins and swinging from vines, everything else just seems a bit boring. On a serious note though- after a while the temples really do start blending together. There are some that stand out from the past few days, definitely Angkor Wat, The Bayon, Ta Phrom, and Bang Melea. They were all very distinct, but the other ones we went to really didn't stand out as much.
We got back to the hostel around 4:30 and I spent the rest of the evening researching what I am going to do next. Since I bought a three day pass to the temples I have one more day, but I'm not going tomorrow because I need the day to relax. On Sunday I will go back for my last day of temple sight-seeing. It's nice that for the past three days I've gone out with three different groups to sight-see. Maybe I'm getting the hang of this whole traveling alone thing.