|Temple Day 1!!! May be templed out by Saturday!
Early start, leaving at 5 a.m.!!! to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat, which means City of the Temple. The Temples of Angkor represent 600 years of Khmer civilisation - one of Asia's greatest kingdoms. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world! Originally a Hindu Temple built in 12th Century to the god Vishnu. It is unusual for a Khmer temple as it faces the setting sun, the symbol of death.
Tuk-tuks take us to the little visited Eastern side of the great temple so a torch is needed as we walk between the forest & temple wall to reach the south side. As we turn a corner there are 100s of tourists already competing for a vantage point pointing their camers - reminiscent of the Press waiting for Princess Di! We find a calmer spot by a library pool to see the sun rise over the temple & wonderful reflections of the 5 towers in the large still lake. Just beautiful.
We open our fabulous woven breakfast boxes from the hotel. Mango, orange , yoghourt, croissant & small pastry, breads & jam are all neatly packed in further woven compartments! A very smart picnic breakfast.
Refreshed we head to Angkor Thom, meaning Great City, which was populated by more than 1 million people in the 11th Century when it was capital of the Khmer region. It is estimated that London had a population of 35,000 in the same period!
It is crumbling & much restoration is being done. Such a shame that so many tourists are allowed to scramble all over it uncontrolled. Late 12th Century but built by a king. The Bayon is the central part with 54 towers with more than 200 huge carved stone mysteriously-smiling faces. It is very complex in structure probably because the king was building 'bigger & better' than the previous king! The main tower is missing its faces as they were carved in gold!
Quick stops at, firstly, the busy South Gate for the statues of the Gods & Demons on either side of the bridge having a tug of war using the ever present Naga or snake! Gods are always on the right, Demons to the left! Then at the Terrasse des Elephants, does what it says on the tin plus some central tiers where the king his officers would hold court for the public.
The jungle-enveloped Ta Prohm once home to 2,470 monks looks much as it did when rediscovered by Henri Mohout, the French explorer, in the early 1850s. This is the most touristy as a couple of scenes from 'Lara Croft, Tomb Raider' were filmed here!!! Despite the crowds it is incredibly atmospheric. The temple walls are smothered with entwining roots of giant Banyan trees. A strangler Fig tree looks like a waterfall & another is known as the Crocodile Tree as its roots extend further every year. The trees & walls now support each other.
Preah Khan, the sister site, where the 'Temple of the Sacred Sword' has been partially restored with funds from the World Management Fund. Due to this many of the trees have been cut down. Believe it or not these are just the main temples in this vast area of historical buildings!
As we depart we are, once again, followed by the ever present waifs trying to sell us all sorts of trinkets. Very difficult as they look pretty forlorn but they are also very persistent. Always such a dilemma.
Manage a quick swim before a torrential tropical storm passes over. Tomorrow we go further afield in search of more interesting temples!!!