Temples at Dawn
Our driver was waiting for must at 6am and it was still dark as we drove out of town. There were a few people on the road heading to Angkor wat to see the sunset, but we were heading to the little temple of Banteay Srei and wanted to beat the crowds. It was about a 45 minute drive and there was only one group of French people there when we arrived.
It felt mystical to wander around this temple in the dawn light, most of the time not seeing another person. Known as Citadel of the Women, it is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva and cut from sandstone with a pinkish hue. It was very well preserved and had the most beautiful, intricate carvings. As the sun rose it highlighted the tops of the temple which glowed in the dawn light.
We used our newly purchased Ankgor book to pick out the main elements of the temple, then wandered on to a viewing platform where we enjoyed our breakfast. The bowls and spoons we purchased for our boat trip came in very handy.
We were back on the roads by 8.30am and headed on the Kbal Spean, a further 15 minute drive and set off on the 1.5 km hike up to the river. It was very pleasant walking in the early morning and there were no other tourists in sight as we climbed the hill. Known as the River of a Thousand Lingas, Kbal Speak actually means bridgehead and refers to the natural bridge that we rested on at the top of our walk. From there we could see carvings in the riverbed, including one of Vishnu.
We walked downstream to see more carvings of lingas, and other animal images before walking down to a waterfall and following the path back to the main track.
By this time it was 10.30 and there were lots of tourists heading up the hill. We drove on a further hour or so, stopping to buy yummy bread with pork, cucumber, shallots and sauces - kind of a Cambodian nam roll which we devoured as an early lunch.
There were heaps of buses leaving Beng Malea temple as we arrived which was a good thing as we could then wander this ruined temple in relative peace. It was great fun clambering over the ruins before we found the wooden pathways that led through the main parts of the site. Built in the 12th century, it was surrounded by a massive moat and was built to the same floor plan as Angkor wat. However, it was overrun by trees and had collapsed with massive sandstone blocks lying in tumbled heaps. Jonno and Georgia had a great time clambering up the piles of rubble.
We drove the one hour back to our hotel for some wi-fi time, and a nap for Simon before heading into town for dinner.
Just two temples and a leisurely start in the agenda for tomorrow.