(written by Dave)
Today we used the last of our three-day pass for Angkor Wat and other temples. You really do need all three days and we could have used more. There is no way to see everything and trying to cram too much into one or two days would be exhausting. Today we went back to Bayon Wat and the Elephant Terrace (with fully charged cameras). Plus we visited 6 other gates or temples. Gretchen drained her battery at the last photo at the last wat. So, I think the day would be a success on that measure.
On our previous visits to the temples we did not encounter too many tourists. Today was crazy. I’m not sure if it was the time of day or if the season is starting to pick up but when we reach Bayon, there were hundreds of people. It was hard to get a photo without people everywhere and we could see lots and lots of tourists buses where ever we went. There seemed to be a large number of Chinese tourists today. They generally travel in large groups and have one or two really loud spokespeople. There are “please keep quiet” signs at the entrances but this doesn’t seem to matter. One guy even had a megaphone – not sure how that fits in with the no loud voices sign. We didn’t linger at Bayon for long. From here we re-visited the Elephant Terrace and the terrace of the Leper king. These were a little quieter. The crematorium that is part of the Leper King Terrace is not an obvious visit (our guide showed it to us) and the larger groups seemed to stay away, thank goodness.
Next stop of note was the Ta Keo, a temple built 1,000 years ago that was never completed. The towers that sit on the top of the main terrace area are mostly just the plain blocks of sandstone built up and ready to be carved but the temple was abandoned before too much was done. This in itself was interesting as this is how a temple would look if you were to visit it mid-build. It has a cubist-like look to it, almost like some uber modern building. The steps to the highest two levels were near vertical and they did not have the fancy wooded safety overlays that we’d seen at other temples. Nancy was feeling the heat and stayed on level two. Gretchen and I climbed to the top. Gretchen was not so excited about climbing, and even less excited about the descending – very graceful. We took photos and mocked her of course, as any good little sister and brother-in-law would do.
Our last stop was Ta Prohm. This is the main temple that the French decided to leave in the state they found most of the temples. That is, overrun by trees and jungle. The trees do a mighty good job finding the cracks, sending down roots and turning temples into piles of rubble. The Cambodians (with help this time from India) have decided to try to save the temple so many of the famous old scenes are either fixed or being fixed. Still there many places where trees and temple have collided. In most cases, the trees are winning. The contrast between root and rock walls makes for great photo opportunities.
We finished up at the temples around 1PM and made tracks for Pub Street and lunch. (Pub street is a trendy bar/restaurant area where you can get great food for $3-4 per plate). We had a nice lunch sitting on the second floor terrace overlooking all the street traffic. The tuk-tuk drivers on the street have figured out just the right angle for setting up their tuk-tuks and being able to see customers on the terrace – somehow knowing when you are done eating and waving to you for a fare.
In the afternoon we hung out, Gretchen by the pool, Nancy and I in the A/C of the apartment. Nancy failed (she thinks) her French class pre-test. I didn’t take mine as I’ll do even worse. For sure, we’ll be in the beginner class when we arrive in Nice but that’s ok – we be there to learn and have fun.
For dinner we tried another restaurant just near the hotel called Soria Maria. The food was fantastic. By popular demand I’ve included a couple photos of our desserts – we tried a couple local specialities. The first was called Lapow Song Kja – roasted pumpkin with custard – absolutely delicious. The second was the old standard Khmer bananas – palm sugar nut glaze over fried bananas – it was all very tasty. We are going to have to get back on out bikes soon or we’ll turn into a fried banana!
Tomorrow Gretchen heads back to the USA. It has been great having her here. The hotels she puts us up in are a real treat and of course we have a great time hanging out and seeing the sites. We are not leaving until the following day because we have 100k to ride and Gretchen’s flight is not until late. Gives us an excuse to stay one more day in this swanky hotel – like we need an excuse.
And finally, you may wonder about the purple face photo we’ve posted today. The face and colour are from a photo I took today and a 100% match to the current Lonely Planet Cambodia cover (I was just playing around). I somehow managed to find the same face, take a photo and crop it to match the cover. The only difference is the my photo is a few years older and the lichen has grown a little, making the white spots slightly larger.