Saturday, 2 June 2007

1st June – Angkor Thom

Got up early today to get some work out of the way before our driver came for us at 9am. We decided that we would visit Angkor Thom first and leave Angkor Wat for the afternoon. Vandy, our driver, took us first for our tickets which were a bit more than we expected at $160 for the four of us for three day passes, but as soon as we got our first glimpse of one of the gates to Angkor Thom we realised that it would be more than worth it. It is a vast place with sights straight out of a National Geographic magazine.
The temples of Angkor all together cover 500 km2 and the walls of Angkor Thom are 3km along each side. The main temple is the Bayon with 54 huge stone faces carved in stone to represent the 54 Cambodian provinces. We both cannot stop snapping photographs as there are so many awesome things to see. We end up spending the whole morning exploring Angkor Thom and then ask Vandy to take us somewhere for lunch. He takes us to his sisters cafe for a quick plate of Vegetable fried rice. It is an open air cafe though and we are sweating and gulping water like it’s going to run out. We plan on an air conditioned lunch tomorrow! After lunch we get waylaid by some of the children selling postcards, flutes, bracelets and scarves. It is almost impossible to say no to them as they are so adorable and extremely persistent. We end up with a few postcards and some pineapple. Unfortunately as we head back to the temples some more are lying in wait to ambush us and we end up with more postcards, three scarves and an elephant bag that I will never use! These children walk around with either no shoes or broken flip flops and their clothes are all raggy and dirty. They are all very small and can’t believe the age of the girls especially Lara who is the same age as many of them but towers over them.
We finish off at Angkor Thom and head over for our first look at Angkor Wat. The main entrance is a bit disappointing as there are so many people there but it still does not detract from the sheer size and magnificence of the place. It is the largest religious building in the world and was built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II. It is surrounded by a huge 200m wide moat which has been a protection from the jungle so it is very well preserved. As we are all rather tired by now we decide to just have a quick look and save the tough climb up the steps for tomorrow. We go around the back part and it is much quieter with less people. Nick gets talking to a young monk who is learning English at his pagoda. He asks us lots of questions and asks for our email address so we can write to him. I promise to send him the photo we took of him and his friend. Our first sights have been mind blowing ones we will never forget.
We just about had the energy after much needed showers to go to the Blue Pumpkin for a bite to eat before collapsing into bed.

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