Breakfast of curry today, and went down well. In full daylight we now understood why our room seemed so large and also such a plush balcony, we had been upgraded again, to one of the best suites on the top floor. I find that Asians are a good judge of social standing.
We had booked a car and a guide to escort us around the temples today, so we were up early, showered, dressed and eaten in readiness for 8 am. There was a minor hiccup when a guide introduced himself, but later it became evident that he was someone else when ours turned up. Our car turned out to be a mini-van, I had stipulated aircon and it was lovely and chilly when we took our seats.
Lots of presumptions about Angkor Wat were dispelled today. Our guide was very good and his English and knowledge was spot on. The area around Siem Reap is riddled with many, many temple complexes. Most of them are huge, and measured in sq kilometres! Angkor Wat was the first and most well known that we visited, and is as impressive as its reputation. It is surrounded by a huge moat, making any photo picturesque. To discover the site took us 3 hours and if the temperature had been more reasonable we could have spent all day there. The next temple was not quite as large but equally impressive. To reach it we drove on for another fifteen minutes passing a variety of temples and complexes of differing sizes and dilapidation.
It was pointed out to us that a lot of renovation is being done on most of the temples. France, China, Japan, Germany etc. have all bagged one or more and funded their rebuilding. The UK is sponsoring none.
The second temple took just over an hour to wander from the East Gate to the West Gate and from there we gratefully glided into the carpark of an air-conditioned restaurant. The guide suggested my meal and what a good choice, it was quite like a Thai Green curry but served in a fresh coconut and a perfect complement to the icy beer that soon followed it. Sue stuck with the tried and tested sweet and sour chicken stir fry with rice.
While we waited for our driver we chatted to three young Cambodian girls who tried to sell us trinkets. One of them had near-perfect English at the age of 9yrs. I informed them that there were posters inside the restaurant telling diners not to buy trinkets from children, only grown-ups.
We visited two temples in the afternoon, The first being in a scene from ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, a film our guide had seen many times and is presently in the throes of being renovated (by the French), though the twisted snake-like tree roots as seen in many documentaries and magazines are being left in situ. We photographed Angelina Jolie’s tree and saw all the little holes in the centre room of the temple that once held hundreds of huge precious gems. Long since disappeared.
Our final temple contained many faces and was impressive because of the carvings depicting battle scenes and the life of the various cultures that occupied the site over the centuries. All the complexes at one time or another changed from being Buddhist or Hindu and vice versa, each change wreaking havoc on the previous culture’s carvings.
With a brief stop at Victory Gate to photograph the Bridge of Heads, we made our way back to the hotel.
After showering, we went for an amble around the grounds of the hotel then made our way across the busy road outside and explored the locality. We passed a restaurant that took our interest and as we were thinking of where to eat later, we investigated. A waiter approached us and informed us that there was a buffet on offer and also that Cambodian Dancers and musicians were performing at 7 pm. Investigating inside there appeared to be a large banqueting hall and stage. We promised to return and he promised to save a table.
Returning to the hotel we changed and at 6.30 made our way back to the restaurant. Good as his word we had a table to the side and in front of the stage. Most of the room was already occupied by Asians dining. We later discovered that they were all Korean. Still, in experimental mode, I tried every dish that I had not seen before and all were acceptable to excellent. Some of the Korean dishes (they were all named in English as well as foreign) were a bit of a challenge, I should have remembered that from when we visited the country a few years ago! Sue stuck mostly to Thai (chicken!)
The dancers came on stage with lots of slow methodical movements and artistic, meaningful, hand movements, similar in style to Balinese dancing. Most of our fellow diners had left long before the show had finished and it is sad to say only Sue and I witnessed the last dance, the conclusion of which I was encouraged to photograph them on the stage.