Tuesday 8 May 2012

Cambodia: Angkor archaeological park

Angkor Thom Siem ReapOur chatty driver from yesterday appeared decidedly grumpy this morning as he collected us for a day at Cambodia’s main attraction. The plan was to spend the morning around Angkor Thom and return to Angkor Wat later for the sunset.

Monk - Angkor Wat Siem ReapThe public have unrestricted access to most of the sites in the park - signs on the ridiculously steep steps on the sides of some of the ancient monuments refreshingly state ‘climb at own risk’ rather than ‘do not enter’. Some steps have rickety handrails that do little to calm the nerve of vertigo suffering tourists trying to grip with both hands. There were far too many tourists. The heat made my Banana Boat SPF 50 sun cream drip like runny ice-cream down my arms and my new adventure slacks had changed from light to dark grey.

A few hours were enough. After running the gauntlet of the post-visit restaurants and souvenir stands, we somehow found our driver in the Terrace of the Leper King car park and headed back to the hotel for a much-needed shower.

Female devatas - Angkor WatThe original intention of returning to the Park in the late afternoon was to experience the Angkor Wat sunset - heavy cloud and a forecast of storms suggested it might be a wasted trip. We seemed to be going against the traffic as we walked across the moat into the temple around 5pm but it meant that we were able to wander and admire the impressive engineering and artistic beauty without hoards of sweaty people shouting ‘yi, er, san….’ after jumping off ancient relics just to update their Facebook pages. Although the walls are covered with hundreds of exquisite bas-reliefs and carvings, the highly-polished chest areas of one set of female devatas appeared to have earned more attention than the rest.

Storm over Angkor Wat - Siem ReapThe clouds thickened and thunder rumbled in the distance. Spots of rain started to fall as the staff attempted to usher the last few tourists out of the grounds before the full force of the storm was unleashed. We reached the car soaking wet but happy to have had the time to to enjoy the atmospheric setting in relative peace.

Our hotel package included one night’s dinner at Viroth’s restaurant in Wat Bo Street where we dined heartily. The blend of flavours and spices of Khmer cuisine is so much subtler than anything in Singapore. One of the numerous courses included a delightful chicken curry, which the waiter, despite consultation with the chef, was unable to describe in sufficient detail to enable reconstruction.  Still, there were two very satisfied customers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ok ewwww about the trousers....