Now that we’d tested the bicycles we decided to ride them out to Angkor Wat to see the sunrise. Up at 4:45, a quick breakfast and off we rode arriving just in time to see the sky growing light over the vast temple complex. In the foreground is the huge causeway leading across the 190m wide moat to the encircling walls.
Many other tourists were there for the sunrise so I wandered further towards the main complex, photographing as I went.
The site is huge with towers reaching for the sky. Rather than going straight in we walked along the edge, looking up at the imposing structure as we passed by.
That’s the full moon in the background. Once away from the crowds the site became very calm, very majestic. We walked to the east side, farthest from where we’d entered the grounds and entered the wat (pagoda). One of the first things we noted were the steep stairs to the towers. They were all closed to climbing but a guard offered to let us up if we paid him. We declined.
We walked further into the wat and turning around noticed the contrary signage marking the way we’d just come.
Reaching the central tower we found the altar. Although ‘discovered’ in the 1800s Angkor Wat was never totally deserted, like most of the surrounding sites, but remained a Buddhist pagoda, even while the city around it shrank and disappeared.
We continued west until we came to the walls looking back over the causeway and to the outer wall. In the distance you can see the hot-air balloon beginning to rise to take tourists for an aerial view of the site.
We then walked north and back east along the outer corridor with its 800m of bas reliefs, which tell a number of stories.
As we passed by the north gate we noticed monkeys across the way, playing along an access road, so went over to have a closer look. Then some of the monkeys came over to have a closer look at us.
I guess I looked interesting with my backpack (who knows what food might be in there?), glasses and hat.
I was getting a little worried as I wrestled various articles back from the little guys, but they weren’t being nasty at all so once I unglued them from me we stayed for a while photographing them, but being careful not to let them jump onto us. We saw one on the road playing with a Coke can (an image I’m saving to sell to Coke A Cola!), two having monkey sex (an image I’m saving for private viewing!) and a family in a tree performing morning absolutions. They were So Photogenic!
After interacting with the monkeys we walked back to the north entrance and back into the wat. The light was wonderful as the sun rose. In the background the balloon slowly rises also.
We discovered when we re-entered that one of the towers was now opened so we ascended the steep steps (erected over the originals) to the higher level. We got some nice views out over the walls to the surrounding countryside, including the ‘boulevards’ leading to other temples and pools. But eventually we decided to move on to another site: Angkor Thom. On the ride over we passed a tour group on elephants and stopped to take photos at the elephants’ rest area.
One of the main sites at Angkor Thom, a large fortified city (10sq. km.), is the centrally located Bayon. Bayon has 54 towers with 216 large, enigmatic faces looking down on those below.
Once buried in the jungle Bayon is being restored. As you can see above many of the stones still lay on the ground, waiting to be placed. We first walked on the upper terraces, admiring the carved faces and weaving our way through the crowds.
We then descended to the lower levels and were almost alone wandering the low, narrow corridors. We explored and then re-emerged in time for lunch. After eating we pedaled through the east gate (check out the comparative size of the tuk tuk going through the gate) on our way to one of the most recognizable sites of Angkor.
On this day I took about 350 photos and we saw far more than I’m posting here. However, on the way to Ta Prohm, probably best known from the movie Tomb Raider we did stop for a few moments at Ta Keo so I could photograph some monks, high above us, as they walked around the towers.
There’s not a lot I can say about Ta Prohm that the photos won’t convey. It was a place of wonder, with incredibly large trees, many of them strangler figs, embracing the walls and buildings. The jungle has been cut back but many of the trees remain as they have become integral parts of the structures. Like Bayon, restoration is ongoing and some sections were closed but we wandered over much of the temple, crossing to the far side and back again.
Check out these roots!
Along the way we chatted with a couple from Saskatchewan. Just before we left we took turns taking photos of each other so that we could have photos of ourselves as couples in this fantastic spot.
So, that was our second day touring Angkor. This tour is what is known as the Small Circuit, 17km. Other than one bike kept throwing its chain (which we eventually got fixed by a very nice fellow at a roadside stand while sitting chatting with his wife who gave us two very cold beers!) it was a lovely way to spend almost 12 hours. But the next day we needed to rest in Siem Reap, before we tackled the 26km Big Circuit the following day.