This morning we got us, had our last breakfast with Francene for a while, and got our stuff packed. Our time in Battambang was great and it would have been nice to have another few days but there is so much more to see in this beautiful country. So we checked out at the front desk and found our driver waiting for us. As we were driving through the city on our way to Siem Reap it occurred to both Araceli and me that we forgot to let Francene know we were leaving but fortunately we had a cell phone so we called her to wish her a safe trip back to Phnom Penh.
The drive to Siem Reap was pretty but we made no stops along the way. It only took three hours to get to Siem Reap and we were rather anxious to get caught up with Brian and Nicole. Our plan turned out to be a good one as Mr. Mony called when we were driving into the city saying that he planned to take us to Angkor Thom at three thirty. Woohoo! We're going to the temple complex on our first partial day!
Our driver managed for find our hotel, which is rather small but very nice and modern. We were welcomed with cold sweetened lime juice, a bowl of banana chips, and a cold towel to wipe away all the figurative sweat and road dirt. Luck was with us because although it was well before the noon check out time we were able to get access to our room after waiting for only ten minutes. It may not be the biggest room but it is pretty, we have a huge patio, and it is very comfortable.
With a few hours to kill we unpacked (we're going to be here for a week) and caught up with Brian and Nicole. About an hour before Mr. Mony was to pick us up for our maiden trip into Angkor Wat we all decided to have a snack at the restaurant. It was a nice opportunity to catch up one our missed days and to get refreshed before heading out into the heat again.
True to his word, Mr. Mony was right on time and after a slight delay for Brian to retrieve his forgotten pass to the temple complex we were off! First we needed to stop so Araceli and I could get our temple passes and when that was done we made straight for Angkor Thom. On the way we stopped at a couple of gates, first the south and then to the Dead Gate through which the dead were taken from the city. Which brings up an interesting point, Angkor Way was a city with a population of some seventy thousand people at it's height.
The gates were massive, sized to allow elephants through, and although there was obvious deterioration you can see the faces of Buddha looking in all four directions and the grandeur of the age. They were impressive and the more so because they have stood for almost a thousand years! The facades may be cracked and some pieces may be missing but the degree to which they have be preserved is remarkable.
And those are just the gates! From there we went to Prasat Bayon, the temple that makes up the center of Angkor Thom. Bayon has gone through many modifications since it was built by Jayavarman VII when it was Buddhist, then modified to suit the tastes of a subsequent Hindu king, then modified again by the new Buddhist monarch. One of the notable features are the many faces of Buddha carved with either expressions of serenity or happiness. No stern depictions of Buddha to be found here! When considered next to temples such as Angkor Wat, Bayon seems almost cramped, as if too many design elements were utilised for too small a space. The site is currently under restoration lead by the Japanese Government team for the Safeguarding of Angkor.
It was at Bayon that we watched the sun set and we even tried to get some pictures before the light was completely gone. Our success in that endeavor has yet to be determined. But we left happy and sweaty to return to our hotel for a little refreshment before leaving shortly thereafter to find food.
We wandered down Pub Street, a rather awful tourist mecca for food but more for getting drunk if you can judge by appearances. A quick stop was made at the pharmacy for a little more insect repellant (the mosquitos are big enough to carry away a baby) and then happened upon Little India, a restaurant that Mr. Mony had recommended in passing. Given how tired we were we agreed to give it a shot and I think I can safely say none of us were disappointed. I had a delicious spicy paneer curry that I devoured with great pleasure and the others may have eaten too, I can't say that I paid much attention.
Full and just a little bit weary Nicole wanted to get a fish pedicure. I've been subjected to the hungry jaws of those little fish a number of times now and ended up being the only one willing to join her. Apparently I am more delicious than she is because I garnered more attention from the little fish. It was a compliment, damnit!
On newly sexy feet we started back to the hotel with a stop off for ice cream at the Blue Pumpkin. The interior is comfortable and ultramodern in all white. Araceli decided on the four spice, I got the passion fruit, and Brian selected the peanut while Nicole waited on us, still bursting with our fantastic Indian feast.
The evening was complete as far as I was concerned and it was getting late so we stopped off for bottled of water and returned to our hotel for a shower and an early night. Tomorrow we get up before daybreak to see Ta Prohm!
Canon 1D X, Canon 16-35/f2.8L Mark II
33mm, f4, 1/60 sec @ 320 ISO