This morning we got up for a six o'clock departure, it was almost like sleeping in as we have been getting up so consistently early. Mr. Mony picked us up and we made our way back to the Angkor complex again in the dark. Brian and Nicole wanted to see Preah Khan and since Araceli and I had been there yesterday they asked to be dropped off so the two of us could go on with Mr. Mony to see more of the sights.
We started at the Terrace of the Elephants and their dawn view of Prasats Suor Prat, the towers of the tightrope dancers. It is said that the king would watch as acrobats moved back and forth from tower to tower on tightropes. The walls of the terrace bear carvings that show a three headed elephant and multiple five headed horses.
From the terrace we walked toward Baphuon, the Tower of Bronze. It is a deceptively large temple as it is set a long way down an isolated walkway and you cannot really appreciate the massive scale until your approach. According to archiologists the central tower that no longer exists may be the reason for its' name, a tower clad in bronze. Unfortunately some of Baphuon collapsed under its' own weight. On the back there is the remains of what was a relief of a huge reclining Buddha now almost indiscernible if you don't know where to look.
We moved through a side gate and came upon a long spider web. Initially we thought there was a spider eating another insect but as we moved closer we discovered what looked to be a kind of crab spider. It had two large spiny projections coming off the back of its abdomen and Mr. Mony happily poked at it with a stick so we could watch it clamber quickly away from the source of harassment.
Into the jungle we wandered until we can upon the the royal pools. Two, one for men and one for women, were placed in what appeared to be isolation. Sadly they are just adjacent to the royal palace of which almost nothing remains. The larger of the pools is said to be intended for women as the king had many concubines so it needed to be bigger to accommodate all those women. At about a third the size, the pool designated for men is large when you consider that it had only a few people who might use it.
We ended on the Terrace of the Leper King. Apparently named in honor of the statute of Yama, the god of death and judgment, that is featured on the center of the terrace the terrace features reliefs that depict the many levels of hell.
That marked the end of our tour of the terrace area of Angkor Thom so we returned to the van and left to pick up our wayward companions. I think Brian may have had a rough night so we decided to return to the hotel for a relaxing morning and early afternoon. We all ate, relaxed, worked on our photos and wasted time. It seemed like we hadn't been back for too long before we were packing up again to meet Mr. Mony.
First Mr. Mony took us to Banteay Srey, a temple outside of Angkor that gets few visitors because of the relative distance. We arrived while the sun was beating down on us and were sweating almost as soon as we got out of the van's artificial climate. Banteay Srey is also known as the Citadel of Women and although small is in remarkably good condition. Made primarily of pink sandstone it has a much different look than most of the other temples we have visited but that may be due to what scholars describe as a heavy Indian influence in architecture and design. The reliefs were in very good shape although, as is so common, most of the carvings depicting the Buddha have been defaced under the reign of subsequent Hindu kings.
After exploring the halls of Banteay Srey we moved on to Pre Rup, a temple used primarily for cremation ceremonies. The color of this temple was great and amplified by our arrival as the afternoon was waning. Made primarily from red brick the warmth was amplified thanks to the late afternoon sun. Here we waited as the sun sank in the west throwing the last of its light onto the cloudy sky. The longer we watched the more people arrived and eventually it became quite busy. But we waited and waited and eventually descended from the highest terrace. While waiting for Nicole the sky changed suddenly and most people were streaming out to their buses, tuk tuks, and vans. Never ones to go with the flow we fought the tide of people and dashed through the temple again to try to find the best light. Eventually I found myself back at the top as the last visitor was packing up to leave. I had it all to myself and it was magical.
With the light almost gone we returned to our hotel. Tomorrow Brian and Nicole return to Phnom Penh and Francene rejoins us in Siem Reap. We all went out to dinner together one last time (at least for a couple of weeks) and then returned to our respective rooms to get cleaned up before another early morning.
Canon 1D X, Canon 16-35/f2.8L Mark II
16mm, f8, merged and HDR of 1/4, 1/2, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15 sec @ 200 ISO