Indiana Jones and the Temples of Doom . . . Angkor Wat, Day 1

15 Apr

The reason that people come to Siem Reap is for the temple complex at Angkor Wat. There are hundreds of temples and pyramids, palaces and water features spread out across the area, the remains of the ancient Cambodian civilisation which once ruled Thailand and Vietnam. Angkor Wat is the largest religious complex in the world, and has been in continuous use since it was built. But Angkor Wat and its familiar silhouette is just part of the incredible range of buildings that are scattered across the plain.

So, time to get my hat on, stow the bullwhip and get exploring. I hope there aren’t any snakes. I hate snakes.

First day out, I am sharing a tuk tuk with Chelsea and Mack – they’ve done all the inner area, so we’re heading out of town to see some of the outlying temples and stuff.

First stop, then, is Bantey Srei. Sometimes called the City of Women, and local guides will often tell you it was built by women, or for an Empress, that’s pretty much a mistake in translation. The temple’s dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, and is made of very pretty pink sandstone (which, because of its hardness, has kept its detailed carvings).

Banteay Srei (18)Banteay Srei (3)Banteay Srei (10)Banteay Srei (16)Banteay Srei (20)Banteay Srei (31)

There are some thoughts about this being a temple for children – certainly the doors are smaller than other temples, and to my mind the monsters and guardians have a little bit more of a whimsical look – but that might be my imagination!

We also stop off at the Landmine Museum. This was started by a former mine layer, now known as Aki Ra, who left the Khmer Rouge and, when the war was over, started to clear the mines, firstly at the request of local villagers, and later officially. He’s defused many many thousands of landmines and other UXO (unexploded ordnance) – although the Cambodian army laid the mines, America dropped the bombs to destroy the Ho Chi Minh supply trail in the Vietnam war.Landmine Museum (1)Landmine Museum (2)

It’s another sad story, but there’s so much hope around the centre, which also has a children’s home for children who have become victims of landmines, often losing limbs in explosions from mines they simply discover in the field. Learn more at http://www.cambodialandminemuseum.org

And then off to Pre Rup – another big temple outside the main complex. Lots to discover and scramble over (I would have loved this when I was a kid) and cool views across the plains too.

Pre Rup (3)Pre Rup (6)Pre Rup (9)Pre Rup (17)Pre Rup (18)

And then back to town. A bit of shopping, and then 50 cent beers again on Pub Street (Siem Reap is such a new tourist town that the first bar on Pub Street was in 1998. Since then, it’s exploded but competition is fierce, and pretty much any international cuisine can be consumed within a 100 yard radius.

We run another test for the tuk tuk driver, who fails spectacularly to find my hotel, despite telling me he knows where it is. He’s confused it with somewhere else. I’m going to miss Mack and Chelsea – it’s highly unlikely that our paths will cross now they’ve headed off to Malaysia. But stranger things have happened.

Banteay Srei (1)

More tomorrow . . .

For those of you who haven’t picked up their copy of ‘The Cube’ yet, or who would like to help out on my journey -  see what all the fun is by checking out this post:

http://www.exploretheadventure.com/2011/04/12/the-cube/

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