Tomb Raider – Angkor Wat: Day 3–back into the jungle

18 Apr

I may have decided against the sunrise – but the monk’s chanting (followed by the strangely off key atonal music) wakes me at 6am anyway, although I lie, unable to move, until 7am. I must lay off the 50c beers.

The final day of my Angkor Wat experience… this is one of the places I have most wanted to go, and it hasn’t disappointed! Today it’s time for some of the outlying temples… and so I get onto an even squeakier bike (with, I discover later, a loose nut on the crank which needs tightening every ten minutes)

I start off cycling through the main complex again – and since it’s on the way, into Preah Khan, just in case I can find my favourite nun. She’s not there, but I do get the feeling that my time sitting and learning from others is over. The wobbly bike gives me plenty of time to think, and there are some great insights into the business and teaching that seem to be great – although I do now want the longest web site address that I have ever come across. An abbreviation, perhaps…? Preah Khan on revisiting it seems even bigger and more complex – an amazing labyrinth of tunnels and courtyard.

Anyway, back to the adventure. Eagerly awaiting the appearance of Angelina Jolie in her shorts, I cycle on. And on. And on….

I get confused and enter Preah Khan through a different entrance. Thought it looked familiar. There seem to be far more people selling mango/ pineapple/ water/ postcards/ silk/ birds/ bamboo kazoos. I suspect that if I had thought about it I could have come up with a wittier answer to ‘Hey you sir, you wanna bird?’.

Preah Khan (12)

There are a whole host of different temples outside the city walls, often in poor repair. These are the ones the jungle HAS taken over.Preah Neak Pean is a crumbling temple/reservoir/royal fountains, where I meet a very panicky American in need of bug spray. Fortunately, I have some.  I’ve given up on bug spray, simply because it doesn’t seem to work. The little blighters will just have to bite me, and much good will it do them. Of course I could be using my shaman skills to imitate eucalyptus – but that would be silly, wouldn’t it? Surprisingly, it does help!

Preah Meak Pean (2)

Banteay Prei is a lovely jungle temple – the jungle is trying to take over again, and the trees have moved in. I succumb to the appeal of one of the children who, to her credit, can count from one to ten in English, German, Japanese, French, Italian and Spanish (and, presumably, Khmer) and buy post cards. Lunch is wonderfully fresh pineapple in a plastic bag with chilli salt (the chilli really does set off the pineapple taste beautifully)

Banteay Prei (14)Banteay Prei (16)Banteay Prei (3)Banteay Prei (10)

Past Ta Som and the Eastern Mebon… but the pace of temples has begun to take its toll, and I ignore Pre Rup altogether. Which is just as well, because I visited that on day 1. After a while, one large pile of carved stone looks like another. I think I’ve finally reached my limit – but the best is saved for last.

Ta Som (3)Ta Som (7)

The huge complex at Ta Prohm is an amazing sight – this is what happens when the jungle takes over. Huge, powerful trees have grown over the old temple, crushing the place in a merciless embrace, or, in rare cases, actually holding the temple in place, waiting for Indiana Jones to come and rescue it. Indy would have been at home here – and Tara Croft was, with some scenes from Tomb Raider being shot in Ta Prohm. We discover cute kitties hiding out in the ruins, and there are so many incredible photo opportunities it’s difficult to know when to stop. Of course, you have to get the Japanese tourists out of the way first.

Ta Prohm (7)Ta Prohm (12)Ta Prohm (14)Ta Prohm (30)Ta Prohm (31)

And then, with a somewhat numb rear end, I cycle through the gates of Angkor Thom and past Angkor Wat for the last time. It’s gorgeous, beautiful, timeless and has a truly mystical air to it – it really does live up to all the stories, and although I had some amazing experiences in Chichen Itza and Maccu Picchu, this really is the most amazing set of temples I have ever visited.

And then.. a little bit of shopping (I’ve found somewhere that sells technical shirts cheaply) and some more Mexican food before cycle back to the hotel (tuk tuk drivers will rarely offer a ride to a man on a bicycle). I pack my bags, ready to move on. The boat to Battambang has been booked so an early start beckons me.


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:


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