December 30th, 2007 – by: Traveller_Gin
Today would be a long tourist day for Gin! Started off with a 5:30am pickup so tha I could view sunrise at Angkor Wat. I was going solo with my driver Mr Lee as the tour guide was unavailable today. Leaving in the pitch black early morning was almost a bit spooky, but the driver was very chirpy and excited for me about the day ahead. I would be viewing the sunrise at Angkor Wat, view a couple more of the outlying temples and my big adventure for the day was a trip out to Kbal Spean - which was in a national park and carvings were made in the rocks and stones on the mountains, with a beautiful waterfall to also view.
When we arrived at Angkor Wat, it was still relatively dark and it was exciting to see so many other tourists who were also there for the same reason.
Mr Lee suggested that it would be better for me to sit outside the main entrance at the walkway for a little while so I could get some photos with the sky changing colour as apparently if you go straight into where the ponds are, you miss all the changing colours of the sky. I stayed out at the front section of Angkor Wat for about 30 minutes, and I could understand why Mr Lee suggested I stay outside (hopefully my photos do this justice). I must have taken about 50 photos alone of just this particular shot.......Walking through the main passageway to Angkor Wat and the front ponds to where all those very famous and numerous photos are taken, I would have spent almost an hour there along with throngs of other snap happy tourists.
By the time I left Angkor Wat that morning it was around 7:30am.
and we then headed to Banteay Srie. This was one of my more peaceful temple visits. Although I was left without a guide, I did take my trusty Lonely Planet with me and a book I had purchased from one of the local children about the various temples. At 8am this temple, being further out of town, was very quiet. There were only two other tourists wandering out. I found that I really loved the experience of being pretty much the only person exploring a temple, and I became quite reflective. The temple incidentally is in a pretty good state and very different to the others that I had seen (particularly the sandstone colour). I guess being first thing in the morning, the air was quite fresh as well. I met a few local children who live within the boundaries of this particular temple which brightened my day and enhanced my visit to the temple.
Following this, we headed off to one of the highlights of my temple visits - and this was my visit to Kbal Spean. This temple was a drive about an hour and a half out of the Siem Reap
town and it is largely a dirt road. This made my driver all the more much appreciated by myself as I did see a few tuk tuks travelling out here - note for travellers who like to rough it - a tuk tuk drive I would imagine would be pretty bumpy and extremely dusty for an hour and a half - you should seriously consider hiring a car to do this trip. Some tourists which were tuk tuk-ing it out here wore scarves over their faces to stop the red dirt getting into their faces and in the hot sun, I think it is money well spent to hire a car and driver to take you out here if you wish to visit.
The drive itself is quite interesting to see more of the local countryside and to see locals go about their daily life. Kbal Spean I thought was going to be a temple, but it is actually mountain carvings out of stone and you have to trek up part of a mountain to see it. The entry fee into this area is covered by the 3 day temple pass which I got. The trek up to the mountain and to the carvings took me about 20-25 minutes I would guess. Make sure you take your own water as there is none available once you start hiking up the mountain.
There are beautiful carvings in the stone that are roped off - make sure you stay on the well marked path as there are signs around that there are land mines still in the area, so I would heed the advice.
When you get to the top where the majority of the carvings are, there is a very impressive Vishnu rock carving in the stone that sits among a bed of water and is quite well preserved. There are many other linga carvings in the bed of the various ponds and it is a beautiful setting with the greenery of the trees and the water - very pretty, and very natural. Just beautiful to take it all in. I loved how you just wandered around and suddenly noticed another rock carving in the stone...it was like you were personally discovering something else (of course with zillions of other tourists!) But there are less tourists that make the journey out here so I found it very pleasant to walk around without throngs of people and to just enjoy the outdoor setting.
There is also a beautiful waterfall which provides some respite from the heat as well. I understand that I had visited Kbal Spean during the right season as apparently the water runs a little dry during other parts of the year so you may want to keep this in mind. I didn't want to leave here but must have spent easily around 2.5 hours here on this mountain - very worth while to make this trip as it is totally different to the many other Angkor Wat temples and being in a national park, is just beautiful.
After leaving Kbal Spean, I visited several other temples back towards Siem Reap as part of the Roulos group of temples. These ones were Preah Ko, Bakong and Lo Lei. And to be quite honest, I was getting quite templed out by the time I'd visited the last of these.
These temples were all much smaller (thank goodness) but I guess the early morning and long drive out to Kbal Spean was catching up with me. Finished up the visits to all the temples trying to get all that value from my 3 day temple pass!!! So I was quite tired at the end of this day and treated myself to a $6 USD foot massage in town. My feet thanked me after the foot massage.....and then back to what has become my "local" during my stay in Siem Reap - The Red Piano. I can't believe my time is nearing an end with one more full day left....