Up Up and Away
Siem Reap Travel Blog› entry 11 of 19 › view all entries
We had attempted to take the balloon ride near Angkor Wat yesterday but it had been closed due to high winds (there was no discernable wind at ground level but there you go ...) so we thought we would give it another try without any great expectation it would be operating today.
After yesterday's success with the tuk-tuk and after some hurried research we hire the same driver to take us to Banteay Srey and Kbal Spean.
We were initally a little unsure of whether this is a good idea as Banteay Srey is about 40 km from Siem Reap and Kbal Spean 15km further, but the price for a car seems too high and the driver is confident the journey will be fine, his spirits no-doubt buoyed by the thought of our $20 coming his way.
Banteay Srey is the most ornately decorated of any of the Angkor temples and a visit is highly recommended by all the guide books, despite its slightly inconvenient location. Someone is clearly reading the guidebooks as it turns out to be very busy and the only temple (the other is Angkor Wat itself) where we have to queue just to get in to the main complex, so we come away slightly disappointed not so much with the sight itself but by the crowds. If we go again maybe we'll go in the afternoon when it should be quiet.
Our driver still keen presses on to Kbal Spean, issuing us with face masks for the ride as the road is sealed only as far as the Banteay Srey and we now have to negotiate 15km of dirt road.
Kbal Spean is a small river set in the low hills north of Angkor. Here the ancient Khmers have made a series of Hindu carvings into the rock of the river bed. The site was supposedly only discovered about 30 years ago as it is a few km off the main road and is still is a 40 minute walk from the car park. Whether it is the road or the walk they combine to deter the hoards of visitor making the extra trip and we find Kbal Spean pleasant and quiet. They are currently upgrading the road from Banteay Srey so will be interesting to see what changes this brings when buses can reach here in comfort.
Apart from a stop to fill up with petrol our tuk-tuk makes it safely back to Angkor, with time for a break at Banteay Srei, one of the best restored temples we have visited.
At Angkor our luck is in as the balloon flight is open, despite a strong breeze blowing. We seem to arrive just in time as we do get our flight but they close immediately afterwards due to the wind. The balloon is on a tethered line to a height of 180m and each flight lasts about 10 minutes. Although Angkor Wat is a few km away is is clearly visible from the ballon and the ride is well worth the wait.
Though suffering a little from temple burnout the 3 days here have been fantastic and it seems that the sight of Angkor Wat from the balloon is as good a way to end it as any.