On my own - ignoring all the advice that lone women are ever given travelling!

Angkor Travel Blog

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The place we stopped for breakfast
The next day, Iain was too ill to join me. At this point, I wasn't sure if he was genuinely sick or just hungover, so I just left him sleeping and headed off with the tuktuk driver on my own.  He asked if I had eaten, and then suggested we could go to a "local place."  This was a really good idea.  The "local place" just looked like someone's front yard, and we sat with a group of other people and the family around a wooden table.  The lady who was cooking ladled me out some noodle soup with kidney and possibly-beef, and there was a flurry of nodding and smiling when they realised that I couldn't speak any Cambodian at all.  The tuktuk driver translated for me, and I have to say it was one of the best - certainly the most memorable - meal I had.
Causeway
Of course, it was hard to concentrate on eating with all the children enthusiastically practicing saying hello, but they were really nice children so I didn't mind.  I handed over my 2000 real and we hit the road.

The first temple we went to was Bang Melea. Bang Melea is incredibly atmospheric, and exactly the sort of place they would never let you into in the UK in case you twisted your ankle.  Missing Iain a little, I set off up the path into the ruins, past a happy looking cow and a sign that stated that the mine fields had been cleared.  I don't think the cow could read, so don't think I am linking the two things.  A state tour guide showed me round the ruins, and I was too thick to cotton on he wanted a tip until he had walked over to some richer, less thick looking travellers and it was too late to tip him.
  Oh well.  The ruins were full of huge trees and tumbled blocks of stone, and probably give quite a good impression of what the other temples looked like before they were restored.  Definately wortbh the extra trip out into the dirt roads.

Of course, at the time, I was not thinking that.  As the tuk tuk driver got more fuel, stopped to ask for directions several times, and bumped along the dirt tracks, I was feeling increasingly tuktuk sick and bruised (I'm sure it was worse for him) and worse, eyeing the storm clouds warily.  If the storm had broken on the dirt roads, I couldn't imagine getting it free and was thinking how on earth we would get home.  It was an eormous relief when we got to Kbal Sprean.

Kbal Sprean may be my favourite of the temples.
TO get there, you have to climb up a steep path through the jungle.  The path through the jungle was beautiful in its own right.  Although busy, it still felt ver atmospheric, with the oppressive humidity and the stilness, and the great tree roots pushing over the rocks. A sort of tropical Mirkwood or Great Forest, if any of you have read Lord of the Rings - I could see why the people who lived here thought it was an important place to build a sacred temple.

The rock carvings are mostly of lingas and yoni, which were meant to ensure fertility.  You have to use a little imagination when you look at them, but this might be the most symbolic river I've ever been to.  there were also a great number of sleeping Gods. This time I was smart enough to cotton on that the guide wanted a tip, and in return he told me which of the carvings were sleeping Shivas (the world will end when he wakes up), which one was Hannuman - and that one was so wrn that I wouldn't have seen it on my own - and which ones were just toads and crocodiles.
sleeping god
 

I walked back down the path on my own.  I watched some children playing in the falls, and washed some of the sweat off my head.  I was also starting to get a bit burned, despite my sunblock.  I thought, if there was anything actually fatal in the water, there probably wouldn't be quite so many local tourists paddling about.  Now, this may not be a wise decision, especially as by now one of the bites on my arm was itching like fury and starting to swell.  I certainbly wouldn't have drunk the water, but paddling seemed fine.   So having eaten breakfast in a local garden, including offal that had only really been put in hot water, I was alone in a jungle paddling in water that I didn't know was safe.  If I have a daughter and she does that I will have hysterics.
Light
 

Back down the moutnain, I grabbed some food and the skies opened.  the pictures here show a cow sheltering. It was that bad.

Once it had dried off we went to Bantea Srea.  I was very glad to be back on tarmac roads, after that rain, but now it started getting hot so it might not have mattered.  Bantea Srea is gorgeous.  It's actually tiny by the standards of Angkor, but has the most incredible carvings. I spent a very long time admising the demons and Garudas, the monkeys having battles, and a battle scene with some elephants that looked frankly more amused than anything else.  It seems to have survived more intact than many ofthe other temples, and the pink stone was stunning.
Bantea Srea
i don't have much to tell that the pictures don't say better.  The temple is definately one of the highlights of the trip, and incredibly beautiful.  It is, however, one of the front runners in a level of commericalisation.  There are very modern toilets and what looks like a forthcoming visitor centre, and the sellers are confined to a patch near the car park.  This is probably the direction in which the temples will go, and it's possibly a good idea to visit them now before hundreds of "interactive experiences" - like there's anything more interactive than being allowed to actually climb the temples and see the carvings up close - and visitor centres go up.

I was horribly overheated by this point, but deeply reluctant to slow down long enough to buy a bottle of water because I was getting overwhelemed with all the people trying to sell me things.
The storm coming
  It could get really wearing and I was rapidly losing patience, especially as I was on my own.  I was almost cross when the tuktuk driver wouldn't set off straight away, which wasn't his fault, but it allowed a small group of scarf and book hawkers to crowd back around the tuktuk and it took a lot of willpower not to get snappy. 

I was glad to get back to the hotel to tell iain about my adventures.  He was still asleep, and felt delicate enough that night to want to go for western food in a nearby diner rather than into town as we'd planned.
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The place we stopped for breakfast
The place we stopped for breakfast
Causeway
Causeway
sleeping god
sleeping god
Light
Light
Bantea Srea
Bantea Srea
The storm coming
The storm coming
MArket in the morning
MArket in the morning
Fields
Fields
More fields.  not sure what I was …
More fields. not sure what I was…
baby Buffalo!
baby Buffalo!
Naga
Naga
Cow
Cow
Bang Melea
Bang Melea
Ruins
Ruins
Ruins
Ruins
Monkeys
Monkeys
Ancient quarry
Ancient quarry
Library
Library
Ruins
Ruins
Library
Library
The road we were on in the tuktuk,…
The road we were on in the tuktuk…
slightly better road
slightly better road
jungle
jungle
View
View
View
View
Path
Path
Cool root
Cool root
I am not sure if the tree was hold…
I am not sure if the tree was hol…
river bed
river bed
More clear sleeping god - if he wa…
More clear sleeping god - if he w…
Sleeping god again - i think it is…
Sleeping god again - i think it i…
many, many linga
many, many linga
more linga
more linga
more linga
more linga
Gods
Gods
Cow sheltering from the downpour
Cow sheltering from the downpour
Astonishing carvings
Astonishing carvings
Im going to stop labeling these, …
I'm going to stop labeling these,…
Fighting monkeys
Fighting monkeys
Apsara
Apsara
Garuda
Garuda
Warriors
Warriors
Big nagas
Big nagas
battle scene
battle scene
Angkor
photo by: ulysses