We're Never Coming Back

  email me at duncdafunc@gmail.com or check out my latest photos here

This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from dunc_da_func. Make your own badge here.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Day 303 - Angkor Wat

cambodia Angkor wat is pretty spectacular. Right - i have to say that. No choice in the matter. It is. Its big and grand and amazing and everyone knows that. It sprawls itself over what feels like half of cambodia. Almost as many people visit this place as actually live in cambodia. Its a beast when it comes to international top tourist attractions. I'm not disagreeing. BUT (and here it comes)... it was a little bit rubbish.

OK, so from the start. Cambodia is small - so everything is between 2 and 8 hours away from each other. So its no trouble crossing the country. That is when your bus driver remembers to stop the bus so that you can get off and change buses. Ours didn't. After 5 evil hours (it should have been 3), we're dumped at the side of a road and told to get on the next bus to Siem Reap. Which we do. That then takes another 6 hours (it should have been 3 more). It was an horrific journey. Horrific. But we made it.

'Tuk-tuk'ed to our hotel on the advice of two girls who were also stranded on our runaway bus, then we check in and settle down to some Star Movies and pizza. We're in Siem Reap, access town to Angkor Wat, and its beaming with neon. Its not cambodia we're in now. Siem Reap is in fact its own hybrid country. Its got ATMs (which you NEVER see in Cambodia). Its got paved streets (shock!). Its got 24hour street lighting. Its even got traffic lights, pavements, and fast internet. This isn't cambodia as we know it. But its a welcome break.

Anyway, onto the main attraction. Everyone in the entire world who has ever been to Angkor Wat will tell you that you need more than 1 day to explore it. Most people reckon 2 is enough (missing some stuff out) and that 3 days is plenty, but necessary. We went for 5 hours. Its kinda rude. I'm a little ashamed. NOBODY goes for less than a day. Let alone half a day. Its just... not very exciting.

Anyway, 3 days spent in the park is not a prerequisite to seeing the sights. We all got up early (10am), suncreamed up (its scorching hot here) and rode the tuk-tuk across town and into the heart of Angkor Wat. Within minutes we're whizzing past the postcard-beautiful main angkor location, through amazing stone-carved archways and breezing across ornate bridges lined with amazing stone statues. No stopping for these meagre sights. Instead we're dropped right at the base of a huge network of temples called 'Angkor Thom'.

The place is so hot its soul-destroying. And you're made to clamber around. The sound of crickets in the trees gets louder and softer at every turn. Crumbling rocks surround the temples. fenced off areas protect near-extinct ruins. tourists occupy every photo-spot, others queueing politely behind. its grey and lifeless except for a splash of colour from a buddhist monk in orange wandering through the ruins (camera concealed beneath their loin-cloths).

The next hour is spent scrambling around the ruins. Right - they're beautiful. They are. This temple has hundreds of massive faces on it, and its SO BEAUTIFUL. But its not magical. Its not overgrown or falling to bits. Its preserved well. Its maintained. Tourists don't climb the rocky outcrops, and the outcrops - in return - don't break anyone's legs. Its all quite civilised and overcrowded and not at all temple-like. That said - despite being a variety of shades of grey against a blue sky - its actually kinda pretty when you don't have a fat american sitting in your professional-photographer's eye view.

So yeah, we scrurry around the sight, camera armed and ready the whole time. Saw some dressed up cambodians...

...saw some more big faces...

...explored some corridors of amazing carved faces...

...and generally sweated so much that I didn't need to pee for hours. It was SO HOT. we spent more time recovering in the shade than bearing the midday sun here. I was soaked. Anyway, onto more temples...

...and more...

...and some more (Tom's such a poser)...

...before finally we arrive at one dusty dirt track, are pointed down it by our driver, and he calls out "TOMB RAIDER... TOMB RAIDER". We're here. In case you didn't know (i did) old Angelina Jolie has trodden these same wooded dirt-tracks herself just a few years ago when filming the first Tomb Raider film. Am I excited? A little. Not because of angelina jolie. No. Because I've seen what lurks down there. and its nice. The other temples are cool - right - but they're not AMAZING. They're just temples. But what is down here - i know - is gonna be good. And it didn't dissappoint.

Minutes later you're thrown into a temple so overgrown that they're still clearing the trees form the sides of the main temple walls. Some temples have trees growing out of the roofs. Others have tree trucks destroying parts of the temple. roots meander through the brickwork like the temple was built around them, but they weren't. this place is shockingly good quality.

Tom and I escape the crowds to do some tomb-raiding ourselves and wander through the trees for a while in search of something more exciting. We fail miserably. It seems the tourists have cottoned on to where the goods are. But before long we're back exploring (along the predefined route) and taking more photos than our memory cards are happy with. Before long we're both out of battery and memory card space and we trudge back to the tuk-tuk for the final leg of the journey.

Angkor Wat itself is this massive main temple - surrounded by an ENORMOUS man-made moat which I think is mental. getting buddhist monks to dig the moat seems so cruel - they're all so weedy and lifeless. But I guess they wanted to protect they're hard-earned labour. Anyway - the main temple is worth a 30 minute wander, and despite inducing vertigo half-way up, I managed to clamber up the steps and see the impressive view over the rest of the temples.

And that was it. 3 day pass for 20 quid - used up in 5 hours. I'm a bit gutted actually. Angkor Wat was actually the only reason I wanted to come to SE Asia. Its not like I'm dissappointed by the rest of it - i like being here. But it was a mild let-down. But then - most people felt let down a little by Machu Picchu - so I guess it all evens out in the end.

So the next 2 days (which should have been spent at the temples) were flaunted around a posh swimming pool and eating cambodia food and watching Brass Eye episodes and dreaming of coming home and doing nothing and having only enough money to buy World of Warcraft and playing it on Angie's PC until I get a job out of necessity and not personal pride.

And once our 3-day passes were suitably expired we packed up out stuff and prepared for the journey to Bangkok - one which no one looks forward to - apparently. great.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home