February 6, 2018
Our last day of temples was a beauty. Actually, the temples we saw today were “smaller” and easier to visit than the giant Angkor Wat. Our first event was to “Bull” temple. The key distinction was that it was the oldest of the temples that we would visit. It dated from the 10th Century. The local kid vendors attend school,some four hours a day leaving plenty of time to hawk scarves and postcards. In Cambodia, as in most developing economies, the entire family is expected to pitch in. The kids were doing their part and we did our part to support the local economy.
We visited a total of eight temples during our visit. All of them were abandoned centuries ago but they were not forgotten. A few have been adorned with statues of Buddha that are of recent installation. Most strongly reflect their Hindu origins. Of course, Buddha had the same background so the two religions seem to blend and co-exist in many of these temples. Tourists like us are primarily interested in the magnificent structures that survive and in our own survival in climbing the giant staircases that lead to the top.
Two temples stick out in my mind. One was Bayon in the Angkor Thom complex. The giant Buddha heads were both fun to admire and wander around. Another was Banteay Srei also known as the Citadel of the Women. This temple was covered with exquisitely detailed carvings that have somehow survived for a thousand years. We shot many a picture trying to capture the fine carvings. One temple that seemed a relative waste of time was the “Sunset Temple” where tourist clamber up near sunset to watch the sun go down. We joined the throng but were quickly ready to depart as the sun set in the jungle.
I found the temple visits to be very enjoyable for the most part. Crowds were minimal except at the Ta Prohm or the “Tomb Raider” movie site. The crowds were huge for the small site and everyone wanted to pose in front of the trees growing over the temple. Angkor Wat is so huge that large Chinese tour groups were swallowed up in the immensity. Most importantly, the temperatures and humidity were moderate and enjoyable. I am glad we chose the winter season.
Our guide took us to enjoyable places for lunch that provided a selection of both Cambodian and Western food choices. We had plenty of rice and noodles. Breakfast was Western with an Asian option. Dinners were open to our energy level. After climbing temples all day, the quiet of the hotel restaurant was fine despite the blandness of the offerings.