A Travellerspoint blog

Day 134 - 136 - Phuket

sunny

Tuesday I awoke at 4am still on the floor & no longer comfortable passed out in my seat till 6am. We were both awoken as the bus stopped & we were all dropped off in the middle of nowhere outside a small office. Thirty minutes wait & we were picked up by a sangthew & taken to a small town called Sura Thani. At 8am we caught another VIP bus which was delayed twice by police checks, & we were worried as armed officers came onboard & took off several Thai people.
We ate brunch round 11ish at a cafe - chicken curry & rice for 30BT & pineapple pieces for 10BT & eventually crossed a bridge onto Phuket island at 2.30pm. At the station we found there was no bus going to Kata (our destination) so had to get a mini sangthew to the market for 60BT & some flatbed truck conversion to Kata for another 60BT. Unable to find a guesthouse we resorted to catching a tuk tuk to Kata-On-Sea Bungalows up a steep hill on the edge of town for another 60BT. Thanks to Nelson, a friendly Brazilian guy we had met in the sangthew we only had to pay 300BT not the original 400BT. We enjoyed our first shower in 34hrs that had such pressure you nearly went through the wall & then took a walk through a beach resort full of expensive restaurants. Once realising that we had picked one of the more expensive places in Phuket we were forced to settle with BBQ pork & grilled rice for 50BT.

Wednesday we were up at 8.30am & did some excercise & meditation before breakfast. After paying 150BT for 3kg of laundry we headed to the post office to post Neil & Sara's & Matt's presents for 800BT & were forced to shelter from the rain which knocked the power out to the street. We bought snacks at the 7-11 & I got a bargain on fake billabong swim shorts for 200BT. We chilled on the beach & swam in the sea wary of a riptide warning in the red flag zone & several tree logs floating dangerously close to surfers.
At 1.30pm we enjoyed sandwiches & strawberry/chocolate bread then walked further down the beach to a cleaner, less busy area where the sea was calmer for swimming. We dozed till 4ish then went back to the bungalow, stopping for a help yourself 12BT coffee at Family Mart (similar to the 7-11 chain). After cleaning up we entered the town for fried rice & noodles at Lucky Shark.

Thursday we got up at 9am did our excercise & meditation & had cereal breakfast again. We took a walk to the bus stop & caught the 60BT bus to Phuket Town to see if there was more to the island than the mundane beaches & small towns (people raved about the island all the time). We investigated buses to Krabi which seemed to run ever hour in the morning & ate pork fried rice & chinese sausage with fried rice for 80BT at Ocean Plaza. The town was just like any other in south east asia - crowded, concrete buildings, narrow busy roads - nothing really interesting apart from the shops where I found a Chang T-shirt for 120BT & a sticky rice basket for 55BT (we intended to make our own sticky rice at some point). We caught a bus from the market place back to Kata but got off too early & were faced with a long walk back. I took a walk on the beach & a swim whilst Vicky stayed in the bungalow, fuming after an altercation with a bookshop owner who refused to exchange our books. Hoping to see a spectacular sunset all I got was sunburn & a cloudy view of the sky.
I got back at 6.30pm & found Vicky had done some retail therapy buying short trousers for 200BT (glad I hadn't left her with the credit card). We had dinner at 8ish at Kwong Shop - fried noodles & pork at 50BT each, which I enjoyed more than Vicky & spent the rest of the evening packing.

Posted by Eemail2004 04:36 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 133 - Bangkok Bus

Monday we got up round 7.30, packed & bought cereal & enjoyed carrying our stuff in the rain (with the help of Steve & Susie) to the taxi stop. The taxi left with us & a couple Johan & Sian, we had met in the tattoo parlour the previous night. I felt less impressed with my tattoo as he showed us his finished Swiss mountain range with eagle & tiger trailing down his leg from his inner thigh that had taken two days & unbelievable pain to accomplish!
We picked up an arrogant Oz & a Canadian guy then reached a small ferry port for 10am. The ferry set off just after reaching the mainland in only 30 minutes. An hour wait at the port restaurant & we were on a comfy, airconditioned coach to Bangkok. Stuffing ourselves sick on snacks & straining to watch films on my MP4 player took up our time & our legs would have lost all feeling had it not been for the thirty minute lunch stop for pad thai at 3.30pm.
We entered Bangkok at 5.30pm by Khao San Road, which looked exactly as it had a few months ago, & caught a tuk tuk to the train station. Once again luck was against us as we found the trains were not running due to a strike. Instead we had to buy a 1,820BT VIP bus ticket to Phuket (nearly twice the price of a train ticket) which left at 7.15pm. This time the coach was packed full & we were forced to take the very back seats with little leg room & a incredibly loud aircon unit blasting icy winds. By 10pm I was wiped out & crawled onto the floor behind my seat to sleep.

Posted by Eemail2004 22:25 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 128 - 132 - Koh Chang

rain

Wednesday we were up 8ish. The heavy rain had started again & there was a slight roof leak onto the mattress. We had breakfast at our new local Ting Tong with Steve & Susie (banana pancake & scrambled egg with a coffee & juice - 200BT. As I paid I realised I'd lost 1,000BT (approx 20 pounds) but over the next hour we could not find it!
We took a short walk round the resort area following the horseshoe shaped dirt road round past numerous bars, restaurants, tattoo parlours & convienience stores, stopping to buy a mozi coil (the smoke keeps mosquitos at bay) & then down the beach to swim in the sea. The sky was still kind of overcast but at least the rain had ceased for the time being. We had a nice lunch at Nature Rocks - omlette & thai green curry & a coke for 150BT, then took another swim.
Once back at the bungalow we freshened up & after trying Steve's rented scooter, hired one myself from the shop next door at a bargain 150BT for 24hrs. Leaving the girls me & Steve tried out our scooters on the main road, a 10km practice ride, up very steep hills & down them towards a waterfall. Wanting to be able to take Vicky with me a some point I tried riding with Steve on the back & after a few close calls got the hang of balancing with the extra weight. It was really fun. We got back at 6.20pm, had 60BT beers at Goodtime (buy one get one free), then muscled in on the free BBQ & a beer at Ting Tong where there was a live band playing.

Thursday we awoke wearily at 9am having been kept awake by the roar of the rain during the night. We had pancake & cornflakes & pineapple juice for breakfast & were left twiddling our thumbs as the continual heavy rain knocked the power out.
12.30pm it had cleared enough for me & Vix to take a ride on my scooter, but this time I took the left turn towards Klong Plu Waterfall. On the way we stopped at a lookout point where we ate chicken wings, fending off two very hungry dogs & as the fuel had run out we freewheeled downhill to the next resort. I suspect that people must run out a lot as there were fuel stations dotted about all over the island, though I had to question Thai commonsense with putting petrol in plastic & glass bottles, leaving them exposed to the sun. With a tank half full of fuel (30BT) & a visit to the 7-11 (how we had missed the amazingly cheap, godsend of a place) to buy toasties & snacks at 80BT.
Arriving at the waterfall we felt the 200BT each was too expensive & so turned round, drove past Lonely Beach uphill with the bike cutting out halfway up. It had guzzled all the fuel again! I left Vicky & turned back downhill & painstakingly wheeled the heavy bike up the other side where I bought yet more fuel, picked Vicky up & dropped off the bike. A brief dip in the sea & chill on the beach at 4.30pm & we walked through the forest to Tree House Resort, the supposed place to be. The place was nealy empty & a death trap, Vicky tripping on loose planks on the bar platform as she walked. We decided we'd had enough so found another free BBQ at one of the bars - chicken legs & wings with vegetables & garlic & ended the night with fried rice at Ting Tong 11ish.

Friday we were again up by 9am. I checked out the shops on the high street & bought something I've always wanted - a hammock - for only 180BT having haggled the woman down from 250BT. She informed me that she sold the same hammocks in Bangkok for considerably more.
Owing to me losing the 20 pounds we had a cheap breakfast buying cereal, milk & a milkshake from one of the stores for 70BT, then went down to the beach & for a swim, with better weather this time.
12.30 we hired the scooter again & went in the same direction as the previous day, stopping in the next resort for fuel & delicious pancakes (chicken & egg, tuna & cheese, & chocolate) at Bob's stall. We drove another thirty minutes into the 'capital' town, buying the irresistable sweet desserts at 15BT.
We were on our way to the port but the rain made the road difficult to ride on so we sheltered then headed back. We were faced with 3 monsoon storms, along different points of the road & got drenched as we hadn't brought wet weather gear with us.
When we were halfway back we found a side road to a waterfall & decided to take it. As we neared the falls I stupidly drove us through a huge puddle, covering us & the bike in a layer of mud & then lost control, the bike falling over onto us. We drove back onto the main road & at speed back to our resort racing against the encroaching darkness (we didn't want to be riding on a busy, steep road in the dark), making it just as it hit 7pm.
Fancing a challenge I had a go at putting up the hammock in the rafters of the porch area of our bungalow. It was a tricky endeavour but it was worth it lying back & swinging lazily as I looked up at the stars.
That night we ate corn on a cob & the sweets we'd bought earlier & unable to find Steve & Susie retreated to a restaurant nearby called the "Magic Garden" to drink beer & eat spring rolls as it rained & cut the power out again.

Saturday we were up by 8ish, had breakfast cereal in the room (that I'd bought for 42BT), arranged a 2pm beach rendezvous with Steve & set off on the scooter with Vicky to The Grand Lagoon, a luxury resort on the eastern tip of the island.
We paid the 150BT entry fee each at 9.35am &, leaving the bike, walked up to Prao Talay Waterfall, a fifteen minute trek over slippery rocks, through rainforest & clouds of mozis. A cool swim in the pool & under the falls was welcoming in the tropical heat.
Back at the entrance we walked along one of many concrete paths to a bike hire shack & enjoyed a boneshaking ride on childsized bikes to the Floating Hotel.
The 'hotel' was actually a huge 7 floor ship, like a small floating scyscraper & completely empty. The rooms were unsurprisingly locked, a musty odour eminating from the 40s style carpets lining the corridors. The top floor opened out onto a kind of sundeck & commanded a fantastic view of the resort & national park at it's northern end. We took the lift down to the lower levels & after being creeped out by the dark, spooky banquet halls we cycled to Sandal Beachbar & Restaurant. Here we enjoyed complimentary drinks & cakes & watched as the staff raced round locking down the awnings in the high winds & sudden rain.
At 12pm I took a dip in the pool & sat in the water at the bar, wishing it were open (it was low season on the island). We cycled back to the hire shack to return our bikes & took off on our scooter. With hindsight we could have perhaps waited a few hours or already having experienced the continual rainstorms not bothered risking taking the bike. Commonsense & hindsight were not with me as we crossed the crest & drove down the first steep incline which was my undoing. Halfway down despite continually breaking we hit a wet/oily patch at 20km/ph & skidded downhill, the bike tilting dangerously too far right. As I fought to regain control Vicky lost her balance & flew off the back bouncing along the road. Seconds later the bike had fully tipped to the right & scraped along the road as I fell off & careered into the safety barrier. It was the most terrifying thing ever. I was in agony winded but luckily only suffering from shock & a fleshwound. I clumsily got up & hobbled uphill to Vicky, relieved to find her in no worse condition than myself. We were shaken & both crying when some local guys turned up & calmed us down. Checking out the bike they found no serious damage so left us to make our way back. My instinct was to go dead slow/walk but it was too far & we needed speed to get up the half a dozen steep hills so suffered a hair-raising ride back to the resort. The woman spent thirty minutes looking round at the 'damage' (a few scratches & minor cracks to the plastic chassis, worrying me to death at how much she would charge after the stories I'd heard about people damaging their bikes. It ended up costing me 3,000BT which wasn't as much as she could have but still ate into our budget.
We ate kao pad gai at Om Bar then recooperated till dinnertime (pad thai & free BBQ at Om Bar). Bumping into Kim & Tom a couple we had met on the sangthew we all hung out at Day Nite enjoying another free BBQ that was in aid of a friend's leaving & drank & played pool, watching in amusement as Kim & Vicky were propositioned by the lesbian barstaff.

Sunday we had breakfast cereal again then actually got to enjoy some sunshine on the beach & swim in the sea till early evening with kao pad vegetables & bacon sandwiches with a coconut shake (110BT) at Nature Rocks in between sessions.
At 3pm my sandals died back at the bungalow so we went shopping, Vicky getting some shorts, booking a 400BT trip back to Bangkok, & me getting a muchneeded 100BT haircut. I couldn't find suitable sandals that wouldn't fall apart in 3 seconds.
A brief & undelicious snack of Thai Pot Noodles & with a beer in hand we entered one of the three main tattoo parlours in the row & endured 3 hours of work as the talented artist coped the design (by hand) of 'eternity' from my Vietnamese bamboo bowl onto a kind of transfer. Unfortunately he seemed unable to grasp that I wanted it from the nape of my neck to the top of my back so had to redraw the design three times before it was in the right place. That was the first hour. The remaining two I was sat up listening to my music as the guy jabbed an ink needle embedded in a bamboo stick, grimacing in pain as the feeling went from nothing to stabbing & cutting. Despite it I did not cry, concerntrating on David Guetta or playing with the guy's daughter & cat. Finally at 10pm I was finished & after paying the 1,300BT staggered over to the closest restaurant for kao pad moo then a pancake at Ting Tong.

Posted by Eemail2004 21:27 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 127 - Back into Thailand

overcast

Tuesday we got up at 6am, packed & checked out an hour later. A moto tout guided us to the bus agency & at 8am we were on our way to Poipet.
We had been warned about this busy town, about all the scams that take place between it & Aranyaprathet on the Thai side of the border. Scam buses that run from Koh San Road in Bangkok dropping people off & making them pay exhorbitant fees to continue on. Unscrupulous people working in collaboration with the casinos to help tourists part with their cash. Needless to say we were very nervous when we arrived, but getting our visas checked & authorised went smoothly, entering one building then another all the while holding onto our belongings for dear life. Things started to go south at 11.30am when we were dumped at a food stand along with a group of girls & told our connecting bus would arrive shortly.
1.30pm came & we had seen many buses but not ours. By 2pm we were starving so bought rice soup from a stall for 25BT & after we were full gave the rest to a street girl. Finally the bus turned up at 2.20pm.
The journey from here to Trat was a bit of a bust. Four of us were to be dropped off there but the driver refused to take us into the city insisting he drop us off outside & we get a taxi in. This had not been the original deal & we weren't keen hanging around by a dark road waiting for a taxi, especially as it no doubt would have cost a lot to go the 20km to Trat. Instead we outright refused to get out & when the driver gave in we were all taken to the ferry port at 5.45pm.
The ferry cost us 60BT each to the Thai island Koh Chang. The ride was smooth & only took about an hour. Once on land we caught a sangthew to Lonely Beach at 100BT each & had to cling on for dear life as we zoomed up & downhill in the back of the rickety vehicle.
We were dropped off at Treehouse Lodge & after finding the accomodation closed wandered across the beach, through dark forest & over the sea on makeshift sandbag bridges & wooden planks with Steve & his South African wife Susie till we found Jaegun Guesthouse. It wasn't much but the 100BT bungalows were comfortable & quite spacious (the low cost was due to it being low season). As we unpacked inside it rained heavily & only stopped as we walked to Ting Tong Restaurant where we had fried rice & two beers at 190BT & played cards & petted kittens, cute fat puppies & their poor mother.

Posted by Eemail2004 23:07 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 120 - 126 - The Jewels of Cambodia

sunny

Wednesday we had to be up at 5.30am to checkout & struggle with our rucksacks down to the marketplace in town. The bus left at 6.45am & owing to the early start we slept for two hours, stopping for steamed rice & eating our desserts bought the day before. At 3.15pm we reached our changeover stop. Nick-named 'Spiderville' the small town was famous for a culinary delight discovered afew years before when food was becoming scarce. Tarantula-like spiders were hunted down, dug out their nests & eaten. The whole time Vicky was very nervous, not a fan of the eight-legged critters, cooked or not. Her mood was worsened by a kind girl throwing a tarantula at her & making her freak. This was one of the stories we had already heard from friends about the place but we were still taken by surprise. Ten minutes later & we were thankfully on our connecting bus sleeping right through till we reached Siem Reap at 7.30pm. We took a tuk tuk to Ivy 2 Guesthouse (as recommended by Kim & Tom) for $2 & checked into the pleasant $6 place. The appropriately named place was surrounded by ivy & bushes, in town but the plants & green, organic canopy feeling more like it was in a rainforest area. The pleasant environment was sadly balanced out by quite expensive food meaning we had to settle for the cheapest things on the menu, spring rolls & fried noodles.

Thursday we got up at 7.30am to begin our trip round the temples but a bad case of travellers gut sent me back to bed leaving Vicky to have breakfast & cancel our trip. The rest of the morning I was bedridden, dreading a repeat of my sickness in Vientianne! I think not being ill most of the time made sickness worse for me! Vicky entertained herself taking a walk round the nearby streets, making a mental note of which handbag would go with her outfits (glad she didn't have the credit card). By afternoon the sleeping & reading had eased the sickness so I braved a steamed rice brunch, whilst Vicky bought chips. We had a stint on the internet & then explored the night market together buying wedding presents for Neil & Sara, a scarf for Vicky & bracelet for me. We had dinner at a night stall (sweet noodle & vegetables & rice soup with chicken at 3,000 & 4,000) & seeing only a repetition of the same trinkets we came back.

Friday we got up 6.15am & had a pancake breakfast at $2.50. This time I felt alot better so we arranged with a tuk tuk driver to take us around the temples, first stopping at the ticket office at 8.50am for a 3 day pass for $80 for both of us. It took us an hour to reach the first temple on our tour, Banteay Srei. Supposedly the most famous & amazing outside of the Ankor temples the 'citadel of the woman' as the name translates is an early tenth century temple, one of few to be commissioned by a Brahman not a king. The guidebook said that the temple was stunning in its iconiograph beauty & pink colours giving it a 'fairyland ambiance'. Sadly, apart from the bas-reliefs of women with lotus flowers & scenes from the Ramayana (an epic tale) the place had little appeal to us - packed full of obnoxious tourists, shoving us out the way & the temple itself more of a ruin than the books indicate. After an hour we had seen enough & so we headed back towards Siem Reap.

On the way back to town we visited the Landmine Museum, created by an ex-Khmer Rouge soldier, which served the dual purpose of explaining the mechanics of such horrific weapons & as a reminder to all that landmines are still a big problem, many still only being discovered when they are set off by a poor farmer or children playing in the fields. The creator of the museum Akira provides a fascinating story of his life before, during & after the Khmer Rouge having laid some of the mines originally himself but now helping the world rid us of them. He still trains bomb-disposal teams (using modern methods as well as a stick & counter-weight system) & heroically disarms any found in Cambodia & other places for free (many villagers unable to pay him anyway). Ontop of this he has created a refuge for some of the poorer children, many victims of landmines that he runs with his wife.

Another hour later we reached Banteay Sambre, a flat Angkor Wat-style temple built in the mid 12th century by King Suryavarman II. It's preservation was much more impressive to us than Srei although there were less carvings in its' walls. We bought baguettes from a nearby stall for 3,000 then stopped to check out the Eastern Mebon temple situated on a former island on the long dry Eastern Baray reservoir. The temple was a mountain of shrines & towers & guarded by carved stone elephants & built by King Rajendravarman II in the 10th century. After buying a coconut for $1 we drove 1km south to Pre Rup, similarly built in the form of a pyramid-shaped temple mountain by the same king. This temple had more reliefs & some controversy exists on whether it's translation 'Turning the Body' was a reference to its' possible use as a crematorium.
Thirty minutes & we drove past Sra Srang, 'Pool of Ablutions', a small lake with a stone platform & adorned with naga balustrades & guardian lions, & an island that originally had a wooden temple on it. The lake was used by the old kings & their families but now seemed just as popular with the locals, especially the happy splashing children. We ended our tour at Prasat Kravan, (a Hindu worship temple built by noblemen in the early 10th century) late afternoon & all templed out we paid our tuk tuk driver, Wait Luos, $17 then slept in the Ivy till early evening when I went for a walk round the town & found a bike hire place near the Ankoran Hotel. We had dinner at Full On, fried rice & chicken; fried noodle & pork for $1.50 each then battled it out on the pool table Vicky nearly beating me.

Saturday a bad nights sleep caused me to reluctantly rise at 6.30am to make the most of the day. A breakfast of pancakes was followed by a walk to the bike hire place where we paid $1.50 & cycled off along the busy main road, worsened by the opening of the local markets. It took us thirty minutes to get out of town & we were faced with a hot, dusty 14km ride to the Rolous Group. This modern name is taken from the nearby modern town of Roluos, however it's real name is Hariharalaya. The place although distant from the impressive Angkor Wat & Thom was an extremely important place, the first Khmer capital that served four successive kings over 70 years. The two main temples Bakong & Preah Ko were early examples of temple-mountain & tower architecture, in the past impressive stone structures but we sadly felt that after the long ride they were a bit of a let down. Taking a rest we chatted the monks at the modern temple onsite & cycled back taking a turn after 7km towards Ankor Wat. We stopped for a lunch first of chicken noodle soup at Thuam Lay round 1.30pm then entered the 'Grand Circuit' park area, taking a right past Sras Rang & following the road up & round to check out three more impressive temples. The first, Ta Som was a twelfth century monastic complex built by King Jayavarman VII, flat with small towers & cruciform shaped areas. The place was amazing to look at, especially with a huge tree growing through the main gatehouse. Vicky seemed typically more preoccupied with the local children begging than the architecture though it was fun to see their faces when we offered them sweets.
The second wonder Neak Pean was a beautiful eight pool baray (dry as it was the dry season) with a small island temple covered with coiled serpents at its' centre. It served as an absolution pool said to have healing properties & dedicated to Buddha.
The third Preah Khan was a huge monastic complex built in dedication to King Jayavarman VII's father. It had originally served as a Buddhist monastery & school. It had even been the King's home temporarily. The labyrinthian site with both a shrine & a beautiful palace, as well as tunnels with Buddha bas-reliefs & cylindrical columns could have taken hours to explore & the scenes of the former jungle growing out of the site as if to reclaim it provided numerous photo opportunities. Sadly, we had neither the time no any battery power left so we followed the road onwards & cut down through the awesome Angkor Thom, entering through the fearsome north gate with a giant face staring ominously at us. The site was more magnificent than anything we had seen since arriving at Siem Reap but we didn't have the luxury of time to stop & explore. Instead we caught glimpses of the various buildings as we crossed the huge park, peddling as fast as we could to catch the sunset. We failed miserably as not only did we miss the sunset but had to race against the encroaching darkness which would leave us lost in the wilderness if we didn't reach the main road back to the city. It was a scary experience. Not only did we have to negotiate the route in virtual darkness but once we were on the main road we had to avoid being knocked down by traffic that had appeared from nowhere!
Once back in the city we returned the bikes & lazily decided to eat chicken tostadas at the guesthouse followed by sticky rice & rice/cake desserts from the market.

Sunday was an early wake up - 4.45am so we could catch a moto to Angkor Wat in time for the 'spectacular' sunrise between 5.40am & 6am. We arrived at the temple entrance just as darkness turned into daylight & after paying the driver $3 crossed the wide stone bridge over the river moat & entered the gatehouse. Inside were several large Buddha statues dressed with gold robes in small chambers at various intervals along the wall. Once out the other side we both stopped & stared in astonishment at the sight before us. The thing to note here is that although parts of the building can be seen from a distance close up the place is like nothing you can imagine. The gatehouse opened up onto a huge courtyard the size of a national park enclosed on all sides by high stone walls. A meter high stone walkway cut through the courtyard with steps leading down to an immaculate grass lawn & either side were identical chapels recently restored by Japanese archeologists. At the end of the walkway were two adjacent pools with reflections of the main temple itself serving as the perfect setting to photograph the sunrise. With the sunrise over we attempted to walk to Angkor Thom but an hour later were too tired to carry on so caught a $3 moto back to Ivy & passed out till 11am.
A brunch at Full On of fried rice & chicken & after buying baguettes, dragonfruit & a smoothie we were recharged & ready to tackle the temples again, stupidly walking to the 'Mini Tour' route at midday. The distance was greater than we thought so Banteay Kdei wasn't reached till 2.30pm. The late 12th century monastic structure was more in ruins than most of the others we'd seen owing to the use of inferior sandstone materials, built over the site of an earlier temple. Along the same route we looked round Ta Prohm, halfhidden by the jungle & surrounded by wooden walkways, another Buddhist monastery but the most wealthy one that had control over 3000 villages & built by Jayavarman VII in honour to his mother. The dark corridors & open plazas were fun to explore but clusters of tourists made this difficult.

With all the more minor temples visited all that was left for us to do was explore the major Angkorian site. We caught a tuk tuk to Angkor Thom at 4ish. The grounds were a greater expanse than even Angkor Wat, containing three main temples as well as numerous other structures. We were running out of time so opted to check out the most stupenduous of the temples Bayon. The building was as creepy as it was marvelous. The state-temple of Jayavarman VII had carvings depicting daily life & significant Khmer battles against the Cham adorned along the walls at the base that were under repair but is most famous for the 37 standing towers most with carved faces similar to the ones on the main gates that may represent Buddha or the king himself keeping an eye on his kingdom. From the top of the steps the structure seemed more crowded, by the tightly packed towers as much as the tourists. We then made an attempt to catch the sunset at Bakheng but it had closed early!
We caught a moto for $2 back to the guesthouse & contented ourselves eating sticky rice & dragonfruit whilst watching t.v.

Mon we were up by 8am & decided that we needed to stay another day to explore Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom properly. So, after sticky rice, a banana stick & a smoothie we hired bikes again & bought two one day passes for $40. Cycling to Angkor Wat for 11am the place didn't look half as impressive as it had round sunrise the previous morning. It was still worth the visit. We crossed the walkway, stopping briefly to examine the aspara bas-reliefs & carvings on the outer walls before entering the main building. Inside it was a maze of winding passages with small carvings round the doorways, stone rubble that I tripped over more than once & the most amazing carvings I had ever scene. Wall after wall was filled with stories & characters from Hindu mythology, the Battle of Kuru; the founder King Suryavarman II & his army marching against the Cham, Heaven & Hell & the 'Churning of the Milk'. On the next levels was a collection of Buddha statues amid corridors & two room-sized spaces that had been libraries. As far as we could go was the steps of the third level as major work was being carried out on the towers beyond, so we felt like we were missing out. Realising there was nothing else we could see we made our way back to Angkor Thom.
This time we crossed a huge ornate stone bridge complete with stone Nagas running along the sides to the south gate & were again in awe of the stone face staring at us. There were infact four of them on each gate facing each direction of the compass & looked just as ominous in the daylight as the previous evening.Once through the gate we cycled along through the park area & were forced to duck under the plastic sheets covering Bayons' unreconstructed section as it rained heavily for half an hour. At 3pm it had stopped so we cycled north then west to Baphuon crossing a long elevated causeway running between two ponds to the huge 11th century temple-mountain. Sadly, like with Angkor Wat, the place I had wanted to see since it had feature in the first Tomb Raider films years ago was closed for extensive renovation work. Walking north we cut through the remains of a gateway into a smaller enclosed courtyard, the grounds of the Royal Palace & stared up at the laterite & sandstone pyramid shaped Phimeanakas, King Jayavarman V's temple. Apart from its height the 'galaxy of the stars' seemed unimpressive so I scaled the western staircase & dodged broken ledges to see if there was a good view. It was exciting but pointless as any view was obscured by thick trees at the height I could reach & further progress upward would have been sheer suicide.
Back at the bottom we came back onto the main path checked out the two & a half-meter tall, 300 metre long stone raised platform on our left appropriately called the 'Terrace of the Elephants', as there were scores of statues of the beasts lining the wall as well as a five headed horse & warriors & dancers. After a gap at the northern end there was another shorter platform known as the 'Terrace of the Leper King'. This one had a double terrace wall the inner wall an earlier version of the heavily sculptured outer wall. On top stood a statue of the 'Leper King'. The inner carvings stood out in an almost lifelike way as I walked between the two walls & gave off eerie shadows that danced in the evening light. As we explored we could imagine the King displaying his mighty army, parading them round the grounds while he & his entourage towered over his people.
We just had enough time to look round the 12 towers & kleangs adjacent to the terraces before a frantic cycle ride back at 6.3opm in the pitch black, using a torch & the traffic headlights to find our way. It was scarier than before as Vicky had several near misses with cars & I hit a stone & nearly fell off near town.

We dropped off our bikes paid for 2 bus tickets to Tratt, a small town on the Thai side of the border ($13 each) & enjoyed the rest of the evening eating at the famous 'Dead Fish Cafe', a building that looked like it was the end product of an architectual bomb, so many styles & features - statues of animals, railings twisting upwards, an illuminated brick & steel erection. Inside it was just as bizarre, part cafe restaurant, part saloon, part warehouse & the rest a small museum & zoo complete with two live crocodiles in a pool a sheer drop from the toilets. The food completed the evening - a lovely 'mild' Khmer curry & a carbanara & beers coming to round about $12.

Posted by Eemail2004 17:50 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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