Katja and Arne's travel stories

21.01.15 Sunrise over Angkor Wat

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Up once again and out to see another sunrise. This time we’ve aimed for the big temple, Angkor Wat itself. Breakfast bags from the hotel and we’re ready for a long day out.
This time it’s also dark and cold before the sun gets up. A lot of people are already up, and the once with ordinary bikes are pedaling away when we pass them in the dark. We thought of getting ordinary bikes, but went with the motorbike so we could cover more ground.
To get into the temple we must cross the bridge over the moat. This is a moat that shames it’s European cousins. It’s 190 metre wide and stretches for something like 1,3X1,5 kilometers. That gives you a little perspective of the size of this temple ground.
The sunrise at Angkor Wat is hugely popular. We knew that going out there, but it’s way more people than expected. The park rangers (in lack for a better term) is lined up across the bridge and check the tickets of everyone passing into the temple.
The guide books claim the best time for visiting Angkor Wat temple is just after sunrise. A lot of the people will go back to their hotels for breakfast and it’s most quiet at that time. Quiet is a relative term in that regard.

When the people clear the area we walk around and enjoy the outside of this grand temple. It has been used more or less continuously since it was built and is a splendid sight. We walk around the outer wall and find some monkeys playing there. Soon the spectator crowd grows and some offer up bananas for the monkeys. This brings in even more of them.

We move inside the first wall of the biggest temple and sit down to have breakfast from the packages the hotel provided. DISAPPOINTED! They had packed two small bananas, an apple, a sour orange, an egg and a croissant. Nothing that will make my engine run for a long time. We kept moving around in the outer part of the main temple and my mood was growing exponentially bad to the number of steps walked. We walked to the top floor of the temple, who’s time restricted later on the day. The detail in the stone carvings and the plaster work is just wonderful. To think it is a thousand years old just blows my mind. On a negative note there are people who have carved their names in columns and on the walls. Bastards! Such a disregard for the cultural heritage is beyond me.

Once again we got something out of the museum visit as we could identify different people and gods in the art work. Getting down from the top I think Katja’s love for me was the only thing that kept her from smacking me on the head and asking me to “Man up!”
Luckily they serve food and drinks inside the temple and Katja instead suggested we walked over and got me some food. My bad mood evaporated like a London morning fog, slowly and maybe not quite, in other words. Just kidding, fried pork, rice and some veggies plus a coffee can do wonders on any man’s mood. I will not describe the toilet facilities in detail, but suffice to say we’ve been to better places.

It’s a double edged sword the presence of the hawkers and their shops. When I want something to drink, or like now a meal, their very good to have nearby. At the same time it’s very annoying to be asked to buy something every fifty meter. Guess you have to take one with the other.
All revved up and nowhere to go. (A good Meatloaf song for you, right there.) Now we were getting ready to take on the main sights at Angkor Wat, the stories on the bas reliefs in the walkways. The walls inside the walkway are carved stone and with enormous scenes playing out. Two off the stories were “documented” the rest is maybe not deciphered yet, what do I know.

Among the sights in the scenery we found some cool artwork that is transferable to our own Karate. A couple of the fighting elements are directly taken it off Kuchanku kata. Our from your Kankudai, if that’s your name for it. Take a look at that pictures here.

Angkor Wat is built as a place to worship Vishnu. The god of preservation in Hinduism. Some of the pictures were of him, and then suddenly Garuda shows up. Naga is present all over the place and we found some animals/monsters I think is long dead if ever existed in the first place. They are depicted together with fish and crocodilles so who know, maybe they once up on a time swam in the moat outside?
At one of the walls we stopped and talked of what we saw and concluded that this is the center and here is the frontline of the battle. We had looked at the fighting styles, the number of dead and the flow of the battle. Just then a guide comes along with a couple of clients and tell them what we just had spoken about. Pretty high on ourselves we moved on.
The sights are too big for words. In the morning hours we talked about how we found Bagan a more interesting place. Moving along these great walls of recorded history we agree that Angkor Wat is growing on us.

When we decided to leave we’ve spent more than five hours in this temple alone.
Moving through an old library we greet a family entering. Sounded to meet like he speaks somewhat like Finish-Swedish. When we talk to them we find they are Norwegians and Trond had just done an impression on Leo Ajkic (Norwegian tv personality). My bad.
It’s nice to meet other Norwegians as it doen’t happen all that often on this tour. Turns out Trond and his wife Yvonne are traveling for six months with three kids, Lea, Embla og Elias. Impressive. We talk a little about the plans in the immediate future. Turns out we’re looking to go to some remote temples all of us, so we look at going together on Friday.
Back on the bike the first thing we need is air for the back tire. Asking around sends us in a lot of different directions. But behold, in the heritage park is a kind of a junk shop/metal shop/garage. They have a compressor and we get air. Now it’s time for lunch. We drive towards our next temple for the day and stop on the way where the tuk-tuk drivers take their food. It’s good, but the hygienic of the place leaves something to be wanted.

We get back out to temple riding and next stop is Ta Phrom. This is the temple most of you have seen as it is here Angelina Jolie portraits Lara Croft in the movie Tomb Raider. Getting there it’s easy to see why it was chosen as a location. There are trees growing up with roots covering the temple in a way only seen in movies. It’s a circus here and it is one of the absolutely most visited temples. Group after group are walking through this temple, one more disconnected from reality than the next. The group’s mentalities seems to be only on the group’s themselves and not to anyone else. We try to be responsible tourists, don’t think I don’t know we’re tourists, but we try to behave. Like dressing appropriately to culture and heritage, speaking between us in a civilized tone, to walk behind each other on narrow pathways, to give way to others. All this seems to disappear as people get into groups. Then it’s only the group dynamic that dictates behaviour and not other people or society in general. Doesn’t matter what nationally they hold, American, Chinese, Korean or Norwegian. I guess we’ve all been there one time or ten, so I’m jingling my bell with a bit of caution.
Enough rant for a while. And of course there is always the exception, as you will see from the video below.

It’s nice to see that other nationalities are contributing to the restoration of the temples here. So far Japan, America, India and Germany are at least poring in money and knowledge through UNESCO.
After the ride home we chilled by the pool and relaxed. We have spent ten hours in the company of temples and others today so it is nice to stretch out and relax.

Every time we’ve passed a little street food restaurant down the street from the hotel it smelled heavenly of BBQ. That’s where we headed for dinner. They didn’t speak more than ten words of English between them, but served us up. It’s one of those places where they serve one type of meal. It smelled good, looked nothing like the good smell and tasted like rubber. It’s grilled pork, but without crispy skin. That means tough leathery skin that don’t taste good and takes forever to chew. In addition to the less-than-desired-food we got a constant dripping of bugs from the ceiling. We quickly ended the meal and paid just five dollar for the whole thing. Back up to the hotel and a bowl of fruit for Katja and a pancake for me. Danger averted and we can sleep easy. And we did sleep well, that is. After a long day out in the sun we passed out like babies.

Angkor is perhaps the greatest of Man’s essays in rectangular architecture that has yet been brought to life.

– Arnold Joseph Toynbee

Author: arnber

Humongen! The big guy! The man, the myth, the legend! And then theres' me. The nice guy in the house. The man without cooking skills, but with five stars on the Playstation. Boss at work, relaxed at home. What you see is what you get. Life is good. I choose it to be.

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