Sunrise at Angkor Wat. Magical. I felt the same shudder down my spine as I did 3 years ago as Angkor’s silhouette emerged closer. I took some lovely photos, capturing the reflection of the temple in the moat surrounding it. Then Lindsay spotted Matt, who had also decided to escape Phnom Penh. We went over and said hello. He began telling us his financial woes – tales of living on $10 a day. I remembered my days of poverty when I first started backpacking. I sympathized with him, and bought him a cup of tea. After the sun had risen, we strolled around the virtually empty Angkor Wat. All the people on tours rush straight off after seeing sunrise, only to return to Angkor later when it is swarmed by hundreds of tourists, ruining any good photo opportunity. It’s best to dwell around Angkor Wat for a couple of hours, as only then can you appreciate it’s spiritual tranquility and mesmerizing grandeur and attention to architectural detail. In my opinion anyway.
The steps up to the top of the towers were clearly designed with giants in mind, and are rather difficult and extremely dangerous to manage. Matt fell foul of the lethal steps, trying to jump from one area to another, some 6 metres up. Lindsay and I had reached the summit of the steps and heard a scramble. Looking back, we saw Matt crashing to the floor head first, missing a huge rock by inches. He sprung up, but had clearly damaged his neck in the fall, and though he put a brave face on it, he was clearly in agony, with a suspected fracture of the neck. Unnerved by this experience, we carried on around the temple exercising more caution than usual, remembering that it was Friday 13th after all.
After an enjoyable stroll around, we had breakfast in the shadow of the temple. Fried noodles for me, washed down with a cup of tea. After spending almost 3 hours around this wonderful monument, we joined up for the rest of the day and went around the other major temples. Bayon Temple, with some 200 faces etched in stone on 54 towers, was as impressive as I remembered; Ta Prohm temple (shamelessly touting itself as the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple where Angelina Jolie filmed some key scenes for the film) seemed as though the trees were beginning to completely take over, breaking through the walls of the temple with their strong roots. By 2:30, we’d seen everything we had wanted to see, so Lindsay and I went home, leaving Matt to go back to Angkor Wat and recover from his accident.
The rest of the day passed by without event. In the evening, we met Matt and went for dinner in the alleyway again. This time, we had a snake and crocodile meat feast! The crocodile was tough and stronger tasting than the snake. I didn’t mind the snake. I’ve eaten snake sate before in Jakarta, and found that it went down pretty well. After the meal, we went to the Temple bar for $4 buckets of vodka redbull. After this, we went across the road to Angkor What? bar, a terrible place full of GAP year students dancing badly. Here they were, experiencing ‘Asia’ in a club full of white people dancing to American RnB. How cultured. I level the same criticism at myself.