Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Up at 4.30 am and ready to go. We met up with Me-an, our guide, and Bo, our remork driver and we were off. It had rained overnight - thunder and lightning. The monsoons are coming but for now, the rain cooled things off. Bo dropped us at the east entrance to Angkor Wat in the dark. It was deserted. Everyone else approaches Angkor Wat from the west. We entered the temple complex and picked our way down a jungle path. As we made our way along the path, our eyes adjusted to the light and the temple started to come into view. Magnificent feeling to see the grandest of the Khmer temples all alone in the soft light of the dawn. We entered the gate and made our way to the third level. We had the whole place to ourselves but could see the throngs of tourists gathering on the west side to watch the sun come up over the temple from the east. We had the temple to ourselves for about an hour and it was surreal to be in such a magnificent place watching the dawn light up different areas of the temple in brilliant golds and yellows. As the sun rose higher, we made our way out of the west entrance to view the amazing bas reliefs on the west wall. The detail of the sculptures was incredible. We headed past the west pools and across the western moat to meet up with Bo. This was truly the experience of a lifetime. Big thanks to Me-an for making this happen. 

We left Angkor Wat and went to see some souvenir shops. We came across a fabulous wooden Buddha head but must now decide whether the outrageous shipping charges are worth it! As we shopped for souvenirs, we visited the Artisans of Angkor marketplace in Siem Reap where Cambodians with disabilities are employed in art-making endeavours. Fabulous pieces but too heavy to bring home. After this, it was back to Amansara for breakfast and a nap as we prepare to head out again later this afternoon.

A light snack of vegetable tempura with rice-paper springrolls, coupled with fries and coffee meringues, and we were set to head out for the afternoon. First stop, Prasat Kravan, ancient temple ruins from the early 10th century. The interior chambers of these ruins contain wonderful bas reliefs that are in outstanding condition. A quick shopping stop after the temple tour and then it was off to Ta Prohm, famous for a number of  scenes involving Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider. We entered Ta Prohm through the remote northern gate and hiked a short distance through the jungle to the main temple ruins. These ruins have been taken over by jungle growth which makes them enchanting and teeming with mystique. The late afternoon light added to the ambience. We headed back to Amansara for dinner. Before dinner we were treated to an amazing show of Khmer dance by several children from an orphanage close by. The children were wonderful, very happy and proud. Another great meal and it was time for bed, but not before a quick viewing of the Amazing Race when they were in Siem Reap a few seasons ago. We tracked this episode down on iTunes so we could show it to Me-an, our guide, in the morning. He remembers the show coming to town but never saw the final product on tv.

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