We bought a three-day temples ticket and our tuk-tuk driver, Soum, took us along jungle roads past waves of cyclists towards Angkor Thom the where we spent most of our first day. This place is known as a mountain-temple – and it rears up out of the jungle, land having been cleared around it to give the hoards access to this four square mile site.
The Bayon is where we started across slab stones of pink red into the moss and lichen cover temple, up and up past Bas-Reliefs of devada (dancers). The sun comes up through the trees and illuminates the whole place and us alongside the Japanese and Chinese tourists. Angkor Thom with its 54 towers bearing over 200 stone faces looking out on us and onto the jungle still trying to get in.
We climbed the pyramid mountain of Baphuon. Sian climbed it all my vertigo kicked in at the first level. This was built in the 1200’s and is now being lovingly restored by the French government. More people started to arrive, coaches and tuk-tuks parked up in expanses of green beyond these monuments.
Bright tee shirts and coloured parasols seemed to punctuate and pierce every crevice. Every tongue spilled out in the ancient stairwells. The noise and colour was a perfect counterpoint to the aged silent sandstone.
From Baphuon we climbed up and across the Terrace the Leaper King, beautifully restored with exquisite bas-reliefs of the underworld. Onwards to the Terrace of Elephants and thence to meet up with Soum who then drove us to Pheah Khan a mile north east of Angkor Thom.
Preah Khan, the temple of the scared sword, built around 1181. The sun was now high and the shade of trees, courtyards and towers were welcome. I was dismayed to see a couple of artists selling drawings so much better than mine. And as I sat down to make my own impression of this temple complex and disturbed when one of the policemen offered to sell me his badge for five dollars. I shrunk backwards into the shadows and made my leave of this once scared place.
The rest of the day was quickly despatched by the pool and then going into town to the Old Market and enjoying a beer in the Central Café.