|The waterfall at Kbal Spean|
Siem Reap is described in the guide books as 'a charming town with its many colonial style buildings tree lined streets and winding river' it is now growing and thriving on the increasing numbers of tourists on their way to see the Temples of Angkor.
When the French explorers rediscovered Angkor Watt it was not much more than a village
|The wonderful Banteay Srei temple|
The main Temples of Angkor are about 6 kms from the town centre. Chris and I stayed at our favourite hotel Terrace Des Elephants the friendliest and quirkiest hotel I have ever stayed in it was my third stay there and now I would not consider staying any where else including the legendary Raffles and many other 5* hotels springing up in Siem Reap
On our first day we got up at 4 am (yes I know I am mad) for a 5 am departure by tuck tuck to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat this was an act of faith in itself as its the rainy season so no guarantees that we would see the sun at all and it was looking doubtful as we passed through the dark tree lined streets through a light drizzle. We were joined by several other hundreds of mad people but the complex is so vast that we felt as if we were there alone and dame fortune did smile upon us as day break approached the clouds cleared and we did indeed see the sun rise over Angkor Wat .
The history of Angkor Wat starts around the 9th century Khmer religious beliefs, art and architecture all stemmed from India who introduced both Hinduism and Buddhism to the country which had a profound effect on the culture.The indigenous Khmer's though did not entirely abandon their beliefs in their heroes/guardian spirits good spirits and evil spirits who roam the land bringing sickness and death.
'Spirit houses' are in evidence outside most homes and buildings to this day complete with offerings.
We had a great guide who took us all over the temple complex including Angkor Thom entering along the impressive causeway through the south gate -Bayon where I saw the carving of a woman giving birth which is the emblem of CMC -then on to the Terrace of the Leper King -Elephant Terrace - Bayon - Ta Prohm where the trees and temple ruins have become as one then back to Angkor Wat
The following day was even better we travelled about 30kms in our tuck tuck through small villages past vivid green paddy fields and other crops its so interesting traveling in Cambodia especially by tuck tuck as you get the chance to see how people live their homes how they cook and spend their time as just every thing goes on outside.
As we neared the Kulen mountains the heavens opened up and the rain just poured but undeterred we donned our rain capes and set off on a 1050 m climb/walk over rocks and tree roots crossing precarious bridges and other obstacles to reach our destination of Kbal Spean.
Our goal being the 9 th century river bed carvings along a tributary of the Stung Kbal Spean which eventually finds its way into the Tonle sap river. These ancient carvings are just above a very attractive waterfall which for those brave enough to try it was accessible me and my pal took the view that we were wet enough as it was so declined the offer of our guide to sample the healing waters
We were however bowled over by the sight of these ancient stone carvings which included many lingus arranged in rows images of gods and animals as clear as the day they were carved.
The most impressive for me though was the 4 faced god of Brahma on a lotus North of the natural bridge.
A stunning place well worth the climb.
|Two young monks entering Angkor Wat temple|
|Angkor Wat one of the 4 basins of the cruciform cloister|
|Almost at the top of Kbal spean|
|Not the sun rise and a pity about the scaffolding but this is me in front of Angkor Wat temple|
|Reclining Vishnu in the stream just N of natural bridge ( note sun just come out )|