Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 15: Angkor Wat? Angkor Who?

Angkor Wat

My alarm sounded before those annoying roosters even got a chance to crow their first of the morning. It was 4.30am which is usually my bed time, and I wasn’t that happy about getting up. However, it was a necessary evil as we’d planned to make it to Angkor Wat for sunrise, which would be coming up like Bez from the Happy Mondays in about an hour. Katherine and Rachael’s friend had just flown over from Australia and was feeling jet-lagged, so they decided to do it another time, leaving Maddie and I with her tuk-tuk driving friend, Buntan, to head towards the temple. We drove for about fifteen minutes to the ticketing office and bought a one day pass which had our tired mugs printed onto the front, then went back on the dirt road towards the temple. After another couple hundred metres we unexpectedly ground to a halt. Buntan told us that we had a flat tyre due to a nail in the road and would have to wait for a replacement vehicle to take us to the temple. Dawn was cracking through the black blanket in the sky, and it started to rain. Heavily. I sparked up a banger and remained cool with our bad luck, feeling that perhaps it wasn’t meant to be, and that such a special moment should only be experienced when I have my lover in my arms.

I wrote:

“You can’t stop the rain from falling,
you can’t avoid every nail which is in the road.
If you miss the sunrise there will be one tomorrow,
what will be, will be.”

whilst sitting patiently as the rain lashed against our broken vehicle and the sky got lighter and lighter. After about thirty minutes, a tuk-tuk pulled up next to ours and was positioned perfectly by the driver so that we could hop across from one carriage to the other, like The Beatles running through black cabs in e from ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. We were on the road again, and arrived shortly after. There was not much sun to be had on this gloomy morning, and it was still pissing down, so we remained seated until it lessened, then got out to explore the temple in all its peaceful early morning glory. There were few tourists at this early hour, which meant we had the place pretty much to ourselves, and we strolled around admiring the sheer extent of the work. Everywhere you looked, something was carved. Be it ceiling, wall or floor, hours and hours of repeated pictures and patterns adorned the spaces, leaving no inch of the building anything less than majestic. It was quite incredible. After an hour or so, we found Buntan, who took us up to the beautiful ruins of Bayon, and we spent another couple of hours walking around the fallen stones and dark, damp tunnels, exploring the area, which was now getting busier with tourists. We befriended two old American couples from California, and spent some time walking and talking with them about Obama, Romney, and Lance Armstrong’s recent fall from grace. I stated my disappointment in all three. We visited a few smaller temples on the outskirts of Bayon, then met Buntan who whisked us off to Prohm, which would be our last stop on this temple run. Prohm is the temple where they shot Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie, a kind of in-door jungle which has huge concrete faces carved into the side of the stone rooftops. By this point it was nearly mid-day, and the place was swarming with Japanese tourists, all slowly ambling around and squeezing as much time as possible out of every photo op. At one famous point from the film, I posed for a photo by throwing a punch towards the camera. The twenty-odd Japs that were looking on all cheered and clapped at my gesture, saying “Kung Fu” excitedly and smiling at me as I disappeared through the stone doorway, feeling like David Caradine’s illegitimate lovechild. By this point, I was tired and templed out.

Boom Raider
Maddie and I had agreed on getting some Cambodian barbeque for lunch and a blind massage, but we stopped off to visit the cafĂ© that her friend Cassie was opening first to say hello. It looked really nice and I was happy to see these guys setting up new lives for themselves in this beautiful, developing land. Cassie and her friend were on their way for lunch at Viva, and Maddie decided to join them, but I’d had my last meal there, and my heart was set on barbeque, so I went off on my own again to eat. I was sat at a table with a metal container in front of me, it had coals in the middle which heated the grill part above it, and there was a circular channel around the sides that was filled by the waitress with stock, poured from a big metal teapot. She presented me with a wicker basket filled with chicken, beef, pork, crocodile and squid, and a variety of greens, noodles and rice. I threw the greens and noodles into the stock to make a soup, whilst grilling the different meats as I went on, then throwing the whole concoction into a bowl to be devoured. It was delicious, and I enjoyed cooking for myself for the first time in weeks, another one of my passions that I’d been living without.

Feeling pretty drained, I returned to Siem Reap Temple Villa, dived into the pool to swim off my lunch, then got back to my writing until the sun went down. I returned to my room at 6pm for a one hour power nap, and ended up sleeping until 10pm. Hungry, I went into town and had a small supper whilst writing some more at my table in the midst of the madness, as various music blasted loudly from each surrounding bar, then returned home, again writing into the early hours of the morning, then having my last sleep in one of my huge, comfortable beds. 

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