|In addition to being a reliable driver, Mr. Thorn|
was a good sport and agreed to pose for me.
The noisy confusion and fluorescent lights at the entrance to Angkor Archaeological Park jolted me halfway back to reality as I purchased my ticket, and I climbed back into the tuk-tuk a little more alert. I watched the fog that hovered above the surface of the moat running parallel to the road, guiding us toward the entrance to Angkor Wat itself as the nighttime shadows began to lift, nudged back by the first fingers of dawn creeping over the landscape.
|The sun peeking through a momentary|
break in the clouds over Angkor Wat.
As the sun crept higher in the sky and deeper into the cloud bank, I made my way into the enclosure around the temple itself, marveling at the beauty of the bas-relief devatas guarding it and their apsara cousins, seemingly poised to begin a dance. After a climb up dauntingly steep steps with a railing so rickety I felt safer not holding onto it, I wandered one of the towers as the sun burned through the remaining clouds, sending hazy light spreading over the city surrounding the temple as sunbeams found their way through gaps in the sandstone to dance over the carvings lining the tower corridors.
|A trio of apsaras at the base of one of the towers, with another tower at left.|
|The view from the stairs up to one of the towers (complete with rickety railing!)|
|Sunlight slowly seeping into the tower corridors.|
|The view over one of the tower balconies, with the Angkor balloon just visible among the treetops.|
|The South Gate entrance to Angkor Thom and|
the Bayon. The statues lining the road are
fascinating - gods on the left, asuras (demons)
on the right.
The Bayon was perhaps my favorite of the sites I visited at Angkor, although it was also the most crowded. The serene smiles of the huge faces carved into the stone make for a peaceful setting, and I curled up in as quiet a spot as I could find to write some postcards before moving onto Angkor Thom city itself.
The Terrace of the Elephants, the South Gate entrance and parts of the Preah Pithu Group aside, Angkor Thom city itself was my least favorite part of the day and didn't have as much of an impact on me as the other sites I visited, but I'm still glad I took some time to wander through one of the major sites in the archaeological park.
|One of the side corridors leading off from the main entryway|
into the Bayon.
|One of the Bayon's many face towers.|
|My favorite of the face towers - I wrote my postcards sitting near this guy.|
|The last photo I got before my camera battery died, taken by a kind French couple who waited for or asked numerous other tourists to step out of one side or the other of the frame to get the perfect shot.|
N.B.: My camera battery gave up its battle with the Cambodian heat not long after I arrived at the Bayon, which is why there are no photos of Angkor Thom city or Ta Prohm. (Advice: take a spare or two! This was the only place on my Thailand-Cambodia trip that I could have used one.) I was a little disappointed not to be able to photograph Ta Prohm for myself, but there's no lack of stunning photos of nearly every part of Angkor Archaeological Park available in books, prints and online. One thing that surprised me a little was the lack of English-speaking tourists, at least that I heard. The few fellow tourists I spoke with, either to take their photo or ask them to take mine, were French-speaking, although most tourists I encountered in nearby Siem Reap were native English speakers.
While planning this trip, I debated for a long time over whether or not to include this small piece of Cambodia and Angkor Wat on my itinerary, since it meant a harried beginning to my trip, but I'm very glad I decided to go. Thai temples are lovely, but I got a lot more out of my day among the stones at Angkor than I did my afternoon amidst the opulence of Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaew.