Not surprisingly, southeast Asia is hot. It’s so hot that we decided to get up before the sun to join a bike tour around the Angkor temples. The most famous of these temples is Angkor Wat, but there are many other temples and ruins in the area.
After watching the sunrise we followed our tour guide into Angkor Wat to listen to his detailed description of the wall carvings that stretch down long hallways on all four sides of the temple. One carving describes the “Churning of the Sea of Milk”, which I think is a myth about a struggle between gods and demons. There was also a long wall dedicated to one particular battle. It was cool to see the many figures in the carvings, even if I didn’t understand the story behind them.
At one point we climbed up a steep wooden stairway to visit the upper level of Angkor Wat. As steep as this stairway is, the original stone stairway beneath it is even steeper! Apparently this was to force anyone entering the temple to climb the steps hunched over. Only the front stairway, for use by the king alone, was a less steep climb, allowing the king to walk upright.
Anyway, after breakfast we biked to Angkor Thom. Now, Angkor Wat is a large building, but Angkor Thom is a huge walled city. It’s about three kilometers on each side and full of temples and other impressive buildings.
As we left the Bayon temple we were glad to see our tour van driver waiting by our bikes. He had some cold bottles of water and ice cold hand towels to help us cool off. Given the oppressive heat we were all thankful for the refreshment. Then we were back on our bikes to ride to Ta Prohm, also known as the Tomb Raider temple since it was featured in the movie of that name. This temple is famous for the many trees growing up over the rock walls. It was really cool to see this in person and imagine how the jungle slowly overtook the temples during centuries of neglect.
We had a great time biking around the Angkor area, but we were very hot and sweaty and ready to return to our air conditioned hotel room (after a dip in the swimming pool). We laid around most of the afternoon to recover from the hot morning and then enjoyed a nice dinner by the pool. One highlight at dinner was the small frog on a ledge near our table. We were having fun, taking photos of it right up until it jumped into Caroline’s hair! She squealed as you would expect when a frog jumps on your head, but I managed to catch it and release it near the hotel’s goldfish pond.