Yesterday we spent most of the day planning our onward travel to Phnom Penh and we also booked a flight to Venice at the end of the month. Very exciting! In the late afternoon we went to the national museum which had lots of examples of statuary from the Angkor region. These carvings were in much better shape than most we saw the day before at Angkor and it was nice to see how detailed the carvings could be. After the museum we had dinner and walked to the nearby Phare Circus. It’s similar to Cirque du Soleil, but not quite as polished and with less colorful costumes and makeup. We did enjoy the show of acrobatics, contortionists, juggling, and general clowning around.
Today we returned to the Angkor complex of temples to visit a few we missed the other day. We hired the hotel’s tuk-tuk driver to take us around the temples since there’s no way we were going to bike up there in this heat. After about 9 or 10 in the morning it’s already scorching out. We started our visit at the Bauphon temple, which has an impressive, long causeway leading to the temple. I can just imagine the royal processions that used to go down this stone causeway. It must have been a sight to behold!
Next we walked around the Terrace of the Elephants, so named for the carved elephants in a few places. This is an elevated stone terrace created for the king to make public appearances or something. Whatever the reason, it’s an elaborately carved structure. I was amazed at the endless figures carved along the winding walkways down the length of the terrace. I can’t imagine how many man-hours went into carving all this.
The Preah Khan temple was our next stop. This temple was noteworthy for the many doorways that were perfectly lined up from one end of the temple to the other. We wandered through a lot of intersecting hallways and small rooms with remnants of stone carvings. A few even had bats living up in the shadows! After visiting the national museum yesterday I have a greater appreciation for the detail of the carvings we’ve seen today.
After a couple more temples we went back to the hotel to swim in the pool and lay in our air conditioned room. I want to point out that even though we’ve stayed in a comfortable little hotel here in Siem Reap, it’s not hard to notice that the locals live much less comfortably. Even next door to our hotel there are very simple homes with dirt yards. Out near the Angkor temples some families live in run-down shacks. We also saw some little kids working by selling trinkets to tourists. Yes, our travel dollars do go further here compared to more developed countries, but it’s sad to see so many people living such an impoverished existence.