Months and months of planning. Three months after booking tickets. All that looking forward to. That mild nervousness as you wonder if everything is done and taken care of. And within a few days it is all done. All that’s left is a bunch of photographs which look increasingly flawed with every other glance and memories to enjoy in retrospect.
It was crowded. At 5:30 AM. We squeezed between them for the perfect Sunrise shot, reflected off the pond. The Sun and clouds obliged. It was Pink, Red and Blue. Banteay Srei. “10$ more” the driver announced. The rays were golden. The sky a deep blue. The place shone in the gentle morning Sun. “Lady temple” the driver said. Rama poised to shoot an arrow as the brothers Sugreeva and Vaali wrestled. A board said “No entry” into the inner side. A guard whispered – “I can let you in”. I refused. So did other tourists.
Banteay Samre. Gigantic and Towering. Layers like an Onion. Built like a South Indian Temple. The Sun was still friendly. Pre Rup. Towering above. The steps leading up. “Let’s go around first and then climb” I suggested. The climb was steep. “Ambareesh style” we did it, walking sideways. Brick towers, almost falling off, some parts gone. But they were there, shooting upwards. Temple Mountains. With lions squatting and surveying all. Coconut water. Double the size of those in India. Some respite from the steady heat.
Ta Prohm. Trees shooting up everywhere. Out of roofs, out of walls, out of platforms, out of rubble. Buddhist and given up to nature. Crowds as we enter. “Tomb raider” they said as they lined up for photos. We walked around, entering small chambers and clambering out to silent, undisturbed courtyards. The place held many secrets. Banteay Kdei. “Small one” the driver said. It was empty. Off the tourist track.
It was hot. It was 40 degs on both days. The lush greenery of Banyan and Champak trees stood still. Not even a gentle breeze to help us. We walked. More than 10K per day we thought. We walked inside Prah Khan, huge, without a plan. Promising ourselves that the next would be the last. We lost our way, found it, thought we’d lost it again, found it again to get back. The taxi driver smiled at us, producing chilled bottles of water from the back. Neak Preah we told him. We walked on a raised platform over water, wondering if I can get in and wade in the shallow water. We saw a Gopuram from far and walked back. The hotel and its AC. Promised land.
Bayoun. Towering Buddha heads. More crowds. But the heads were too high for them to disturb. Those close were photo spots. “Can we go further up?” I asked. “No” came the answer. We walked down. A watchtower-terrace on the side. Impossible steps to climb. We sat there. Drinking water with a tablet to increase hydration dissolved in it. Electral, the taste. Looking at the Buddha faces towering above with the taste of Electral to remind of Childhood.
Baphuon and Phimeanakas. More climbing. To the top of the Pyramid. The day a bit more relenting, some breeze. We walked along to the “Elephant Terrace” and saw the “Terrace of the Leper King”. Angkor Wat, we told the tuk-tuk driver. They stood there, those 5 towers. The same pond of the Sunrise, this time only Greens and Greys. The infinite corridors with walls full of carvings from the Ramayana, Devas and Asuras churning the ocean. We climbed up. The Sun above, remove your caps they ordered. We walked around inside, just over a round-trip as we slightly lost our way again. We climbed down and made our way out. Walking backwards and traversing 3 sides of a square instead of just one. I looked back, one last time. Will I be back again?
|Cambodia – March2013|