T3: Trey's Temple Trot
Yes we are going back for a second round of temples. Yesterday was the Small Circuit (Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm). Today is the Grand Circuit. Five smaller temples that are a bit farther away and thankfully weren't as crowded as Angkor Watt and the other temples on the Small Circuit. Since I wanted to do sunset at one of the temples, it was a late start. The downside being that we would be out in the heat of the day. But you gotta do what you gotta do. Bob and the tuk-tuk driver met me and off we went.
First up is Preah Khan. It was built by the same king (Jayavarman VII) who built Angkor Wat and it was built for his father (Ta Prohm, the Tomb Raider temple was actually built for his mother). So he built a lot of temples. It's quite a large temple and there is a big outer wall as well as an inner wall for the temple. Despite the fact that it's in the jungle and has been infiltrated with trees, it's in better shape than Ta Prohm. But there is still plenty of damage that they are in the process of trying to fix. The temple is a combination of Hindu and Buddhist religion so there are statues and sculptures of Hindu Gods like Vishnu, Shiva, etc as well a Buddhist symbols like Naga, the multi-headed snake. Bob gave me some time to walk around which was good, but then there was some miscommunication about when and where to meet. So I basically lost my guide. I ended up walking to the tuk-tuk driver and have him call Bob. Oops.
After lunch, we headed to Preah Neak. So this is a much different "temple". And I'm using air quotes because it doesn't really have a temple structure to it like the other temples. Set in a middle of a huge reservoir, there is a man made island that is the home of Preah Neak. So walking across the causeway to the island was pretty cool. But once we got to the island, the temple is actually a set of five square ponds. In the main holy pond are two Naga statues as well as a horse statue. On each side of the main pond are four smaller square ponds representing the four elements. Each pond has a small grotto like structure that houses an elephant statue (representing water), a horse stature (representing air), a lion statue (representing fire) and a human statue (representing earth). Unfortunately we couldn't get close to the smaller structures, but it was still pretty cool.
Up next was Ta Som. Another temple built by J the 7th. He really was quite the builder. This was another amazing temple set in the jungle where the trees have overtaken and overgrown the temple. The nice things about these temples is that there are fewer people here so you can wander around quite a bit. One thing I do that to complain about. Every guide book I read said that when you are visiting the temples, your knees and your shoulders need to be covered. And yet at every temple, there is always someone (usually a girl) wearing a tank top or a sleeveless dress who is stopped from entering and then proceeds to throw a fit. Really? Like how did you not get the message.
After Ta Som, we were off to Eastern Mebon. Built in an ancient man made reservoir, this temple was built by Rajendravarmen II and has five towers that look like mountains in the center of the temple. Again, another fascinating temple. This one had elephant statues at each corner as well as some statues in the main temple complex. One of the things that was different with this temple is that they didn't use as much sandstone, it was more brick. Which is impossible to carve. So the bricks all around the temple are dotted with holes that were used to attached decorative plasterwork.
And finally, we got to Pre Rup. Also built by Rejendravarmen II, it is a pyramid shaped temple (yeah, more climbing) with the uppermost of the three tiers having five lotus towers. This temple was used for cremation, so there were small structures on the temple that would be used to burn bodies before their ashes were taken up to the temple on the higher level. Unfortunately we got to Pre Rup around 330PM and sunset was at like 6PM. So after we walked around a bit, Bob and I had a couple of beers. I mean, we needed to kill some time. Afterwards, I climbed back up to the top to wait for sunset. Note to self, bring my kindle on future trips for when I get someplace early. Cause I know it's going to happen. As I was waiting, the crowd started to build and I was eavesdropping on some of the conversation. A group of young Americans were there talking about all of their travels across South East Asia. Traveling here is cheap, especially if you are going the backpacker route, but that's definitely not my style. I'm assuming their parents are paying for this experience while they are in college. I sort of bit my tongue trying not to be the grumpy old man. Oh well, good for them. Sunset was a bit disappointing. The sun sort of just disappeared into the humidity on the horizon. So not really worth it. Oh well.
Overall still a pretty spectacular day!