The heat in the middle of the day is sweltering, even though we have had lots of time to adjust to Asian temperatures. It reaches around 36 degrees, with no breeze to cool you. Its little wonder that it is typical for people to shut up shop and take a rest in Asia during the heat of the day, and it is one Asian habit that we’re copying, especially because of the children. We’d arranged for Mr Heng to collect us later, as by 3:30 the heat is starting to fade a little, and we had our second sightseeing trip of the day planned.
We went straight the Bayon temple, inside the Angkor Thom city walls. Amazingly it was empty, as all of the tour groups go there in the morning, and we had it almost to ourselves. Why do they do it – why do all of the buses turn up at the same time, and leave at the same time? It doesn’t make sense, especially at Angkor, where there’s so much to see, and could be so many different routes through. Anyway, its good for us! From a distance Bayon looks like a ruin, but the closer you get, the easier it is to see the turrets rising out, each with four of the big Angkor-style faces on them. The faces are present at many of the temples, but it is at Bayon where every single vertical surface seems to be carved with them.
As you can see, each of the faces are huge, comprised of loads of individual granite blocks assembled into a single face. Some of them are quite well defined, while others have moss, lichen or plants growing on them. We enjoyed wandering around, climbing and descending the incredibly steep staircases, but by the end of an hour the girls were tired, and ready to rest again.
So we headed back to Mr Heng’s tuk-tuk, and drove back to Angkor Wat.
Once we were there, the girls decided to stay in the tuk-tuk, while we went to watch the sun set on the temple. We felt relaxed, because Mr Heng was very good with the girls (we discovered later that he had taken them to see the Angkor hot air balloon while we were inside), and they feel safe and relaxed with him. Mind you, the first time we did, we couldn’t help but think of the dialogue (“So, Mr Fleming, when was the last time you saw your children? Oh, you just left them with a tuk-tuk driver you first met this morning…”). Angkor was beautiful in the setting sun, with a pink glow in the sky, but because it was later in the day than our last visit, the beggars were out in force. On the walk across the causeway to the temple entrance we were accompanied by small children begging plaintively. We think that these children are part of a begging mafia clan, similar to Thailand, where they are bussed in by a controlling gang who keep their takings, and pay the children a wage. In town, we know that many of the children are from families who live under the trees in the park, so Charlotte and Emily collect all of our meal leftovers, like bread, and give them to the children on the street.
When we got back to the tuk-tuk, we found the children happily talking away with a dozen of the children who sell things outside the entrance – postcards, drinks, fans, films, and anything else a tourist might (or might not!) want. Although they can be cute when they are selling you something, they also can hassle you if you don’t, or especially if you buy just from one of them. Buy a drink from one, and the rest would shot at you “Oh my God, you said you didn’t want one. Why you not buy from me? Why you not buy from me?“. It can be quite intimidating, and actually lead you to just ignore the worst of them. But with the girls in the tuk-tuk, it was just a case of children talking to children – “Where are you from? How old are you? Do you know David Beckham?” etc