Our last day at Angkor Wat – our $40/3 day pass expires today, so we set off early again to get the most of our time. We’d chosen two last temples, the first being Preah Kahn (yes, I had to write the names down – there’s no way I would remember all of these tomorrow!), which seemed an endless succession of dark passageways.
Emily loved exploring through them, seeing what she could find, and seemingly trying to get lost!
Emily and Charlotte also both enjoy ‘praying to Buddha’ – at the heart of each temple, old women sit with joss sticks, encouraging tourists to make an offering to the temple by lighting sticks and bowing three times – followed by an offering of dollar notes into the indicated receptacle (which always seems to be mysteriously nearly empty). Fortunately, I’ve got some low denomination riel notes (4,000 Cambodian riel to $1) which means the girls can do it, and the old lady gets the cost of her joss sticks back, but without the multi-dollar profit that goes straight into her back pocket.
Then it was onto our very last temple, Ta Som. Again, the girls sat in the shade in the tuk-tuk, while we went in for a look around. The entrance was guarded by a gateway topped with the omnipresent Angkor face – this one had plants growing out of the cracks, and you could see daylight through some of the huge cracks which split the face. Every temple is undergoing some form of restoration, after years of neglect. Originally the French were the only country allowed to work on them, because they were the colonial power, but now Japan, the UK, India, America and others are all involved, and each has been allocated their ‘own’ temple to work on. And each seems to be restored differently – some towers are strapped together with ropes, awaiting further work, while some are completely dismantled and completely rebuilt. In the case of Ta Prohm (the overgrown one) the Indian restorers are busily working on how to get rid of all the trees growing around the temple (which is a shame, because that is the major attraction of it).
We also had the chance at Ta Som to take a couple of pictures with an obliging monk. From pictures we’d previously seen we’d expected the Angkor temples to be flooded with bald men in orange robes, but the reality is different. Many, many monks were killed during the Khmer Rouge rule, and we’ve seen less monks here than in neighbouring countries. Inside Angkor, most of the monks seem to be tourists too – from Thailand and Vietnam – who are visiting to see the sights just like us. We saw monks taking pictures of each other while they posed in front of temples.
In the evening, we went to the FCC, the Foreign Correspondents Club, which is a bar and restaurant offshoot of the famous Phnom Phen club. We’d managed to track down Daira, who we’d made friends with on the long bus journey from Bangkok. She was lucky enough to have friends in Siem Reap, who were the resident managers of a very exclusive hotel in town. She’d had a tough few days, with the hotel pool to cool off in, and some very special attention in a place where it would be really noticed. So Happy Hour at the luxurious FCC probably meant more to us – splashing out on $1 beers, with sugar-roasted peanuts to nibble on – and after so long without much beer, we managed to get merry on $10 of drinks! (My friends will at this point say something like “No change there then…”).
Then we retired to her friend’s apartment at the hotel, where Charlotte and Emily got to play with children their own age, while we ate pizza and talked about everything from living in Cambodia to the price of Sydney houses.