S-21 and the “killing fields”


Day 67, Sunday 11 March 2012, Phnom Penh and back to Bangkok

Final day of a two day stop over in Phnom Penh, I was keen to get out to S-21 and Killing fields today, had a light breakfast of toast, but was a waste of time, however I did feel  a little better so I decided to just go and see how it all went. I am quite hungry and not exactly full of energy today, so was going to make this a shortish trip.

I am sure everyone knows what happened in Cambodia during the mid to late 1970’s when the country was known as the Democratic Republic of Kampuchea under the brutal rule of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge party. If you do not know then you need to, up to three million of the then eight million population died under the regime.

S-21 (security prison 21) was an old school converted into a prison and torture centre when the Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh in 1975. It is now the Tual Sleng Genocide museum. During its time as a prison from 1975-1979 between 17,000 and 20,000 men, women and children were imprisoned, tortured and murdered here, including New Zealander Kerry Hamill, the brother of rower Rob Hamill. A documentary movie about Kerry Hamill, Brother No 1 (the name for Pol Pot) is on release in NZ in march 2012, so go see it !


As we had to be at the airport at 3.00 I took a tuk tuk for the trip and left the hostel at 8.30 for the twenty or so minute ride to S21.  I did get the obligatory monk shot on the way though!

S-21 was interesting, it is a sad place and it is the portrait photos of the victims and staff that are the hardest to look at, though working out the difference was impossible, some are so young. Not feeling a hundred percent lessened the impact on me I think.

The torture rooms, when the Vietnamese arrived at the school in 1979 they discovered a number of bodies still in these rooms and there is a photo on each wall, I have elected to not show any of these photos or photos of skulls from here or the killing fields.

The prison block is a three storey set of converted class rooms, the Khmer rouge made crude doorways between the class rooms by smashing holes in the walls. In each classroom numerous cells were created, on the third floor they were made of wood and the first and second brick and concrete.

One of the victims and her baby

Some of the guards.

Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge executive.From S-21 I took my tuk tuk out to Choeung Ek, one of many “killing fields” around Cambodia and the site were victims of S-21 and others were taken for execution. About 17,000 people were killed at this site between 1975 an 1979.


Choeng Ek is also the main memorial site just outside Phnom Penh. I wasn’t sure what to expect here, and really there is not a lot to “see” as all the buildings that were here during regime have been torn down.  You can do a self guided tour with an audio player which describes the site as you walk around.

To conserve bullets the khmer rouge what ever was handy to dispatch their victims.

The audio tape has a story of one of the survivors of the Khmer Rouge which I (along with many others) listened to in a shady walk at the back of the site.

The final part of the tour is the memorial stupa which contains bones and the skulls of 5000 victims, many of the skulls are smashed and damaged from the method of execution.

Some graffiti on the wall at S-21

Vietnam invaded Kampuchea (Cambodia) in 1979 to put an end to the Khmer Rouge reign, thousands of Khmer soldiers fled to Thailand and to near the Thai border.What is really scary is that even though all this was well known after discovery of the mass grave sites in 79/80 the US and its normal allies supported the Khmer Rouge until 1993 in its struggle against the communist regime in Vietnam and the puppet government it had installed in Cambodia. Some of the key players in the killing fields were allowed to go free….

After that rather sobering start to the day I went back to the hostel for lunch which was very nice and stayed in for a lot longer than the previous few meals, though i made the mistake of having a coffee once we got to the airport as I was gagging for one… it was expensive and ended badly.

I did make it safely to Bangkok and we stayed the night back at the HI Sukhumvit hostel again.


A wasted day in Phnom Penh

Day 66, Saturday 10 March 2012, Phnom Penh

I had a pretty good sleep last night but was straight to the loo when I woke up – damnit, today was killing fields day !  I gave things a rest for an hour and at 8.00 decided to try some toast for breakfast, if that stayed in until the tuk tuk arrived at 9.00 then I would call myself sorted and head on out. Sadly it didn’t even last ten minutes so that was my day decided for me. Mike went out  to do the killing fields and I went to the room to read. Fortunately we can just get wifi in the room – the hostel is advertised as only having wifi in the cafe, so a real bonus.

The room, where I spent most of the day.

The view out the window.

The hostel, lots of these skinny buildings in Cambodia.

I spent most of the morning reading and putting a plan together for Myanmar, I have booked us three nights accommodation in Yangon plus airport pickup as we arrive in the early evening. The Winner Inn, lets hope it is  ! it looks like Myanmar has become very popular this year, I have read a few blogs from people who have been there in the past few weeks and apart from sounding amazing, it seems to have gone up in price… I am hoping we have missed the peak season and accommodation will be easier to find on the ground than some of the stories I have read suggested was the case in Jan and Feb. At least we have something for the first place we go to booked, from their we can suck it and see, it should be interesting at least.

I will let Mike run through the plan when he is back and will then post it from Bangkok tomorrow afternoon. It appears there may be more internet in Myanmar than I first thought, but I wont bank on it.  I am sooooooo looking forward to Bagan !

I attempted lunch just after 1 and it stayed in for longer than breakfast – hopefully that is a sign of improvement. Mike came back soon after that and we went out for a walk about 4.30 to try and get to the palace and silver pagoda, but after a hundred metres or so I knew I wasn’t going to make it there and back and started getting some small cramps in my stomach so we turned round.

We did walk back via Wat Phnom which is just up the road from the hostel and on the highest point in PP, a massive 27 metres !

I loved this sign at the entrance to Wat Phonm.

Ah shrines, so cool…

As close as I got to a monk today !

After the Wat it was back to the hostel where I managed to get three games of pool in before having to nip off to the little room.

I ate some food and had a beer in hope it all stays in, and went back to the room to watch TV and click post !

Uh-oh, think it is has finally happened…

Day 65, Friday 09 march 2012, Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

Last night in Siem Reap, I have enjoyed staying here, lots to see and do, nice people and pretty cheap, definitely another place to put on my list of places to return to one day.

I woke feeling tired and groggy and a bit upset in the stomach, which never bodes well when you have a five hour bus trip ahead. I packed my gear and went down for a coffee at 6.15 so I was ready for the pick up to take us to the bus some time between 6.40 and 7.10. The coffee proved something was astray as I pretty much had to run straight back to the loo, definitely not a good sign…

With fingers crossed we got onto the Paramount Express Services bus to Phnom Penh. I DO NOT recommend this bus company. Yes the driver was safe, but the five hour ride took almost seven, not  just due to traffic – the ONE stop turned into two stops plus the twenty or so stops to pick people up and drop them off on the way (cash jobs) . The promised loo wasn’t there (thankfully I was so empty I didn’t need it), the aircon barely worked and a load of the seats were broken in some form or other. Not the VIP service we were sold.

Mike has a few paper backs so I am reading a book book at the moment, non-stop trash action (killer – killer whales anyone ?) but it kept me amused on the bus.  I did spend some time looking out the window as southern Cambodia rolled past, if I had the chance it would be nice to spend some time  on a bike pedalling some of the back roads and taking photos, for such a poverty stricken and war impacted country it is quite beautiful in parts, but not in a glorious mountain scene way, hard to explain.

We finally made it to Phnom Penh at almost 2:30, two hours later than expected, not that I was up to much anyway. We took a tuk tuk from the bus to the hostel I had booked on line. Me Mates Place, again not in the main block of hostels, so a walk to the river and grand palace, but it was supposed to be quiet (it was) and had good reviews.  It appears to be a nice hostel, it has a restaurant/bar which I was first a bit nervous about as some times these can be noisy, but it seems well sound proofed and it was a quiet night on Friday.

I risked a burger and fries – the burger was the best I have had on my travels – yum,  and a banana shake while blogging Preah Vihear. this was followed by an early night and I made it to bed with dinner intact, though stomach rumbling away !

Funnily enough I had only commented yesterday morning how I been travelling for two months with no stomach issues!

A visit to Preah Vihear Temple or was it Preah Vihear army base.

Day 64, Thursday 08 March 2012, Siem Reap –  Preah Vihear.

You will recall that a couple of days ago I met Cheeba, a Canadian woman here in Siem Reap for a holiday to see the temples. She had hired a car for a trip up to the Preah Vihear temple up on the border with Thailand and I had agreed to go with her and share some of the cost, and today was the day.

Built in the 9th century the temple has been hotly contested between Thailand and Cambodia for many years and was ‘given’ to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962, a decision the Thai’s did not and do not agree with. In fact as recently as Feb 2011 both sides were shooting at each other over the temple and some of the damage was pointed out to me on the tour. There was also a massacre of Cambodian refugees by Thai forces here in 1979. So a chequered and violent history to the site, you can read more on it here.


The temple itself is on the top of a 525 metre high cliff and has spectacular views over Cambodia, Thailand and up to Laos – except today of course!.

Right time to get on with my story.

I was up early, really early….

I had set my phone alarm to go off at 6.05. When I woke and groggily checked my watch it was 6.00 so I turned the alarm off, grabbed my clothes and went into the bathroom to get ready for the day, I was fully dressed and brushing my teeth when I glanced at my watch and noticed it was now 12.35 am…. 6.00 and 12.30 look so similar when you are half asleep !!!  Alarm back on and back to bed half clothed.

Up again at the real 6.00 am, dressed and teeth again and downstairs for a coffee and wait for the car to get me at 6.30.  Come 6.50 I thought I had best walk round to the hostel where Cheeba was staying and find out what the story was, when I got there I found they had left, so the hostel guy rang the car guy and they had been muddling around Siem Reap trying to find my hostel (the name of my hostel had not been remembered correctly!), they were not far out of town and were going to wait. The hostel got me a motorbike so helmetless (as is the norm for passengers) I was soon screaming through the back streets of town out to the car.

There was four of us on the trip, the driver, who spoke pretty good English, myself, Cheeba and the  tuk tuk driver Cheeba had been using as he had never been to the site. The drive took about three and half hours over a not too bad road, better than I had expected anyway and our driver was very safe, which was great! We only had to swerve for roaming cattle twice – and once for a pig on the way back..

As mentioned the temple is on the top of a hill and you cannot take a car up there so you have to hire a 4wd drive at the outrageous rate of $35US. This is a business that is dying as the road is being rebuilt. It is not a hard road, but very steep at the top.At the top there was a lot of soldiers and gun emplacements, no big guns in sight, though I am sure they are around, I did see machine gun nests close to the border though. You have to have a soldier take you on a tour – private revenue generation ! and ours had very little English but he did point well.

We got to the start of the temple site and Cheeba had to lie down, she had been feeling unwell on the way up, so I went off down the temple stairs to the border for a look.

The bottom of the stairs are less than 50 metres from the barbed wire, so it really is close to Thailand. The tree is in Cambodia and the stairs are in Thailand.

And they are serious about keeping it…Saw this little critter on the way back up.Cheeba wasn’t feeling any better after a rest so I went off with my soldier to explore the temple site.My favourite bit of carving at Preah VihearThe holes apparently held large candles ?My guideSome war damageThe token monk shot

This soldier wanted a photo taken of us : )

The driver and tuk tuk guy, as you can see there was very little view, it was quite smoky,dusty and cloudy.

My guide took this photo on the cliff edge, the two Cambodian tourists both wanted a photo of me with them, not uncommon, but weird….

These are cliff faces where the Thai troops forced 42,000 refugees over, with 3000 confirmed dead and 7000 missing at the end of that tragic day. : (

There was not a lot to look at the temple, most of the carvings had been looted and I was told the gold Buddha had been stolen by the Thais. But the site was pretty cool, I liked the location and I liked that there was only about 20 people there. Apart from about 50 soldiers, mostly without weapons, and all very friendly, I think that they like it when foreigners come to ‘their’ site.After an hour or so of wandering around I went back down to where Cheeba was and she was not in a good way, fevers and aches, our soldier guide and the car driver had to help her walk back down to the 4wd for a very high speed and dusty drive back down to the car. The ride back to Siem Reap was marked by quite a long rain shower, not heavy rain fortunately, but enough to create a massive puddle in one of the towns we passed through which three small children were paddling in.

Apart from a couple of deep fried somethings, that were possibly rice ? I had no idea, I knew it had no meat ! I had not eaten all day, I was also extremely thirsty having run out of water an hour or so ago. I gulped a very welcome can of Angkor lager as soon as I walked in the hostel door, then had a shower and made Mike go out for an early dinner. After a few days of procrastination we finally purchased some souvenirs from the market and went for dinner at Temple again (free wifi of course). It was soooo  good to eat…


Day 63, Wednesday 07 March 2012, Siem Reap.

Today was the day we were going to head to Battambang by boat, but apparently when it is too dry the trip is a lot longer, a lot more boring and occasionally arduous, so we had pretty much committed to just getting the bus, which takes significantly less time at the best of times. Anyways yesterday,  I had an offer I could not refuse – a trip on Thursday to Preah Vehear,  a cliff top temple near the Thailand border, so we have elected to stay here for a couple more days, skip Battambang altogether and go directly by bus to Phnom Penh on Friday. I can always come back to Battambang if I  desperately need to after Myanmar as I have to get to Da Nang in Vietnam for the 4th April anyway –  though I was thinking of flying. I must sit down and do some planning again!

As we had nothing planned for the day apart from some shopping we got up late and wandered back to Pub St for breakfast, there was not a hell of a lot open, so for one reason only we went to the Temple where we had dinner last night.

Though the food was good and the coffee was great.

This place was over the road, one of the hot night spots Siem Reap and one I wont get to as it kicks off way too late for me, but it is a cool name…

After breakie we had a wander around town and I snapped a photos of Siem Reap – a couple of these were taken a few days ago, but fit this context better : )

I really like the alley ways around this area of town, almost European.
This guy and his AK was sitting outside the jewellery section of the market, he loved his photo taken! I think lots of people stare at him, but no one ever asks.

The rest of the day was pretty much spent here, in air conned coolness… apart from a brief foray out for food and some time in the GH lobby on the wifi.

Up at 5.30 tomorrow so early night.

[edit] just come back from a meal in Pub St, bit later than last night so a lot more activity..For the first time on my travels (which probably shows a lack of going out at night more than anything else) I was offered marajuana, cocaine and 2 ladies – the ladies were seperate offers not a 2 for 1 deal !

An Indy (Jones) day

Day 62, Tuesday 06 March 2012, Siem Reap – Beng Mealea.

Today was going to be our final day in Siem Reap and therefore our final temple visit.  We chose Beng Mealea as it is about 60k from town, so a visit chews up a large portion of the day, especially when travelling by tuk tuk ! I have enjoyed this slow and open aired method of travel, especially on these trips out of the core of the Angkor sites. Even though they are dusty and probably hazardous you do get a better ‘feel’ for the places you drive through and the air con works very well, well the air part, there is not a lot of conditioning going on.

Beng Mealea (BM) was built in the 12th century during the reign of Suryavaman II and had the same floor plan as Angkor Wat, but appears smaller in size ?  There is very little information about the build as there are very few inscriptions in the stone work that provide details to the historians. The site is outside the main Angkor area and currently also out of the control of the Angkor management and is run by local people.

The site is pretty much as discovered with no restoration work having taken place, unlike Ta Prohm which is ‘controlled’ chaos Beng Melea is chaotic ! A walkway was built through part of the site for the filming of the movie “Two brothers” but apart from that there is no path through and most of the site is only accessible by clambering over ruins, walking across roof tops and jumping down from walls – I was in heaven! Being so far away from the core of the ancient Khymer sites meant far less tourism and less damage to the ruins. Though I enjoyed being able to romp all over the place, I am sure it is not doing these ancient stone works any good.

The day started at 7.30 again when Mr Lin picked us up in his tuk tuk. We decided to not go back to the bakery we had been too for the past couple of days due to the slowly declining freshness of its food. Mr Lin took us to the Blue Pumpkin, which is a very European bakery with very European pricing – well not really, but a lot more expensive than the local one, but the food was fabbo – and even better it had some wholegrain bread !

Filling my face with pastries we started off on the two hour tuk tuk ride to BM, it was a pretty good journey, lots to see and the further we got away from the lake the dryer the land became. Due to its different management, BM is not included in the Angkor Wat ticket so we had to pay a further $5USD, which I was very cool with, the site is amazing and this is a key source of income to the local villages, in a very poor country.

Like Angkor Wat the site is surrounded by a moat, but here it is also a source of food for the local village (though I am sure they fish in Angkor’s moat away from the tourists), it is also a place for the buffalo to cool down.


Like a lot of the temple sites BM was used as a camp by the Khmer Rouge during the war with Vietnam because the international community had requested/ordered/paid/something to Vietnam to prevent them from shelling the ruins.  Mines have been and even 40 years later,are still an issue here and the advice is not to stray from clear paths around the site. Sadly this is true for much of rural Cambodia.

The first view of the site is the south gate, but you cannot really enter through there.

The guide book suggested walking around the site to the east where there is an entrance boardwalk on the north wall. There was not a lot of wall carvings here, on the south /east corner were these carvings, apparently the carving of the apsara cupping a breast is unique to BM.

At the east gate I climbed on top of the wall and clambered along before jumping down into the site to meet Mike, who had taken the traditional method of entry by the boardwalk. This tree was growing on top of the wall, and I loved how its roots were tunnelling through the stone work.

Inside the walls it is a riot of trees and rocks, with root systems through and over and around (and destroying) the buildings. It was a lot of fun exploring all the different buildings. There were a few tourists here but it is quite off the beaten track.

Coming from somewhere like New Zealand, which is quite free of dangerous animals, it never really occurred to me to take any care as we clambered around the ruins – even though snakebite is very common in Cambodia.

At the end of the boardwalk system there is an entrance into one of buildings and as we made an approach a local guide came and joined us. He led us on a trail through the middle of the site, that was up and over collapsed roofs, down through rubble filled doorways, through dark corridors and back up onto roofs, it was all great fun and we saw a few things we would have missed on our own, so very worth the couple of bucks we each gave him.

At the western wall we ran into a Canadian woman, Cheeba, who we started talking to and she wanted to know if we were interested in going up to Preah Vehear on Thursday. This temple is on a cliff top near the Thai border and is hotly contested with Thailand (in fact they were shelling each other over it in Feb 2011!). I was immediately keen, but we had planned on leaving town on Wednesday, I got the name of her hotel and promised to confirm or otherwise later in the day, but yeah I am going !!

According to our guide the Khmer Rouge took offence to the head on this particular carving, so cut it off !

I loved BM ! a lot of fun, not so much to see in the way of detail and intricate carvings, but being able to romp around was certainly interesting anyway.

After a drink of water and a coke we hopped back onto the tuk tuk for a warm ride back to Siem Reap. We stopped for gas just out of the site – is Johnnie Walker Black petrol better than Red ?

I shot a couple of scenery shots on the way back to the main highway, it was great to see the schools were very well used. These photos do show the conditions that the rural people of Cambodia – and most of SE Asia, live in.  No power, no running water etc. It is a hard life.

I really like these, but have yet to get a good picture as they are really long…  belt drive single piston, two stroke farm implement, with a big trailer on the back, often with a dozen people stacked on top.

After a shower and a lie down we wandered down to the main bar/restaurant strip in Siem Reap, Pub St for dinner and went to Temple club, the food was good, more expensive than the 5 Suns as you would expect. I did have some fresh spring rolls, not fried, not baked, no fat or oil, just fresh vege, heavenly – I am so sick of fried food….  We spent some time wandering around the markets looking for souvenirs and not buying anything. We did however, get a foot massage from the blind masseurs in the market.

When we got back to the GH I really felt like a scotch, but not having any I had water instead.

Angkor Thom, Part 2 – Bayon

Day 61, Monday 05 March 2012, Siem Reap – Angkor Thom, Part 2 of 2

I have split today into two posts as we saw an awful lot and I took a massive amount of pictures. I have also made a separate post just with some of the faces from Bayon as they were stunning and would have made uploading this post too slow – and reading it pretty slow too I guess.

It was a pretty awesome day!

After a wee break in the shade we wandered around the Terrace of the Leper King. The terrace is about fifty metres long and seven high and is covered in murals, when we got to the end of terrace we discovered it is actually in two layers, with the back layer containing some of the more original condition carvings.

The leper king terrace is joined to the Terrace of Elephants, which is of similar height , but 350 metres long and has a small section in two layers. The terrace of the elephants was a viewing platform for royal ceremonies.

From the flat terraces we crossed over the road to Prasat Sour Prat (temple of the tightrope dancers). These are twelve towers that were supposedly used by performers on tightropes to entertain the king.

There were a large number of people cleaning the area of leaves and rubbish, all too much for some. I will say all the sites we have visited have been extremely tidy, there must be an army of people out early everyday cleaning.

Prasat Bayon!!

Wow Bayon !  I had been looking forward to Bayon all day and had deliberately kept it to last so I could savour the anticipation, and the temple itself – however, having said that after four hours of walking in the sun and heat looking at temples I was a wee bit worn out. I should have planned on a third day.

Bayon is constructed of three levels, the first two are square and the top is circular, with the top layer containing fifty four towers, and each of the towers has four faces on it. The faces are supposed to be of the Bodhisattva (enlightened being ) Avalokiteshvria but also have an uncanny resemblance to king Jayavarman VII. The 216 faces stare down at all his subjects from all angles.

The bas reliefs on the outside of Bayon measure over 1.2 km and contain more than 11,000 figures that describe everyday life around Angkor.

As well as the fifty four towers which were very cool, Bayon was also a rabbit warren of narrow inter-connected corridors and alleyways, it was quite fun just wandering around turning left and right and popping up and down very steep little staircases to see where you would pop out – and how many faces would be staring at you. I loved it all. It is a truly magical place.

I am not sure how Mr Lin (our tuk tuk driver) knew it, but he has obviously had a lot of experience with tourists. Even though we were not doing the conventional tour of Angkor Thom and we were certainly not clock watching, when he dropped us off at 8.00 this morning he said  he would see us at 1.00.  At 1.05 I arrived at the tuk tuk !  He has predicted what seems like to the minute, how long we would take to see each temple. Awesome.

We got back to the GH about 2.00 and for me that was the end of the day, I had a lot of photos to review and posts to update, so after a shower and some clothes washing I sat around in the nice cool air conned room for a while and then had a good Skype and FB message session with a friend and my son Dom. After that it was back to the Five Suns for a burger and fries for dinner and then an early night as I was really tired.

It was a truly awesome day, I have loved all the places we have visited in the vast Angkor complex, but those faces of Bayon.  Wow, take a look…..

7.30 start again tomorrow,  and the final Angkor temple site.

I would like to assure everyone, especially mum, that though it appears I am wearing the same shirt most days I am washing shirts every day at the moment! So they are clean(ish).

Which is more than I can say for my feet after a dusty day of walking…

Angkor Thom P1

Day 61, Monday 05 March 2012, Siem Reap – Angkor Thom, Part 1 of 2

I have been looking forward to today’s temple visit (though I must admit I have looked forward to everything I have done around Siem Reap) but Bayon for me is another one of the big ones.  We started the day with our regular tuk  tuk  at 7.30 and went to the same bakery for breakfast, which appeared to feature exactly the same food as yesterday, and I mean the same…. wont go back there tomorrow !

Amongst many other features Bayon sits inside the large Angkor Thom site and I wanted to have a bit more of a casual stroll around Angkor Thom rather than usual rush around the key bits inside. So Mike and I decided to follow a Lonely Planet recommendation and walk some of the outer wall before heading in to the good bits. We had our tuk tuk driver (Mr Lin) drop us off at the main south gate, where you can obviously do an elephant tour.

Angkor Thom (Great city) was the last of the great Khmer cities and was started in the late 12th century by Jayavarman VII and abandoned sometime in the 16th. The site is surrounded by a twelve kilometre wall, eight metres high with four main gates. Throughout the site there are many large carvings of a face, supposedly of the bodhisattva (enlightened being) Avalokiteshvara, but apparently they look more like the king himself!  The site as a number of key features within its wall so we were expecting to take about five hours to do the tour. It was hot by 8.30 !


Our first stop was just outside the Angkor Thom wall, Baksei Chamkrong was built in the 10th century and is the last remaining pyramid temple around Phnom Bakheng (central mountain) a small hill in the area. At the top of the incredibly steep staircase was quite a well preserved sleeping Buddha.

From there we crossed the bridge over the moat.

Through the South gate with its great carving of the bodhisattva  and a massive line of tourist buses, vans and tuk tuks trying to get in (and out) of the single narrow gate.  

This has to be the way to see Angkor, it must be amazing from up there, a whole different perspective.

We walked along the top of the wall for abut three kms to the west gate.

I have not seen too many creepy crawlies since leaving Borneo all those weeks ago, and no snakes apart from the ones in the market in Bangkok – and I haven’t seen any today either, but I did find a sign of snakes…

At the west gate (you can see how narrow these are)

From the gate we started into the main Angkor Thom site and after a five hundred metre walk we started to see the traffic moving along the main road so we took a left down a dirt track to the first of the temple sites – Baphoun.  Baphoun was completed sometime in the mid 1000’s by Udayadityavarman ii and was a representation of the mythical  home of the gods, Mt Meru – similar to Angkor Wat.

Baphoun has been described as the worlds largest jigsaw puzzle !

The site was the key focus of a French restoration project and taken apart piece by piece, when war broke out the work was stopped and all the records were destroyed, leaving 300,000 pieces to be put back into place.

The restoration work restarted in 1995 and continues now. The site is very popular and so was a little hard to move around.

Though great views from the top

And some cool carvings (of course)

From there we followed the herd and moved over to Phimeanakas (Celestial Palace) was a temple built next to and inside the royal palace. Only temples were built from stone, even the royal palace was made of wood, so there are no remains. I clambered up the steep stairs to the top (not these ones as they were closed, but just as steep).

Where there was a small Buddha and this woman sold me an incense stick and wished me luck for a dollar… (she is wishing someone else luck in the photo)

After clambering back down through a mob of Chinese tourists who obviously were in such a rush they could not wait the 35 seconds for me to descend, Mike and I braves the touts, bought a can of Pepsi and some water and sat down to consume the last of the snacks from the morning bakery stop, for me half a loaf of sweet bread. Some archaeological excavation was going on nearby but they were rather vague about what for.

I love the carvings and have taken a lot of photos of them, I have posted a range of the different types of carvings I have seen  so you can get an idea of the talent of the people who made these temples.  In fact I loved the whole place, in fact all of the places I have seen around Siem Reap. The magnitude of the building work that took place a thousand years ago is just amazing. That it has survived this long, through a nasty civil war and a war with Vietnam is equally amazing.

The second part of the day will be blogged soon!

Gallery – Faces of Bayon

Prasat Bayon is a 12 th century temple inside the larger Angkor Thom complex. It is famous for its 216 faces, supposedly  the faces are of the bodhisattva of compassion named Avalokitesvara, but they apparently look remarkably like the “god-king” Jayavarman VII who commissioned the build.

Whatever – they are still amazing to see and here is a sample.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.