"We’re no longer helicopter virgins!" – the BFF
The US$220 for the helicopter rental was worth it for the exhilarating 12 minutes in the sky. The view was spectacular from above and it’s amazing how tiny the various sprawling ancient temple ruins seem. Thank goodness for the fair weather which wasn’t too hot or too cloudy 🙂
It was with great anticipation when we rode up to Ta Phrom which if you didn’t already know, was where they filmed Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie. The jungle had eaten away at the stone temple ruins… with huge trees (centuries old!) and their roots being the culprit of their ruin through the ages.
I was all hot and sweaty by mid-day, with the blistering sun at its highest. The stone steps were very steep and one had to be careful because one careless slip would mean injury. The temple must have been a fantastic splendor in its heyday but now it’s a huge mess of abandoned grey rocks, left neglected and overwhelmed by the jungle. Still, there’s much beauty in it and you can still feel its earthy pulsating soul.
As you can see, I had a total field day with my trusty camera. Not many people know this but back in Methodist Girls School, I was actually a student photographer *sheepish grin* …so yes, I have a passionate love affair with photography. I’ve been fortunate in having the chance to also develop my own pictures (using the various chemicals in the basins, the red light and the works!) and when I retire, I hope to set up my own art gallery… some day 🙂
After our visit to the very inspiring jungle temple ruins of Ta Phrom, it was a break for lunch at a local restaurant nearby as we needed to hydrate and rest our legs. Looking through our beloved seasoned copy of Lonely Planet: Cambodia, we decided to catch the famous Siem Reap sunset at Phnom Bakeng, the ancient 9th century stone temple located at the summit of a mountain amidst the wild jungle.
The BFF had trekked the mountain before and shared her experience on the rough, challenging terrain which had absolutely no railings, proper steps or lamps whatsoever. We decided to go by elephant, since the operators had a herd of gentle giants trained for it. It cost us US$70 for both ways and we decided it was a worthwhile investment since the 2 of us couldn’t afford to get injured… I mean, we’re gungho girls but we’re smart gungho girls who don’t take unneccesary risks… know what I mean? Well, like good ole Dad loved to tell me as a kid, "Don’t be a HERO okay!" *wry grin*
The stone steps on the sides of Phnom Bakeng temple were the steepest yet… not only were they reeeeeeeeally narrow, they were also stacked high so it took some effort scaling up to reach the top. If you’ve got vertigo, bad shoes, a fear of heights or are just physically unfit, this is so not for you. It’d be unwise to attempt climbing up because it’s scary enough as it is going up… it’s tougher going down, trust me. And after sunset, it gets dark quickly and with no lights or lamps, plus a big pushy mob of tourists trying to get down fast… well, not pretty.
Anyways. You can spot Angkor Wat from the temple top, and I was glad I brought along my travel compass. BFF & I parked ourself at a percariously good location after she helped me apply bug spray all over. We were early so we noticed the gradual and steady increase of people climbing up Phnom Bakeng. And gradually and steadily, I also noticed I was being eaten alive by annoying insects.
I was being bitten all over and it seemed to be only me. Pam was not disturbed and no one else seemed to be in agony. We quicckly realised that the very same Hansplast OFF! insect repellent which saved us for the mutant bug in the bathroom the other night, was attracting a particular SWARM of pesky winged insects to me! The horrors of horrors 😦
We tried wiping the film of insect repellent off my skin but the wet wipes didn’t seem to suffice – these nasty bugs were coming at me from all over and I soon a breathing, living graveyard of angry flies which we had to swat to death because they kept biting when they landed. My skin was red all over and I beginning to feel really, really, really miserable.
There was absolutely no way I could grit my teeth and just suck it up till sunset was over. I was already a big grouch from the constant stinging attacks and it didn’t help when I was squarely slapped in the face by BFF’s bag strap accidentally when she stood up and cajoled me to leave Phnom Bakeng and head back down the mountain. Things were definitely not good, it was almost obvious signs for us to leave because it’s not meant to be.
We took one last look around and then started the careful scale down the steep stone sides of the temple. I was of course, disappointed and angry with myself (WHY ME??? WHY???!) though Pam assured me that it was okay. BFF was just amused that I was a bug magnet *wry grin*
We took the elephant ride back down and this time around, we had a great guide… he was a happy-go-lucky local who had a very unique music talent. The man could make music by just blowing on a single leaf in his mouth – it sounded like music from a flute. Needless to say, Pam & I were really impressed with his skills. Our elephant was a really cheeky fellow too, who was curious about everything and anything. It was an enjoyable ride down and these things helped eased me somewhat – I was no longer Lord of the Flies 😛
Dara was patiently waiting for us by his tuktuk at the foot of the hill, and as we hopped on and started down the road, we noticed that the sun had begun to set, casting the sky into a different color. He suddenly stopped just opposite Angkor Wat, which was now cast in a magical goolden hue, and smiled as he gestured. Pam & I scooted to the other side of the road and started taking pictures.
It was grandly gorgeous and insanely magnificent, Angkor Wat in splendid beauty! I guess it was meant to be that we left Phnom Bakeng, else there’d be no way we could witness this up close and personal. We were simply there at the PERFECT MOMENT 🙂
Wow *grin* Isn’t she just so beautiful? I truly feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to experience this We leave for Singapore early tomorrow morning, and this I can already say… Siem Reap has certainly touched my heart.