A late start of our Big Circuit temples tour
Today some of the Big Circuit temples are on our program. My travel mate has fallen back to sleep after I woke him up and only appears at 9 o’clock at breakfast, the hour when we would normally leave. Well, we cannot withstand to go out and the drinks in the evenings.
Overwhelmed by youthful vendors
First, on the list of the Big Circuit temples, we visit the Neak Pean, then the Ta Som. When we arrive at a temple, the same scenario takes place every time. Youthful vendors try to sell liquor, postcards, scarves, tablecloths, flutes or T-shirts. When we make clear that we don`t want to buy, invariably follows: “If you change your mind, or when you leave the temple, you buy this or that from me.” At the second temple – afterward, after we have seen it – my companion mollifies; he shows interest in a tablecloth. The result is that all the other vendors present assault him. Luckily I stay out of range. He effectively buys a tablecloth.
More purchases at the East Mebon temple
At the East Mebon, one of the Big Circuit temples, known for its large elephant statues, we stop for lunch. But again, my partner shows interest in the merchandise offered. Ten sellers gather around him, and they produce a lot of sounds. When our food is put on the table, we are left alone, but immediately afterward they continue to beset him again. It turns out that he purchases two more tablecloths and a carrying bag.
Please return tomorrow
One of the beverage vendors starts a conversation with me. She has put on the shirt of our driver and says she will drive us further this afternoon. If I take her with me, she will cook and do everything – with a meaningful gesture – for me. Anyway, I have to come back tomorrow, she says. Otherwise, she will cry. Yes, sure thing.
Impressive proof of the forces of nature at Ta Prohm
At a particular moment, we decide to continue our temple tour. First, the East Mebon, and then the Pre Rup, both are not so spectacular to visit in my opinion. Then we drive on to the famous Ta Prohm jungle temple. Together with the Bayon (which we saw yesterday), this is one of the most magnificent temples in Angkor Archeological Park. Here you can see the forces of nature at work. The whole complex has been stripped green from the mosses. But even more spectacular are the gigantic trees that grow here, even through the temple walls and roofs. This is such an impressive sight; I almost cannot stop taking pictures.
In search of a famous travel guide figurant
Another fact associated with this temple is the that one of the previous covers of Lonely Planet was photographed here, including the old man who seems to have been living in one of the many niches of this temple for many years. A friend at home told us to find him. I walk around in this temple forest for a long time, but in the end, I do meet him.
Pilgrimage and sensationalism mixed
The scene that I encounter has something of a mixture between pilgrimage and sensationalism. The man sits calmly – in a black shirt and bright green trousers – in front of a small building, with some of the wooden things that he offers for sale. The tourists displace each other to photograph him. It is quite an embarrassing situation, but I also see many people expressing their respect and leaving a tip. I also take a picture from a distance. Try to imagine this for yourself; thanks to a photo on the cover of a travel guide, you turn into a curiosity on your old age.
No more poisonous snakes around
I calmly drift and stroll around the Ta Prohm temple a bit more. Until some years ago there were venomous snakes here, but by removing a specific tree that had been overgrown the temple, these have disappeared, fortunately. In the past, there have been victims of snake bites around here.
First early and sober night in Siem Reap
When I get back to our tuk-tuk, my travel companion is sleeping on the couch. I take a picture but do not tell him. This visit to the Ta Prohm temple ends our Big Circuit temples tour. After taking a shower, we go out for dinner again at the same place during our first night in Siem Reap. We still like the food served, but our initial enthusiasm is already somewhat tempered. Back at the guesthouse at half-past eleven, we can not get any more drinks. Apparently, the hostel closes its services early. Slightly later though, we may still consume a can of beer. The advantage of the early closure is that we get to sleep on time and sober for a change.