From Baphuon to Phnom Penh

The Baphuon is a temple inside Angkor Thom that is not fully open to the general public because it is still being built. Or re-built should I say, I was lucky to be given a guided tour by Maric, a French architect who has been working on this temple.

The thing about the Baphuon is that it was built on sandy soil that couldn’t fully support the weight of it’s construction, so it was in a pretty poor state when it was found. A french archaeologist overseeing the monuments decided that the best thing for the Baphuon was for it to be taken apart, labelled up and put back together again with a better core that could support it’s weight. When the Khmer Rouge came to power they kindly burned the plans leaving no record of what stone went where, so it ended up being one of the most fascinating jigsaw puzzles in the world. To add to the puzzle the Cambodians, upon getting busy with Buddha decided to use some of the Temple to build a giant reclining Buddha on the side, so a part of the temple was missing. You get the idea, parts had to be built from scratch and even now people are chip chipping away at fresh stone to make bits and pieces to finish the thing off. When we got to stand on the top of the Baphuon we were about as high as you can get in Angkor.

After the Baphuon we visited a temple where the trees have grown around the stones like giant hands are holding onto them, they look almost human, we then stopped off at the kings bathing lake, which is huge. I’d like a bathing lake too now but will have to stick with Tooting Bec lido which is not a bad size either (100 yards long).

For the evening there was the end of the Photo Competition at the FCC hotel in Siem Reap. For the last week there has been a competition going on that has drawn interest from all around the world, the winner (Chicken Shack) was a very graphic set of pictures from an abattoir showing chickens in different states of being slaughtered. There weren’t too many cheerful pictures being shown, but the competition is good for Siem Reap.

Yesterday We headed up to Phnom Penh for a boat trip with a bunch of expats. I love expat communities, they are often full of fascinating people who tend to get by day to day by drinking  heavily and laughing as much as they can because if you don’t it’s all too easy to get sucked into the mess of the country you happen to find yourself in, and it’s one messy world. On this trip I met a farmer that was farming a few hundred thousand hectares of rice paddy using western organic farming methods, artists, charity workers, a film maker, sculptress and the list goes on. Everyone drank the bar dry of beer and good fun was had by all. I was tucked into a tuc tuc in the early hours and provided with a comfy mattress on a tiled floor, I somehow managed to end up crawling to the big womb like sofa a few metres away and slept like a baby – makes note, beer helps you get over your jet lag.

I have now left the wonderful company of Sasha, who has been showing me around Siem reap, Sasha is a friend of old that has been given the task of being Honorary British Consul in Siem Reap, a testing task sometimes as she is asked at all hours of the night to help out travellers in distress. She also happens to be a very talented sculpture that has been working with local kids making works out of decommissioned weapons. Everybody tells me that she has become quite a celebrity around town, but she is very self deprecating in that endearing way that only us English can be, so she down plays the whole thing. She has been a wonderful hostess for the week and has made my stay a pleasure, so thanks Sash, I’ll be back to visit your new house as soon as I can.

So today I am off to find someone to sort my Vietnamese visa out for me, then I’ll get off to Vietnam.