(Note: This was writtten during the trip and edited upon my return)
The higher you climb, the harder you fall.
In the case of Phnom Bakheng, the statement has a literal meaning.
“!(imgleft)http://static.flickr.com/27/61257914_f6ed4b62f0_m.jpg!(A sleeping dog at the check point)”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannie/61257914/
Despite still feeling the effects of being happy (some more so than others), we grabbed a couple of tuk-tuks to drive us down to the Angkor Wat temples to catch the sunset. As passes issued after 5pm usually start from the next day (i.e. buying a ticket after 5pm does not count for that day itself), we decided to see take in the gorgeous sunset for free on this day, hence allowing our (expensive) Angkor passes to start from the next day. Everybody say, cheapies!
We got to the check point at 4.15pm and were told to wait till 4.45pm, where the ticket counters will open for us to get our passes for tomorrow. Sat by the road and waited with the rest of the travellers that were already gathered there. Being the typical kiasu Singaporeans that we are, we took the chance to re-apply our sunblock and insect repellent religiously, earning us some amused and dubious looks from others.
“!(imgleft)http://static.flickr.com/32/66180985_3f23ac56c2_m.jpg!(The treacherous “road” up Phnom Bakheng)”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannie/66180985/
The ride from the check point to the ruins was relatively short and swift and the first sight of the temples, shrouded in the rapidly darkening twilight, was amazing. But instead of gasping at the view, we had to save our breath for Phnom Bakheng, the long and steep climb up the hill. There were no steps, unlike organised Singapore, and the path was nothing more than rocks, stone, sand and tree roots. Every step you take is a careful one, one misstep and you could end up injuring your foot or worse, tumbling down the rocky trail. That’s not even the worst part. When you fall, you are sure to bring down more than one person with you because it was just so crowded.
The climb up is easier, all you have to do is to focus on getting to your target and then look at the ground above you to find your next step. The best thing was, the arduous climb was absolutely worth it. Even though it was cloudy, the sunset was still amazing. The view was amazing, you could see the vast expense of trees and little villages. The sun was just a ball of orange fire and as it slowly loses its lustre, the skies turn a corresponding blue. We waited till we could see no sign of orange in the sky before making our way down.
“!(imgleft)http://static.flickr.com/29/66180983_423b82e639_m.jpg!(Three Cambodian children watching the sunset atop Phnom Bakheng)”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannie/66180983/
The climb down was perilous, at least to my little cosmopolitan mind. Because when you are going downhill, there is nothing for you to catch hold of to pull yourself up. And you have to make sure that your step is firm and not unsteady, especially in the twilight where your next step is getting more and more difficult to see. Thank the heavens for NellieC and the camera flash light of his Sony Ericsson K700i. He walked behind me and illuminated my steps and I stopped panicking. At that point of time, I was wishing Jimm was around because in situations like this, he would always grab my hand to make sure that I land securely.
Finally, we all made our way down, even spacey EFB who had huffed and puffed his way up and looked like he was going to collapse after reaching the peak. By then, the sky was pitch dark and we could barely see what’s in front of us.
We marked the end of day with a hearty dinner at Old Market, washed down with chilled fruit shakes.
(Photos of the trip can be found at my flickr set here)