Our first stop is to purchase our fancy three day pass to the Angkor Temple complex. Okay, hands up – does anyone really want to have a mug shot taken at 5:20 a.m.? I did it, and it’s not pretty.
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As we trudged up the hill, flashlights guiding our way, Q explained, “Bakheng was a Hindu temple, Angkor was Hindu and later switched to Buddhism, but merely moved the original Hindu gods to a lower place and replaced them with Buddha. The Hindu trinity consists of Shiva, the destroyer, Vishnu, the preserver and Brahma, the creator. This temple is dedicated to Shiva.”
By now we were hauling ourselves up the last few steep stairs to the top. We stopped and gasped a little for breath.
“It’s in the form of a temple mountain, this means it represents Mount Meru, the home of the Hindu gods in the Himalayas." Q continued, not the least perturbed by the asthmatic wheezing coming from the rest of us. "It was the first of the complex to be constructed (during the reign of Yasovarman 889-915) and, like most of the temples in the Angkor complex, this one faces east as a symbol of birth and prosperity. The temple is in a pyramid form of six levels with the sanctuary to Shiva at the top. Five main towers represent the peaks surrounding mount Meru. This was the King’s temple and, as such, had huge significance.”
After we made our way down the mountain we had a picnic breakfast and then met our elephants. After a moment to bond, we mounted up to ride through the main gate of Angkor Thom in style.
We dubbed this lad 'Elvis', for obvious reasons. He was very good-natured and one of the speedier ones. Ours preferred a leisurely pace and we were soon left in everyone's dust as our boy smelled the roses. Too full of bananas! I should have held them out as a bribe for the end.
Photos: R. Marion