Today is a special day. We welcome Tony and Karen to the Rally. Now safely reunited with their car, we shall enjoy their company, and that of ‘Hermann’, for the main bulk of the Rally to come.
And we also welcome Sheila, who joins Tessa and David in their trusty Disco. We should all be jealous that David now has two navigators!
For the first part of our day many of us went by Tuc Tuc for a tour of the Temples in this area, all built by Khmer Kings starting in the 10th Century and finishing in the 16th Century when this ancient capital of the Angkor region was abandoned. The golden period was the 12th Century when Angkor Wat was built, quickly followed by the Angkor Thom complex, which is 10 times the area of Angkor Wat, although it’s main temple is smaller!
Angkor Wat is surrounded by a massive moat and the whole complex is centered on the “Mountain Temple” of three levels, originally dedicated to Vishnu, and reputedly the largest religious building in the world. The site has been occupied by Hindu and Buddhist Kings successively throughout it’s history and mercifully most of the structures have been preserved rather than destroyed by each change of religion.
A fascinating visit was to Ta Prohm, made famous as a location in “Tomb Raider”. Seeds falling on the roof of the temple sprout Spung trees that throw their roots spectacularly down and through the stone structure, eventually destroying the building. Controversy is raging about either removing or preserving the trees with favour going to keeping the trees for the time being.
Teams of conservation and restoration specialists from Germany, China, France and India are working hard to rebuild fallen stonework and replace missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle construction. Each temple was built by a King in his lifetime but, if not finished by the time of his death, was left by his successor and a new one was started. Looking at the mountains of fallen stonework, it will take reconstruction far longer than the time it took to build them in the first place. But every fallen block is numbered for eventual rebuilding.
It was a truly awesome day and the scale of the Khmer enterprise to continue temple construction for 600 years was breathtaking.
This year is the 25th anniversary of gaining World Heritage status in 1993, and no doubt this has helped with funding the preservation of this remarkable area.
Then for the second part of the day we enjoyed a bit of a mystery event, since it was billed simply as a Temple dinner.
Well, on arrival we were welcomed with an avenue of oil lights leading to the Temple, with music and guards stripped to the waist “Poldark style” carrying spears to lead is to our reception. Drinks and canapés were enjoyed in front of a spotlit temple built in 971AD and the perfect backdrop to our cultural night.
The temple was lit with a thousand candles, and dancers in the temple doorways gave a preview of what was to come.
Our exclusive dinner was a combination of dance, music, food and wine, all animated with a light show to make us cry with delight.
The traditional Kampuchia dances were enchanting and the music hypnotic. The dancers were petite, with flexible hands that defy description in their elegance.
Tonight could easily have been our Gala end to the Rally, but we have more to come.
This Rally is turning out to be something special and the overwhelming judgement is that we have experienced an exceptional evening in the true Cambodian style.
What a shame that it could not have gone on for ever.
But we have an early start tomorrow so it’s early to bed to dream of the delights of the ancient Khmer Kingdom