Leaving the Raffles Hotel with it’s old fashioned 1930s charm was a wrench, but we got way before 9am to exit Siem Reap via the backroads to avoid the traffic.
Today is Chinese New Year, so we were taking no chances.
We took Route 6 for a few kilometres before turning off on the Preah Vihear road heading north.
Our first visit was to the Beng Mealea (Lotus Pond) Temple. It was built as a Hindu Temple and is today largely unrestored with trees and thick bush thriving among the towers and courtyards. An elevated aerial walkway gave good views of the ruins below.
From there, we had about 150 kms of fast straight roads through rather indifferent countryside. It seems drier here in the north of Cambodia and less populated. We drove through banana plantations for a while but much of both sides of the road were burnt scrub and trees.
We arrived at our Preah Vihear Boutique hotel in time for lunch before heading out to the Temple which was our target for the afternoon.
The Temple is still subject to an International dispute between Cambodia and Thailand because it sits on top of a hill directly on the border between the two countries.
It is a revered site having been built in 881AD and used by the Khmer Kings up to the mid-12th Century. It is a popular tourist attraction (hence the dispute over ownership) and still visited by monks and Buddhist worshippers. Soldiers on both sides watch each other through binoculars from dug-in emplacements.
The buildings themselves are now largely a jumble of rocks due to tree damage, as well as some shelling during the border disputes over the years.
There is reputedly a great view from the cliff behind the main Temple but due to forest fires, the whole landscape was a smoky haze.
One such fire threatened our hotel in the afternoon leading to us moving the cars, but mercifully it moved away without burning down our beds for the night!
We have an early start tomorrow to cross the border into Thailand and a 510 kms drive to Khon Kaen.
Not before we this great picture was taken though, these three cars all stopped here on their way to Sydney from London in 2005. Remarkable to think that some 13 years later these cars are all still going strong and rallying around the world.