Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Cambodia - Day 1 Part 3

Next, the tuk tuks took us to Phnom Bakheng, one of the famous temple mountains around Angkor. Apparently, the view of sunset from atop this five-tiered temple mountain was a big tourist attraction.

Phnom Bakheng temple

Well, we were in for a surprise! This sunset was not going to be an easy view! What we did not expect was the trekking we had to do to get to the top to view the sunset.

We look all pretty, eh? This was going to change in about half an hour! Check out the steep climb behind us!

It was a long, long, long trek.... and there were no actual steps, only rocks, stones and crevices. You had to somehow find some footing, and brace yourself up by grabbing on to branches. I had never in my life been so thankful for wearing sports shoes!

The first few steps looked easy, but it just got worse and worse...

We joined the hordes of people painfully making their way up.

A bunch of musicians were sitting at the edge of the 'steps', and playing ethnic Khmer music. They were like our cheerleaders, encouraging us to complete the climb, and not give up midway. The musicians did their part in keeping our spirits up, as we drowned in sweat.

Finally, we finished the climb, and I braced myself to view the sunset. But then, it looked like the builders of Phnom Bakheng had other plans for me!
Just when I thought the climb was over...

Well, looks like there was a second climb! And although there were ‘steps’ this time, they were so narrow that we had to walk sideways! I wondered what the purpose of constructing such narrow steps was! Either the people during the old days had really tiny feet, or they were air-dropped into the temple!

More steps??? Another climb?? We contemplate...

All right, we'll do it! Another pretty picture before we embark on the sequel?

And I thought to myself, "This sunset thingy better be damn good! After all the painful climbing and breathless gasping!"

Breathless and sweaty, we finally managed it to the top.

We reached the top, and although it was still quite bright, we found a huge group of tourists, already up there, waiting for the sun to set. Some had even made their way up on elephants, possibly because they could not make the treacherous climb! I figured that the sunset must be really spectacular for people to go to such lengths to view it.

View from the top of the temple

It was still quite bright, even though it was already the estimated time of sunset. So we sat on the edge of the rocks and waited. And waited. And waited.

The long wait for the sun to set...

And waited.

We decided to take a few photos while we waited.

All right, that's way too many photos we've taken.

Notice us getting a bit uninterested and distracted?

The rest have wandered off. Only Ro and me left now...
Me: "I don't think the sun's gonna set today. Maybe I'll take a walk around the temple."

Ro: "So they all left, huh? Maybe I should also take a walk..."

Meanwhile, Chin and Viv got really bored, and decided to get a bit adventurous. They climbed all the way down to take a picture of the rest of us. A few minutes later, we spotted them sitting on the steps of a small temple below. It was unbelievable how tiny they looked compared to the temple!

View of Viv and Chin from where we were sitting

Well, it was time for them to return the favour, but apparently, they could not figure the camera out! It was such a hilarious sight to see the two brainy dudes struggling with the camera! I laughed so hard, I thought I'd miss the sunset!

Uh oh! How does this camera work, man??

Soon, it looked like our wait was coming to an end. The sky got darker, and the sun, redder. And then suddenly, it happened! Within half a minute, the sun was gone! Poof! Just like that! No grand streaks of light, no splash of red colour in the sky. No fireworks.

Wait a minute... so that was it??

Chin was the first to break the silence of our disappointment.
"That's it?" He said, "That was the grand sunset?"
Maybe none of us wanted to admit it, but he was right. It was a tad disappointing, as we expected something more glorious, in return for the arduous journey and the gruelling wait.
We did take some cool pictures though. Like the one below.

Viv "holds" the setting sun, courtesy my great photography skills.

Uh oh! Giant thumb nail's gonna burst the sun!

Chin obviously did not get his money's worth from the sunset.
(His expression also reflects his feelings as he thought about the journey back down.)

It was true. The sunset was not grand. And yet, somehow I did not just sit there and moan over it. There may not have been anything special about the sunset, but there was something special about the experience. It had a certain value to it, that cannot be expressed in words. As the tiny group of Indians from Singapore melted into the crowd of the Japanese, the Chinese, the Australians, the British, the Americans, all of us suddenly became mere inhabitants of earth, waiting to witness the beauty of nature. Life seemed so basic. So simple. We had all climbed and sat atop the Phnom Bakheng temple to see what we expected to be a spectacular sight. And that brought us together. And we would go away, and there would be another big crowd the next day. Some days, the sunset would be grand, and on other days it wouldn't be. That was how it was.

But irrespective of whether the sunset met your expectations or not, the important thing was to take something back from the place in our hearts. And that we did.

Isn't that what life is all about?

Silhouette of friendship


  • Even though the sunset was not grand or breath taking in any way that you might have imagined it to be - you are right that your experience of traveling to the top was special. And looking at your pictures, I think that the lasting image for you (and for anyone reading this blog) is the last one - the Silhouette of Friendship! :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:03 AM  

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