In full male midlife crisis mode again, I leapt onto a vespa and headed off to the temples at Angkor Wat.
Not Easyvespa, although the machines were all bright orange.
I turned out to be the only person on the tour, so I had a private guide for the day, which was wonderful – although he was distressingly fond of taking cheesy photographs.
As you may see from this photo, I have developed a new hair-related issue … helmet hair. Due to the heat, sweat, chlorine and sunshine my hair could in no way be described as glossy, silky or sleek, and I can only manage one of three looks:
- helmet hair
- hat hair
- Worzel Gummidge hair
It’s quite a trial in the mornings, deciding which look I’m going to go for.
And it probably explains why I stood forlornly at my window in the tower
while all the handsome princes walking past thought ‘No way am I climbing up her hair.’
We visited several temples with huge carvings and fantastic tree roots, before finishing up at Angkor Wat itself.
The conical tops are shaped as lotus flowers, which symbolise many things for both Buddhists and Hindus, including purity, creation, strength and rebirth.
This is such an iconic place that even the monks were whipping out their mobiles to take photos.
The walls of the temple are covered in bas-reliefs in exquisite detail, mostly recounting the story of the many wars fought by King Suryavaman II.
There are also carvings of the Apsara, or royal dancers, which form the sort of Page Three light interludes amongst all the stories of death and glory.
In today’s democratic Cambodia these dancers are no longer restricted to performing for royalty, and even plebs like me can pay to go and watch them.
Outside the temples there was a band playing. All the musicians were landmine victims trying to earn a living. Cambodia was so heavily mined that it still has no-go areas, particularly near the borders, and it will take years and years to detect and remove them all.
On the way home I was taken to see another musician who makes his own instruments.
This is a two-stringed vertical fiddle called a tro u. He offered to play it for me, and immediately broke into Auld Lang Syne, somewhat bizarrely. I wonder if that’s the first time it’s been played on a tro u, or whether it forms part of the regular repertoire of Khmer musicians.