We started the 3-day Angkor tour, very early in the morning to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We rented a tuk-tuk for the day and explored the Khmer ruins on what is called the “big circle”. In the afternoon, we decided to veer off the beaten path and after a bit of negotiation with our driver, we headed east towards Phnom Bok hill, with a prasat (temple) of the same name built on it. There was a bit of a hiking path up to the top and as the afternoon heat was at its climax, we burnt some calories and we got soaked with sweat by the top.
Up there, on the top of Phnom Bok hill, we met the “Karma policeman”, a very friendly and chatty guy who was guarding the ruins. He was welcoming the very few visitors, reaching that place, with tamarind and jack fruit. Compared with our driver, who knew nothing about the temples except that they are Buddhist, this guy was quite knowledgeable about the history of his country and he told us some very interesting facts.
There was also a was also a serene Buddhist monastery on the top of the hill, very close to the ruins, where you can spend some time in silence and meditation. Andre seemed to know more about Buddhist rituals and practices and he was the one who spent more time on his knees in front of Buddha’s statue. The rest of us just light some incense sticks and made small donations.
We were accompanied for a while by a small group of teenage kids, probably playing hooky from school. They were very curious about us and followed us around as we wandered, giggling and smiling embarrassed. A beautiful shy little girl, wearing a kilo of lipstick on her lips and turning her head away to avoid eye contact with us, was probably the most popular of the “gang”, judging by their attitude towards her.
On our way back we stopped just below the top to chill out, have a smoke and enjoy the spectacular view, while listening to the only song I had on my phone: Tom Odell’s – Another Love.
I hope the coconut I rolled down the hill didn’t hit anybody on its’ way down! Maybe I should of checked the next day’s newspapers and see if there was someone killed by a coconut, as someone suggested. Or maybe it’s better not to know!
Further down we stopped again to have a cold beverage on a small family-run place, where we had a nice little chat with the mother and her very bright kid, who was a football fan a very conscious student.
We also met here a very important character: Mr. Kong, our next “best” tuk-tuk driver. On that day he was driving a Japanese guy and because we were not very happy with our own driver, we tough of hiring him for the next day tour. He seemed to speak very good English and know a thing or two about the temples.
Andre took care of the negotiations, swapped phone numbers with Kong and we return to the tuk-tuk which was patiently waiting for us.