“It is therefore important for you to have a theme song for every trip you take” – the Adventurer
The sound of eggs cooking from the oil pan awakens me in the morning. There are some early birds who woke up ahead of me in search of coffee or the direction of the sunrise. I am still in a daze from last night’s wonderful cosmic display. Coupled with the sweet melodies, we all had a satisfying evening last night. I always identify a song from every trip to help me remember the details whenever I hear it. This time it will not be any particular song, but a genre of slow Russian folk music.
The team started their journey of Day 2 after a sumptuous breakfast of omelete eggs thanks to our chef, Don (not to be confused with the Australian Don as well as SK’s son, 15 who went by the same name); and some warm up exercises to prepare us for the long day ahead.
A mighty kingdom it once was, now even under thick vegetation it remains a mysterious wonder to all – TravelledPaths
Our first stop was the Bat Cave, which is a widely known place of Buddhist meditation. A slight rustle from the wind allowed the colourful display of flags to greet us as we approached. The monks who meditate here have a second job when visitors arrive to serve as personal guides. The darkness of the cave must be a wonderful place of worship, but the idea of sitting underneath bats brings about thoughts of guano on the head more than peace and tranquility.
I was told that some devotees come from far wide over the country to spend weeks or even months among the monks in this sanctuary, seeking understanding from the scriptures and searching for the meaning of life. The surroundings here definitely lend to an encouragement of contemplation.
One of the highlights is the Sras Damrei (Elephant Pond). It’s named not for a group of elephants that visit the pond, but for the stone carvings that were formed from the natural rock formations that are so prominent here in this region. Made from sandstone, the craftsmanship is incredible, especially when one considers how exposed these majestic creatures are to the element.
Wrestle with the unknown of the magnificent ancient ruins. Discover its beauty. For the vast structures were once resilient and now seek to be unearthed – TravelledPaths
At the Lone Temples, the Mystery Deepens
If you like the feeling of being “Indiana Jones” and want to experience the joy of being able to stumble upon a lost temple for the first time, Phnom Kulen provides the perfect platform for your consideration. There were at least 5 lone temples present and I suspect that there could be many more considering the vast terrain. Each of them in its untouched states (i.e. Dilapidated), but fascinating in their own way.
Each piece of stone in the architecture is from the time when it was constructed, unlike the temples in the Angkor complex – where marks of restoration are evident everywhere. In fact, with the news of a so-called ‘lost city’ of Mahendraparvata, the former ancient Khmer capital, being discovered in 2013 and believed to be the birthplace of the Empire, the terrain was quite lonely. We were told that visitors to these structures are still in the hundreds, as opposed to the annual 3 million visitors to the Angkor complexes itself.
This unidentified meditation shrine with natural shades provided by its stone formation with a pond of spring water must have been an amazing place to seek inner harmony. When you visit this area, you feel in tune with the life energy that is flowing around you at every moment.
After a night of camping by a village home-stay at the end of Day 2, we proceeded downwards to the end point of our trek. The sun was unforgiving and the natural shades from the tall trees we experienced from the first 2 days of trek were scarce.
We passed by the land of huge boulders where there was an abundance of large rock formations. The sight was spectacular, but the trail was dangerous. One wrong step and you could be sent tumbling to the ground. As an added reward, the journey also offers an unobstructed view of the vast plains of Phnom Kulen.
We reached the stone quarry that would become the foundation of Angkor Wat. Early in the 12th century, the stones were cut from here by Khmer King Suryavarman II and hauled over 50 kilometers away to the place where they still reside. It’s an amazing feat of human labour and ingenuity.
The delicate cut marks from the quarry efforts can still be seen very clearly from this picture.
We are down to the final stretch. Our team trekked through one last padi field under the scorching hot sun. As we approach the end of our 50 kilometer trek, I am still amazed by what we have achieved over the last 3 days. The team’s effort and perseverance to explore the the route was incredible. We saw many awe-inspiring sights during this journey, but these three were definite highlights.
1) The pre-Angkor ‘lost city’ of Mahendraparvata during the 9th century.
2) The source of Angkor construction during the 12th century.
3) The route taken by the Khmer Rouge during the fight against the anti-communist forces during the 1970s.
We all have unique journeys to take in this life. Sometimes we are privilieged to share our journeys with family and friends. Sometimes providence sends strangers to accompany us so we can experience the adventures that fall outside of our chosen path.
Then there are those difficult times when we must carry on with our journey all alone. With every step of discovery, however, imagine a prosperous, growing civilization right underneath your feet. It is robust with life, hope, and promise.
That is the joy of each footstep that we take. There is just as much promise below us as there is surrounding us.
Trek For Hope, Cambodia 2014 was organised by Singapore Adventurous Nature Lovers meetup group and TravelledPaths.com. Equipment Sponsor: World of Sports, Singapore
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