This is going to sound incredibly culturally insensitive but I’ve got a serious case of temple fatigue.
It’s just there’s so many and in the ubiquitous catchphrase of South East Asia they’re quite, well, “same same but different.”
I remember my heart dropping after a long sweaty day cruising the Mekong Delta in Vietnam when the ‘icing on the cake’ (as it was sold to us) turned out to be…a temple. Here I was hoping for coconut icecream.
In fairness there are three temples which will go down as highlights of South East Asis for me.
I’ll work backwards from three.
My number three is Doi Suthep in Chang Mai (although to get here you have to endure an incredibly scary taxi ride where the driver’s pretty much in the middle of the road, while you, feeling like a solider in guerilla warfare hang on for dear life in the back of the 4WD). Totally worth it though. Up this high you get panoramic views of the city, even if the the Burmese fires cloak it in a thick smog-like haze. Watching the sunset here is magic, especially when it coincides with monks chanting.
My number two is the White Temple on-route to Chiang Kong in northern Thailand. It’s honestly like being inside a snow globe.
Truly spectacular and it’s still 80-odd years away from being finished. The best bit is the mural inside the temple. Hands down, the randomest painting I’ve ever seen. You’re not allowed to take photos of it and words won’t do it justice, but I’ll try. The back wall takes the shape of a giant face, in the left eye is former American President George W. Bush and in the right, Osama bin Laden. Around the face there’s everything from Angry Birds, Chuck Taylor shoes, Michael Jackson, Spiderman, and the Incredible Hulk. They’re supposed to symbolise all the fake idols. On the side walls there’s streams of people floating on clouds towards the front wall, symbolising they’ve rejected the fake heroes and have found the real hero: Buddha.
But hands down my number one spot has to go to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It blows my mind to think they built this in the 12th century with sheer man (and elephant power).
It goes down as the only time in South East Asia that I’ve got up before dawn for something.
Although I must say I struggle to see how the stairs to it were practical, even in the 12th century.
Apparently a few years ago some tourists fell down them and died. Since then they’ve installed railings. Thank goodness. Navigating these stairs in 40 degree heat is pass-out material as it is.
But my favourite part of Angkor Wat is feeding the wild monkeys which call this place home, particularly this heavily pregnant one.
Our tour group gives her a good 10 bananas before we realise she isn’t the only monkey floating around this joint.
All up I did two days at the Angkor temples, one of which I’d prefer to forget.
It’s a big call but I’m going to say it: this day goes down as the worst hangover of my life.
So bad infact, this particular hangover deserves its very own blog post.