We had a pleasant 30km ride to the Phnom Rung Historical park, through pleasant countryside and a paved road (hurrah). At least it was pleasant until the last couple of km. Prasat Phnom Rung is an amazing Khmer Hindu temple built between the 10th and 13th centuries. It sits on top of an extinct volcano that springs out of the surrounding flat landscape. For us that meant another lung busting steep 200m climb. This time we did not have to get off and push so must be getting fitter but it still wiped us out by the time we got to the top.
A reviving cup of decent coffee and then we visited the temple. I won’t describe all the detail but the setting was fantastic, the approach was along an amazing walkway and series of steps and the stone carvings beautiful. Hopefully the photos will give some idea. The complex is one of a whole series of temples that line an ancient Khmer highway between Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Phimae a bit further north in Thailand. It gave us a taster of what is to come. I must read up about the link between Hinduism and Buddhism but the temple was reminiscent of some of the ancient temples we saw in India.
Time for a second breakfast (omelette on rice -nicer than it sounds) and off to our second temple at the bottom of the volcano. Today the skies were clear and the sun much hotter that we have experienced so far. Prasat Muang Tam was a less visited monument in serene surroundings next to a lake. The main temple building flanked by 4 L shaped ponds guarded by 5 headed Nagas (serpents). A 100 year old mango tree gave some shade. We were now at the height of the sun (mad dogs and Englishmen etc) and melted our way round. The only leaflet we had was in Thai but the setting felt calm and evocative.
We now had 60km to get to the next main town with some accommodation. It felt rather daunting in the heat, although bizarrely it felt less hot cycling at a nice steady pace (flat) because it generated a 20km breeze. Luckily no more hills. After 20km we dived into shade for a sticky sugary drink and after that the main bite of the sun had gone. We were back on the main road, although now much less busy, and the next 35km was rather like riding an exercise bike – just keep the legs whirring round. We even overtook a couple of very heavily laden old trucks/tractors! Tedious but the km ticked down until we reached Tescos in Prasat – yes Tesco (supermarkets as we know them have been sown up by Tesco and 7-eleven). A quick stock up of supplies then off to find a homestay we had seen on one of the hotel websites. We had decided not to book as for the last few days we have been almost the only people in the hotel so going direct meant more money for the owner. The sun was starting to fade as we rolled in – “full’ the owner said “sorry, sorry”. In fact everything looked closed up rather than full but she directed us to another hotel a couple of km away, which was perfectly fine.
98km and 2 temple visits – quite a day. Just 40km to the Cambodian border tomorrow.