Cambodia - Temples, Books, Films and ruminations...by Andy Brouwer
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
A birds-eye view of East Mebon temple
So how would I describe my microlite experience? I was remarkably calm as Eddie did a five-minute test flight to check everything was in wording order. I didn’t dwell on what could go awry, focusing instead on what I would see and wondering whether my point and shoot camera would do justice to the views. Eddie landed, I climbed into the rear seat and he strapped me in and checked the microphone was on. Within two minutes we were airborne, so there was no time for last minute panic, as we bounced along the narrow track before lift-off. If I say the first few minutes or so took my breath away it would be a gross understatement. Buffeted a little by the wind, don’t forget we are open to the elements not in a helicopter for cissies, we quickly rose to a high altitude – the highest we reached was 1,100 feet – and I found it difficult to focus as the nerves and adrenalin kicked-in. I had no choice but to put my trust in Eddie’s flying skills and he kept me expertly occupied with a running commentary.
Ta Som is almost obscured by the trees enveloping the site
A great view of East Mebon with the morning sun highlighting the temple
Pre Rup stands out way above the treeline
An almost perfect picture of Pre Rup considering I couldn't see what I was doing!
With a blanket of smoke obscuring the bottom half of Phnom Bok and beyond, we quickly arrived above the first of the eleven temples, Ta Som, that we’d fly overon our 1-hour flight. I was pleased to still see a good amount of tree cover at this edge of the Angkor Park as we soon encountered East Mebon and Pre Rup in quick succession. Despite the haze in the distance, I could make out Srah Srang lake and the Angkor balloon, as we dropped a little lower and headed out over a patchwork of rice fields, small trapeangs (ponds) and villages with Eddie waving constantly whilst I gripped my camera tightly to take some photos. Battling with the wind – we were cruising at about 40 miles per hour – the sun’s reflection on my camera view finder meant I couldn’t see what I was taking pictures of, so it was really a case of point, shoot and pray. Eddie meanwhile was flying with one hand and snapping away with the other like a true pro.
A view of the fields leading to Srah Srang in the distance
The solitary tower of Prasat Trapeang Phong at Roluos
In what seemed like no time at all we were above the area of Roluos and circling the tower of Prasat Trapeang Phong before an incredible approach to the temple pyramid of Bakong. Even I couldn’t fail to get a good picture of this. Preah Ko and Lolei were next as we headed out for Banteay Samre and the tiny Prasat Tor, passing the brand new golf course that has been plonked in the middle of this rural landscape. My first real feelings of trepidation – Eddie had kept our tiny machine so steady and level throughout the flight – was when he announced we would fly over the top of Phnom Bok. I immediately thought of updrafts, downdrafts and stuff I had no idea about though Eddie said it would be fine, and of course it was. In my mind, flying over level ground is one thing, flying over a hill is altogether different but it was a thrill to look down on the summit, where I had been on foot two weeks earlier. Just behind the hill was a small brick prasat, Leak Neang, that I’d never seen before and it felt weird to discover a temple from the air rather than on the ground. We tracked the new road that leads to Anlong Vengfor a couple of minutes before beginning our approach to landing, on the same narrow track we’d left exactly an hour before. We landed with the merest of bumps and I thanked Eddie over the intercom for a fantastic trip as we came to a stop in the field behind the police station, a few kilometres south of Banteay Srei. My birds-eye view of a part of Angkor and the Cambodian countryside was a privilege and I can’t thank Eddie enough for taking me up and looking after me so well. It was a thrill of the highest order and as ‘safe as houses’. If you fancy getting the same buzz, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with rocky-steady Eddie The Eagle. It's no exaggeration to call it the trip of a lifetime.
The majestic pyramid temple of Bakong surrounded by water
The microlite is in competition with Preah Ko in this photo
The temple of Lolei is almost hidden in the grounds of the pagoda