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John van de Ruit

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Spud Milton – Tomb Raider

Continuing my travel blogging for the Penguins as the countdown to the launch of Spud – Learning to Fly nears the single digits.

It’s been a marvellous (wickedly splendid) eight days in the sleepy town of Siem Reap. The name itself means “Siam defeated” which refers directly to a great battle with the Thais that may not have occurred at all. The attractions of this place are the great temple ruins of Angkor built between the 9th and 12th century. These immense beasts that rise suddenly and inexplicably out of the jungle leaving you open-mouthed and somewhat intoxicated by their visage. The grandeur, beauty and craftsmanship that went into their construction and the creative genius that underscored the temples of Angkor is mind boggling. I’ve never been a big ruins fellow, but seeing the ancient temples of Angkor in the flesh is one of the greatest experiences of my life. It’s almost the fulfilment of every young boy’s fantasy… A vast temple of ruins surrounded by jungle and a 200 metre moat! Described by historians as eclipsing the majesty of the ruins of Ancient Egypt and the intricate detail of the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, the signature temple and pride of Cambodia is considered one of the great man made wonders of the Earth.

Having a week long pass to the temples and a tuk tuk driver means you can explore any temple at anytime. You just jump on the back and whizz off to wherever your fancy takes you. Highly recommend for anyone who has the chance to make a journey here to see something quite magnificent. The ancient temples of Angkor cover a distance of 300 square kilometres meaning significant tuk tuk flyer miles and after a week, a painful rectum. But enough about that – see it for yourself if you don’t believe me.

The centre of Siep Reap is the home of the delightful Psar Chas or backpacking district which is jammed with humble restaurants, bars and street stalls. We love sauntering around in the evening watching the “goings on” and then choosing what new restaurant we might try. Nothing like an evening cocktail whilst making sense of the eye popping sights one has seen that day. Speaking of cocktails… The Red Piano bar serves a Tomb Raider Cocktail which was requested nightly by Angelina Jolie when she was here filming Tomb Raider and sourcing kids. Apparently her tipple is Cointreau, lime juice and tonic . Clearly a dame with interesting tastes.


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