Phnom Chissor at Sunrise

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January 16th 2012
Published: June 10th 2017
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Geo: 11.6724, 105.425

Several volunteers arrived at Wat Opot Children's Community on Sunday, two days after I got here. One of the women had been here before, so when talk began of several of us wanting to climb the only mountain visible from the volunteer dormitory, she, having climbed it before, jumped right in and said we could do it the next morning, on Monday. We would leave at 4:45AM to be at the top by sunrise. Seven of us wanted to go, so we set our alarm clocks and went to bed earlier than usual Sunday night.

Waking at 4:30AM had actually become the norm here, as that is the usual time the Cambodian wedding music begins (their celebrations last for days), but most mornings we don't get out of bed then, just try to get back to sleep listening to the loud but distant music. This morning the sky was cloudy, but we were hopeful the sky would clear once we were climbing. We set out in small groups, divided by the pace individuals walked. Brian and I walked together at first, Susy and Anita were in another little group, Carmen was walking on her own. Carolyn and Jeff had left a bit before 4:45AM, so they were quite far ahead of the rest of us. It was very dark when we left, so flashlights were useful, although a half moon lighted the road in most places, except under groves of trees.

I love walking by moonlight, and rarely use a flashlight. At home in Maine, especially when we are camping at Acadia National Park, I walk for hours every night, listening to the sounds of people and animals, looking at the stars and constellations, smelling the campfires and fragrant trees in the woods, using a flashlight only to warn cars that I am on the dark road. Walking in moonlight is a great pleasure that has unfortunately been lost to most westerners, but it is such a great delight!

The dirt road to the mountain is pitted and rocky, so even though we walked quickly, we had to be careful of holes and rocks. It took about 3/4 of an hour to reach the foot of the mountain, and another 1/4 hour to climb the 200 stairs to the top, to the temple that predates the Angkor period. The wat on top of Phnom Chissor attracts many visitors, daily busloads, because it is older even than Angkor Wat, the famous site in Siem Reap. The word Phnom means mountain, or hill. We climbed the stairs, looking to the east for the sun to appear, even though it was still cloudy.

At the top we walked through part of the old temple, greeted by fierce sounding dogs as we passed through the ancient entranceways. We all sat and watched as the sky lightened, but the clouds did not lift. It was beautiful nonetheless, sitting with new friends and taking in this incredible view of the land far below us, watching the colors of the sky change as the sun rose behind clouds. We were spellbound. In the distance we could hear the morning chanting and music, and we sat and watched the sky. Day had broken; pinks and blues and greys replaced the dark, and then it was fully light.

Susy suddenly jumped up from where she was sitting beside me on one of the steps of the old temple; right behind us, very close, was a male monkey. Prudently, we all got up to go further away, but of course he followed us. Carmen tried to feed him a piece of plant, and he ran after her, scaring us all. He exhibited some aggressive behaviors, so we decided to leave that part of the temple. This must have pleased him, because once we moved away from "his" area, he left us alone and climbed into a tree.

Monks live nearby, and there were other steps still going higher, so Brian and Anita and I decided we had to climb to the very top. We passed by the monks' building, and another structure with a reclining Buddha inside, the Tuesday Buddha. The colors of the leaves on the paths, and the smells of decomposing plants reminded me of autumn in Maine; it looked and smelled like late October at home. It was peaceful, and extraordinarily beautiful. I breathed deeply, taking in the colors, the sights and sounds and smells. A new wat is almost finished near the very top of Phnom Chissor; I don't know if the busloads of people come up this high, or stop only at the pre-Angkor temple below, which is very deteriorated. I have heard that Angkor Wat was going to be built here, but that Siem Reap was chosen instead because of all the clay in the soil in this part of Cambodia. But for me this one temple here is enough.

We climbed back down the 200 stairs, and walked the three miles back to Wat Opot, arriving there a little after 7:30AM. Since most of the volunteers had gone on this short early morning trek, breakfast was still waiting for us. It was a great start to a wonderful day.


18th January 2012

Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now, that's exploring ,,, and doing global social service too! 10 stars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
18th January 2012

wow that sounds great! very nicely written and great experience. i am doing some hiking here too, makes me think of Acadia as well! love you!
18th January 2012

Sounds like you got some things you needed/had been missing on this little adventure. I'm glad that the other people there with you are adventurous as well, it's always good to have a decent rapport. The monkey was probably being territoria
l, esp. as there were males in your group - they can be fairly aggressive (I dislike monkeys). Hope you get to have more adventures soon.

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