After yesterday’s exertions exploring Angkor Wat by bike today should be a far more leisurely affair. We were to be collected from our hotel by a Mr Sky, of all names, by Tuk Tuk in order to go and see some of the further away landmarks and temples of the complex. To be fair I am not so sure our legs and bum parts could have taken too much more of the bi-wheel variety of transport, so it would be nice to add an extra couple of wheels and a motor and a driver and zip about the countryside.
It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day and after breakfast we outlined our route to Mr Sky who also had a few good ideas of his own, as he had probably done this trip a million times before. He seemed up for the challenge, and once we had got ourselves sorted and as comfortable as two sore backsides could be in the back of his transport we tukked off. It was going to be another good day for more temple watching and this time, at quite a bit of distance from Siem Reap but this should be much easier on our bodies … lol.
Our first stop of temply goodness was at a small temple called Pre Rup which we had to do on the way out and we would not be passing it on the way back. To get there we passed by one of the the two great reservoirs – East and West Baray – that used to used to serve the complex and all of those who used to live in the area. This temple was a nice little place with towers that reminded me of those at Perambanum near Yogyakarta (Indonesia). Although small it was also quite high which gave our legs a bit of a workout – hoorah! – but at the top it was quite an amazing view. It was quite impressive but did not take long to get round the place and see all we could see so it was soon enough back down the steps and back into our Tuk Tuk to be sped away off on the long and somewhat bumpy journey to Banteay Srey.
This has two reasons to be on everyone’s Angkor tour map, first the stone is somewhat pinker than the stones used in other temples and its carvings take the level of intricacy to an even higher level – so Top Temple-tastic! However, the place was also one of the busiest we had been to, there were quite a number of (what I thought were) Chinese tourists, some dressed in Buddhist style but they were quite annoying as they just kept standing in front of us when we tried taking photos and yet we would move out the way when faced with similar situations. The sellers were a bit of a pain as well both children and adults kept trying to sell us stuff – whatever next eh! I am normally quite placid in these areas but even I started getting uptight. The temple ruins really lived up to their billing and although the place seemed fuller than usual there was more than enough room for us to escape the crowds. The decorative carvings on the door lintels and on either side really do have to be seen to be believed.
After this the next place – Kbal Spean – which was quite a bit more of a challenge, we did not know what to expect from the temple but whatever it was going to be like it was going to be a 2km walk before we would even get to the place. The walk was really nice through the jungle on a well trodden path but with all manner of strange creatures being seen along the way. Once there though there was no temple but instead carvings in the river and the waterfall, representations of male and female imagery, still quite a lovely place.
At the waterfall too there were loads of little butterflies flying about and landing on us it was a really nice and chilled out place. Underneath the waterfall an Indian family were having a bit of a soak but kept all their clothes on. It was strange but besides them having their clothes on it could have been anyone having a laugh and a splash, sometimes the similarities between the cultures we have seen on this trip just make me smile on the inside as well as the outside. So after a 4km round walk we arrived back to our driver who took us to a ‘cheap’ roadside place he knew for a bite to eat.
Well the restaurant did not turn out to serve particularly cheap or particularly good food but it was okay enough and filling I suppose but it was quite a nice place to stop for a bite, so you take the positives where you can I suppose.
Then it was off to the place we really wanted to see – the Cambodian Landmine museum. This is really well worth a visit – it centres around a man called Aki Ra, who when he was younger used to plant the landmines for the Khymer Rouge who then later went on, when the hostilities ended, to single handedly (and with homemade self-fabricated tools) start to remove the mines and the bombs from those areas which most needed it, some of which he had planted. This is a real good story about a single brave man trying to atone for his errors and the films on show about him, show him to be a real humble man as well. All over the museum are examples of the ordinance that was dropped by the USA on Cambodia during the Vietnam War (The Secret War) in order to cut off the Vietnamese from travelling the Ho Chi Minh trail. The shear amounts of bombs dropped is simply staggering and whilst there may be elements of bias in the reporting, the figures would still be high, far too high to be dropped on what was an innocent country. It is strange that terrors such as these do not seem to result in people being charged for war crimes and the like but what do I know eh!
Mr Sky took us to a couple of smaller temples but, once again, this time the best temple was definitely the last – Banteay Kdei and that was even though the weather was starting to worsen. Once again this was a temple built on ground that the trees had decided to reclaim, true Lara Croft or Indiana Jones looking stuff. Still it had much more to offer than simply the trees as the architecture was interesting, it had a small central stupa and a two storey building with round almost Greek looking columns – everything everywhere else in the complex has square columns. Whilst here we stopped and watched a blind man playing his instrument with his two sons and it was absolutely amazing, really nice just to stand and admire both the sound and the family playing. At the end of viewing this temple the heavens really did start to open and, as ever they do this in truly awe inspiring (and soaking) style! Being under the cover of the Tuk Tuk was a nice way to travel back to the hotel in such weather though, Mr Sky even provided us with blankets to cover ourselves with and we looked truly geriatric in it!
At night after a bit of a wander round we stopped at one of the restaurants near the marketplace and treat ourselves to a Cambodian BBQ. This was a bit like the Malaysian steamboat, you have a central heater with a set of meats round it that you cook yourself over the heat. Again, this is served with various noodles and vegetables and sauces, so the meal is whatever you want it to be but ultimately it is delicious. We had a couple of oddities, some crocodile (not unlike chicken) and some dogfish, which was a very meaty fish but it was quite an experience.
After the bite to eat we then retired to one of the pubs near Pub Street where we could hear some live music, some moderate rock so very good to nod our heads to. Here we had a few beers, a bit of a jig and a few more beers and a bit more jigging before having a couple of finishers before waddling off home, slightly worse for wear at close to 3am. Not so sure how early we shall get up tomorrow but who knows!