Edit Blog Post
Published: September 18th 2014
While gratified to have been proven correct about my assumption that the monsoon rains come predominantly in the afternoon, and then ferociously for a couple of hours or so, I was less happy to be proven correct the moment I stepped foot outside the car.
I was keen to see more temples and make the most of my 3-day pass. I had decided on a temple a little further away, then coming back via one of the lesser visited temples (if there is such a thing) to watch the sunset. Well the weather gods must've had a right old laugh.
We arrived at Banteay Srei and there was a dramatic clap of thunder and the heavens opened. This was a real shame, because it was a spectacularly beautiful temple and I would have really liked a bit more time to explore there. Built in the 10th century from a red sandstone, it is adorned with the most beautiful intricate carvings, and now sits in elegant disarray in the jungle. It is truly stunning. Despite being a bit further out of town it is still one of the more popular temples to visit, however I suppose the only good thing
that can be said about viewing temples in the rain is that there are less people there.
I had booked a car and driver (Nak) for the day so was at a bit of loss what to do next. Nak suggested a visit to the Cambodian Land Mine Museum
and so that was my next stop. It was much more interesting than I could have imagined. Set up by a Cambodian called Aki Ra, who had previously been a child soldier for the Khmer Rouge before defecting to the Vietnamese to fight against them, and then later was in the Cambodian army. As a soldier he had planted thousands of land mines all over Cambodia. Now he devotes his time to trying to de-mine the farmlands, concentrating specifically on what theCambodian government has defined as "low-priority" areas. He has also set up a school, initially focussing on children who were land mine victims, but now has extended to disadvantaged children. It was a sobering reminder of Cambodia's tragic history and I thought that maybe trying to get a photo of the sunrise or sunset wasn't so important after all.
Obviously there was to be no sunset for me to see, but
I did still want to view a couple of other temples. It seems that even this was not to be - when we arrived at Preah Khan the entrance way was completely flooded, and I didn't really feel like wading through the newly formed pond. However I now have a nice collection of photos from the road and the temple gates. Ironically this was also the last time I saw rain on my Siem Reap travels.
I decided that there had to be some advantages to visiting in the wet so the next day I headed to Tonle Sap lake. During the wet season it increases its size fivefold, to a massive 15000 square kilometres. We motored up a little waterway in our boat for an hour or more and emerged at the massive lake, which looked like the ocean, water as far as the eye could see. It really was quite spectacular.
My visit also gave me the opportunity to visit the floating village of Kampong Phluk. There are a number of other floating villages but I had chosen this one because it was further away, and less crowded. This was exactly the right choice as it
turns out. While there were a handful of other tourist boats that puttered past me, there weren't very many, and it certainly felt like I was able to view the true village life. I passed locals fishing, or transporting their goods up and down the river, and all took no notice of me.
At one point we stopped to visit a local monastery in preparation for one of the seemingly endless Buddhist celebration days. We pulled up outside a ramshackle little shed and I walked straight into a class full of kids apparently having an English lesson. I was told there are volunteers who come and teach the kids, so of course I arrived and they were all very keen to practice their English. They asked question after question: where do I live? how many people in my family? what's my name? and so it went on. My responses to these questions didn't seem to matter at all. Then the teacher turned up with an armload of school notebooks and pencils. Did I want to buy the children a notebook each? I could buy a packet of these notebooks for $3. There didn't seem to be any other answer
really, so I bought the packet and handed them out to the children who all thanked me most sincerely. I can't help but think that those books get repackaged after every tourist visit, but I suppose there are worse things I could do with my money.
On the way back to the hotel I stopped in at the Roluos group of temples, which are amongst the oldest in Cambodia, dating back to the 9th century. It's hard to imagine how something so old could still be standing, although admittedly they were hardly in mint condition, although this only added to their charms. My favourite was the smallest, Lolei, constructed from brick and with beautiful carvings.
There are thousands of temples in Cambodia, and I visited only a handful. However my time in Siem Reap was up - next stop Phnom Penh.
Tot: 0.042s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 14; qc: 26; dbt: 0.0081s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb