The Weather Gods Have A Laugh


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Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap
September 17th 2014
Published: September 18th 2014
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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.


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18th September 2014

Cambodia looks really beautiful. Enjoying the blogs. One of thoses crumbling temples would look great as a folly in the garden. Packing progressing steadily if not slowly.
18th September 2014

Cambodia
Yes, it is beautiful, I think you would like it here. Hot and steamy too! Maybe you can put Dad to work making a temple down the back of the garden, it would look good!
18th September 2014

Wet season
Yeh I'm convinced. Wet season for you...dry for me. What a difference between September when you went and January when we did. Comparing your Kamphong Phluk and flooded forest pics to mine show Tongle Sap was 3 to 5 metres higher for you than me. Gotta say I think you went at the right time to see those. Timing to see the temples? Guess that's a gamble you had to take. Were mosquitoes a factor at this time of year?
18th September 2014

Wet season
I would recommend Cambodia in the wet season, much fewer tourists. I just had a spot of bad luck with the temples. I had 5 days / 4 nights in Siem Reap and the only sunset / sunrise it rained was the ones I attempted. The rest of the time it was perfect. No mind, you have to take your chances!
18th September 2014
Fish amok, delicious!

OMG!!
Now that looks seriously good. Sineful
18th September 2014
Fish amok, delicious!

Fish Amok
Totally delicious. Gently spiced fish curry in coconut milk - YUM!
19th September 2014
Banteay Srei

Shiny with rain...
...as opposed to hazy with dust in the dry season. Banteay Srei was a favourite for me, and your photos make me wish that I could see it again - this green and shiny. Hope the weather gods are kind for the rest of your trip.
19th September 2014
Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei
I think this one was my favourite too, I loved the red sandstone and beautiful carvings. And with my pollyanna hat on, the rain did make the colours look spectacular!
19th September 2014
Siem Reap river

Wet and wonderful
This photo looks like a place where I could sit and while away hours, and I'm with you--I'll take rain to lots of tourists anytime! Besides, your photo of wet Banteay Srei is very evocative. Plus, the rain helped get you to that very worthwhile Landmine Museum--what a hero that guy is! And while you are probably right about the notebooks at the school, it was a sweet story.
20th September 2014
Siem Reap river

Wet and wonderful
The nice thing about the seats by the river is that people did while away the time there and many were taken up by Cambodians resting in the heat of the day. Visiting the Landmine Museum was an unexpected treat, I didn't think I would enjoy it so much. He is certainly a remarkable fellow.

Tot: 0.042s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 14; qc: 26; dbt: 0.0081s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.3mb