Friday, July 6, 2012
Since we wanted to beat the crowds to the small temples we were going today, we got up at 6, got some breakfast, and were out the door by 7. At breakfat, Justin got the Dead Kennedys' song "Holiday in Cambodia" stuck in his head, and played it for Crystal back in the room. Surprisingly, she claimed to have never heard it before, because we listen to the same radio stations and Justin has heard it dozens of times over the years. On the way out of Angkor, we stopped at Sras Srang, a large manmade pool. But we couldn't unfog our cameras fast enough, and Sitha wanted to get to Bantay Srei before it got too busy.
It was a one hour drive to Bantay Srei, through some small farming villages and the countryside. As we had hoped, we were the first ones there, about 15 minutes before a bus of Vietnamese tourists. Sitha told us he made sure we saw what we needed to see before they got there - he didn't seem to be a big fan of the Vietnamese tour groups, who apparently drive over from Vietnam on overnight buses, see Angkor, and then drive back. Bantay Srei is famous for its pink sandstone and its intricate carvings. No one is quite sure where the pink sandstone came from, since there is no evidence of any quarry near by. Some people think it came from the Jaipur area in India, as a gift from the Hindus there.
It would have been nice to walk around on the interior of the complex, but it is now roped off because of people stupidly climbing all over the temples. Idiots. There were lots of people who showed up right as we were leaving - we weren't sure how they were all going to fit in such a small temple. It also started raining right as we left, so we were glad we got up when we did. We drove about another 15-20 minutes to Kabal Spean, where it was raining lightly, but okay to walk. Thankfully we were wearing our hiking sandals, as regular sandals would have been tough. The hike was just shy of a mile to the stream, mostly uphill, but not too steep. The walk was very peaceful, as we were one of the first ones here too, with lots of birds chirping and some insects (like millipedes and hairy worms) along the trail.
Sitha told us a joke about a bunch of animals having a party, with lots of beer and food. As the party went on, all the animals ran out of beer, and needed someone to go make a beer run. Except none of the animals wanted to leave the party. Finally the other animals convinced the millipede to go, and he grudgingly went. An hour later, however, he wasn't back yet. One of the animals decided to look for him, and found him out in the front yard. He asked the millipede if he had left yet, and the millipede said no. When asked why he hadn't left yet, the millipede said "I'm still putting on my shoes."
At the end of the path, there were carvings into the river rocks of hindu gods, plus lots of phallic symbols called lingas. Fortunately it had stopped raining by the time we got to the end, so we could take somes photos. The area was not very big, it was frankly incredible that anyone ever found this in the middle of the jungle. Apparently it was found by people in the civil war who were hiding out in the jungle. The walk back was a little better than the walk up, and we had some assistance from one of the local dogs. The dog has learned to be friendly to the tourists in the hope of getting some treats when the tourists get back to the parking area. We had no such treats, howver.
Once back in the car, headed back the way we came, then went to Neak Poan in the Angkor area. It was roped off, though, since lots of damage from settling from flooding last year. So we just admired it from afar. Next we went to East Mebon, which reminded us of Ayutthaya. Originally the East Mebon was in the middle of the East Baray, one of two gargantuan man-made lakes that the Khmer used to store water during the dry seasons. While the West Baray is still filled with water year-round, the East Baray is now dry, as much of the water infrastructure built by the Khmer has broken down over the centuries. But long story short, we can now drive instead of boat to the East Mebon. There was a lot of brick, and numerous statues. We had a quick stop at Pre Rup, which looked very similar to the East Mebon. And finally we did get some photos at Sras Srang, with no fogged up camera.
Went to lunch at a hotel near our hotel, then headed down to the river area, where the wet season causes people on floating buildings to move their dwellings. We took a boat trip to see the floating buildings. It was very interesting - schools, basketball courts, lots of houses. In addition to the (fairly) stationary buildings, there were also floating markets, where people on boats bring produce to you. We stopped for a bit right where the river empties out into the Tonle Sap lake. At the market and shop there, we saw a small crocodile farm and a small catfish farm. We then took a boat back to where we had hopped on, then drove back to the hotel.
We got back to the hotel a little after 4, pretty exhausted. We checked out our photos from Angkor and watched "The Rundown" on TV. While we had planned to head out into Siem Reap for dinner, we ended up just doing a repeat of the night before, heading down to the bar for some drinks (the Mango daquaris were really good) and food. This was probably good, because there was a violent thunderstorm, with lightning strikes that couldn't have been more than a mile away, and thunder that shook the bar.