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Siem Reap

Temples, Stilts and Gorgeous People

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Sunrise at Angkor Wat is worth it if you like unwrapping presents. You’re not sure what to expect, or even if you are in the right place until you start to see the three pronged silhouette appear juxtaposed against the darkness. For a first temple though it is mighty impressive, but duck off before the crowds and start to venture around the complex. You still get the impressive low lights on the far side of the temple for great angles and halos through the corridors of pillars and frames.
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Bayon late 12 to mid 13th century was one of my favourites as I could have sat for hours just imagining. We were there in the busy time and I would have loved to have gone and just sat and absorbed- the business kind of prevented this. The carved faces are everywhere and impose majestically in every direction you look. It’s memorable and breath taking. It is quite narrow at the top so it does get congested. I really appreciated the scale of it all from beneath.
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Taprghm temple 12 to mid 13th century just leaves you overawed. How a forest can take over a temple and bully it into submission is both staggering and beautiful. Heavy pillars and roofs and walls have been invaded. Living tree trunks intertwine with ancient engineering in an amazing contrast.

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The longer drive to Banteay Srei Temple (mid to late 10 century) is worth it for many reasons. Firstly the drive there is fascinating. You see more of the lives of the Cambodian people; watching from your tuk tuk as stilted houses peer through trees, children leave school on bikes way to large for them, corridors of hawker vehicles selling so many things… Small “scarecrows” warn off bad spirits, dogs sleep on the sides of roads, piles of wood stored ready for carving or for burning on the strange circular white clay ovens.

Banteay Srei Temple is simply stunning. Not the largest, but the most intricate. Carvings are absolutely beautiful. Depicting stories of Indian gods in all their might. The quality of the stone used has apparently left time still. Many carvings are nearly new. Some monkeys guard the temple. This is a must see temple. Sanskrit walls speak of a time past.

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Our trip back was more eventful, with our tuk tuk getting a puncture. We stopped at a store- come garage- come jewellery shop. The husband ushered our driver to the side where his tools were and squatted next to the rear wheel. “Half an hour” our driver told us. We just watched the world go by and blend in. His children entertained us with giggles and laughter. The primary school opposite, a French speaking school, echoed out with song and older girls got ready for a football match. They left in the trailer on an ancient tractor for their match.

The "local"petrol station

Day 4
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Sreyneang was our guide. We travelled south on the busiest road we had seen. Along the way we made a couple of stops to taste some snacks. The first one was a sticky rice stop. Cane tubes stuffed with rice and black beans sat in rows on a charcoal bbq. You peel back the strips like a banana to reveal the sticky rice. Nice rice! We then stopped a shop that sold treats. Dried banana cooked in condensed milk before being dried, grub grub snacks which reminded me of the texture of Italian biscotti. These are named because of the sounds they make when being eaten. We also tried dried Jack Fruit and crispy mini doughnuts - commonly used for wedding celebrations.

Sreyneang took us around the rear of the building which is the production house. We sneaked through the owner’s house to a rear lean to area; Open fires, flour grinders and plenty of chickens, some laying eggs. At the back was a lady continually tossing a large bowl of frying grub grub, one of the open fires as the source. The heat- already atlas 34 degrees and a fire to cook off. Hot!
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Arriving at Kompong Khleang Village after another 45 minutes on roads was absolutely fantastic. We travelled through a neighbouring village first that snaked along either side of the road, and the dammed up sections of river. This village was quirt energetic. Smaller than Kampong Khleang. Glimpses behind the stilts showed fish traps and Sreyneang explained about where the monsoon floods would rise to later in the year. Peering into houses you could see men sleeping on wooded floors, children playing. Fish were smoking in ramshackle rooms.

Kampong Khleang Village was remarkably different. 14,000 people on stilts. Benefitting from the non for profit tour group, which ploughs money back into this community, there was a different feel. Buddhist monks had a school in the village teaching the next generation. This school wasn't to a primary school. Peering in to both was fascinating. The sheer noise coming from the ordinary school was very loud indeed. The buddhist school, all adorned in orange robes, including the teaching monk, off set with a green chalk board and rows of benches.

On the far side of the river we were deposited from the mini van and walked up the street. This was truly a memorable experience. Many children playing in the street, some with a makeshift kite they had made- running in hysterics. Some children, as young as four, helping with chores- chopping up fish, or sitting with mum. The dusty road led us along with some stilted houses decorated in fresh flowers, some with plastics all around and some with well organised recycling hanging from the rafters. The houses reached high, which showed the extent of when the floods came, what it would be like. Stains on poles showed this point. we were standing well below.


In between houses all sorts happened. Mainly basing around fishing. Nets were being fixed, fish laid out on mats to be dried and then smoked to make pastes. Working groups of women sat and organised fish into perfect lines before smoking. Hammocks hung in the shade and breeze, some filled and some vacant.

We arrived at the local pre school. On stilts, large and over looking the river. 70 children in here with one teacher. They only came after breakfast and went home at lunch. What a view from here. It looked down the river.

Noisy boats screamed, as if in Star Wars, down the brown river. Motorised by over grown weed eaters as engines, they could seriously move. A wedding bounced on the opposite side of valley. Men were emptying boats of fish into bags and off into trucks. A hive of activity.

In the valley it seemed as though there were two layers of class. Those on the top with large stilts and those around the base next to the river, in the weeds, in the fish nets, on smaller floating houses. Men were wading into the river to collect unknown things.

We boarded a boat and motored down the river to the lake for sunset. Seeing a different perspective on the village showed the true giraffe legs of the stilted houses. How they stay up is questionable but amazing at the same time. As we trundled closer to the lake the scenery changed to a lower, flat level plain which would easily be flooded. Farmers lived in houses that they have to move and build up to five times a year. No electricity. Water pumped directly from the murky river for their uses. As it was cooler, they were all working around their fields, weeding and fixing.

Right on the edge of the lake was another village. This was a floating village. Large barrels surrounded the houses so they could float on the rise. On the bank next to the village, children were playing football. Life on the floating houses looked harder than the stilts, working, washing, cleaning themselves out of bowls.

Looking into the sunset, you could see the Vietnamese floating village in the middle of the lake. Certainly a hard life by our standards. An amazing tour. Truly amazing.

Some of our favourite food
Grilled Spare ribs with an amazing crushed pepper, salt, sugar, chicken powder and lime juice dressing
Kebab snake or scorpions
Chicken soup, chicken and cashew, Satay chicken


Posted by PhilFhi travels 05:33 Archived in Cambodia

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Wahoo guys love the write up and the pics are gorgeous xx

by cjngeorge

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