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A Change in Plans

CAMBODIA | Friday, 28 November 2008 | Views [424]

Ruins at Ta Prohm

Ruins at Ta Prohm

We learn more and become more comfortable with each passing day.  We are finally starting to make sense of the Angkor Archeological Complex and its place in time.  The contradictions are still there; Hindu or Buddhist, Shiva or Vishnu but they seem less significant.  We still can’t list the Khmer monarchs, nor the kings of England for that matter, but their temples are still fascinating.

Yesterday’s plan was to visit the sites around Ta Prohm.  Just as we were ready to leave Sue, from the UK, invited us to join her.  While still in Britain she had booked a driver and guide to take her to some of the more remote sites.  We would just have to pay the driver for petrol so we said “Why not?”  Our first stop, Kbal Spean, is 50 km from Siem Reap, too far for us to consider by bike.  Once there it required a mile long hike through the forest to reach the “River of a Thousand Lingas.”  Few of the phallic symbols remain but the river flows over and around some impressive carvings of deities who supposedly purify the water.  Connie and Sue were able to do some birding along the way.

We treated Sue to lunch then moved on to Banteay Srei, the “Citadel of Women.”  The small temple is dedicated to Shiva and is known for the intricate lintels carved over the doorways.  Our guide was able to tell us the meaning of the many Hindu stories; of love, deception and cunning victories over the monsters.  The rest of the trip was a bit vague.  We seemed to be off our map and our book didn’t even mention some of the sites. 

Instead of turkey we went into Siem Reap for a buffet dinner and a floor show of traditional Khmer dance.  The place was packed with busloads of tourists but the show was cute.  The dancers tell a story by intricate movements of their hands.  This was our first time in downtown SR and it took a while to get our bearings.  It was nice to have the Lotus Lodge driver take care of all the details.

We were back on the bikes today for the 17 km “mini tour.”  Our first stop was at Banteay Kdei just across from Sas Strang, the royal swimming pool.  Other than the Bayon, Banteay Kdei is the only site with the giant carved faces.  We enjoyed it for its rundown condition and the lack of other tourists.  It was peaceful and a good place to look for birds.

Ta Prohm looks much like it must have looked a century ago.  The giant trees have pushed through the structures and have broken down the walls.  We have heard that the “Tomb Raider” movies were made here but we haven’t seen the films.  That may be part of Ta Prohm’s attraction and there were hoards of people.  It was eleven and most were leaving!  It is a site of collapsed roofs and dead ends - a great place to get lost, or eat lunch.

Ta Keo had no signage and we will remember it because of its steep narrow steps.  No wonder it’s not a major tourist stop.  I can’t imagine some fat German woman attempting to climb it.  We stopped at the Bayon for more photos, probably not for the last time.  The light was great and there were few other visitors.

Back at the Lotus Lodge all the news is about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.  Whatever is happening in Bangkok has been pushed from the front page and we remain in the dark.  We have our tickets for Laos and will have to wing it from there.

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