Cambodia – Siem Reap – The Big Tour

[It is quite a long post, because of all the places we had visited]

The next day after a good breakfast at Sokkhak, we started our Big Tour in a van. A note about the Big Tour here. This is not called Big with respect to the temples (not that some of these aren’t big or anything), but with the amount of temples you will cover and also the distance. It is quite far away from the place of our stay atleast and we did cover quite a lot of them that day. More in number, small in size (when compared to the temples that were part of the Small Tour) and a lot similar. There was no guide as such for these temples. The van driver, who spoke quite a bit of English was also acting as our tour guide, except that he didn’t seem to understand a single word I said or single question I asked 😳 and I got to sit in the passenger seat next to the driver what with my camera and other luggage. It was quite sunny and hot by the time we started driving.

Pre Rup

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Pre Rup was our first stop. It almost took us an hour to go through this ruined temple. Done mostly in bricks and sandstone, it must have been a huge one when it was done. There were staircases to go up and as you know, I am a little big afraid of those, especially since there werent any thing to hold on to. But I did manage to get up there. I was advised to cover my face because of the mold and the sand that could increase my sneezing bout as they do trigger my nasal allergies. So most of the photos that my friends took of me at this place, has me looking like a bandit queen 😉 We went around on our own checking the place out and taking photographs. There was a small place inside where the idol of Buddha was placed and the lady outside started talking to me about where I was from. Why do people know only about Mumbai and Delhi when I mention India ? Seems like we need to a lot to promote other places like Bangalore, Chennai, Goa (why not Goa?) etc. She allowed me to go inside and take some pics of the temple too. Even if you just go around and take pictures and come down the other way where the stairs did have something to hold on to, you still end up spending almost close to an hour here. And it was quite sunny and hot and we were ready to get into the comfort of the A/C in the van.

East Mebon

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East Mebon was our next stop. There are other entrances, but we did the one on our way to other places. This is quite similar in architecture to Pre Rup that it almost looked liked its replica. Same brick and sandstone building and all. Again all ruined and stuff. L was trying to imitate the sitting or squatting lions in this place. Since there is no cover anywhere, you get all sun tanned by the time you just go around it. Took us about half an hour or so to get around and see the place and come back to the van.

Ta Som

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Our third stop was Ta Som. The first temple with a face in the entrance. It does look like the one you see in the movie Lara Croft and Tomb Raiders, but it really isn’t. Here is one titbit that might come in handy later. Usually the temples with the faces in the front or in any of the buildings are Buddhist temples. The Hindu temples do not have the faces in their architectural style. That would mean, this is one such temple. Whereas, Pre Rup/Mebon was mostly for a Hindu God (didn’t ask the guide/driver who it was). It isn’t quite a big one and no climbing up or anything, but its quite lengthy. This is where I got my first souvenir, a sleeveless T Shirt to wear for the next day, because I was tired of the sweat and the heat already 🙂 Had to bargain a lot and made a deal for two T Shirts, a Kurta kind of pants and a hand fan for 8$ (could have gone for 6$ but then there were two kids who were selling these so didn’t feel too much to bargain also) We were so dehydrated by the time we were done here, that we stopped to have coconut water selling outside. The water bottles we were carrying were already empty. In Cambodia and Bali, the coconuts are so HUGE. My god, I wasn’t able to complete one. It is almost equivalent to two coconuts here in India. Once we were done, our driver asks us if we needed water, because he has both cold and normal temperature ones at the back of the van. What a relief 😀 We had some water also, just because we could and continued with our journey. It did look like it might rain with all the heat and the clouds rounding up above us.

Preah Khan

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Preah Khan, the first very very huge temple that we have been in this tour. Basically, the driver let us through one entrance and asked us to get to the other side (I think it was the East side) to pick us up. It is that big. This also has the huge tree and all and looks like it was featured in the same movie. But nope. Again, this is the one that has faces in the buildings, but then it also has the entrance with demon and godly faces pulling the snake as the rope while doing the churning for extracting the nectar. Remember I told you that the whole of Cambodia is based on this one event ? I guess this temple must have gone through the changes between the Hinduism and Buddhism (which apparently happened a lot in Cambodia with the Kings switching between these two religions as and when they wished) because we could see the impact of both here. It is currently being restored. And the trees here are so huge and I wonder how they grow and hold the parts of the temple along with it too. This is where L & I competed to give a proper apsara pose as was depicted in the walls. It was quite huge that we went on our own figuring our places and taking photographs. There is also a place here in between where you can see a stupa kind of thing and a hold in the wall above which when combined looks like a candle. The security there took my camera and made sure I got the angle right 🙂 And then suddenly it started to pour. Good that I had got my camera cover with me for this trip because we knew that there would be enough rains. We did wait a bit but it never looked like it would cease, and since we had umbrellas with us (which we carried with us in this trip) we got out. But apparently, this temple has entrances on all four sides and we were at the side which wasnt where our driver was. So we had to call him up and then he figured out the entrance and was on our way to pick up us. While I was trying to safely pack my camera under a cover, a kind old lady who was selling something offered me a chair and I got to sit for some time (all that walking made this old lady a bit tired you see 😉 ) When the driver came , he was like, you didnt take the right turn inside the temple ? , we were like ‘ was there ever a turn anywhere? ‘ . Yeah…it is quite huge. So if you plan to meet the person on the other side, have a map and figure out which side you are in and dont get lost 😀

Banteay Srei

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It was heavily raining by the time we got into the van and it was around 2 pm and time for our lunch. At least I was goddamn hungry by the time we were done in Preah Khan. It took us a while in the heavy rains from Preah Khan to reach the next stop Bantey Srei, where there was also a restaurant (before the temple) and a small exhibition about the temple and its history etc. The driver showed us the way to the temple and left us for his own lunch and nap session. We had a nice lunch at Parvis Cafe that was attached to the temple complex with a large and chilled Cambodia Beer (I guess it was called Angkor Beer) (I wonder why I didn’t take a photograph of that! ) and then went to see this Bantey Srei. This is a proper Hindu temple, which is very evident by its structure and frames. Much like its counterparts in India (especially South India). And seems like there is one small place allocated here for a goddess. Yup, no other place we did hear anything about a Goddess so far. It had rained heavily and the earthly color of this temple was so nice 😀 I love that kind of brown. We saw some monks in there and looked like it was still a functioning temple too, because one area was cordoned off (because there was some idol and pooja related stuff there) We went around and we came back from the outer area to get a glimpse of the fields surrounding it, which also had a podium to have a full view of the temple.

Once we were done, we decided to do Tonle sap and were thinking of doing Kompong Khleang, but the driver said that it will be way too far and it would be better to do the Kompong Phluk and see the sunset in Tonle Sap lake, which anyways would take an hour or more to get from Bantey Srei (we were out North somewhere and Tonle Sap was down South). It might be because he didn’t want to drive for too long, but then it also made sense because we would get to see a Sunset. And Sunset at Tonle Sap was a recommended activity. So we agreed. I almost slept on the way, but since I was in the passenger seat, had to make sure I was awake.

Kompong Phluk
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When we reached the place or rather the entrance of it, we had to get a ticket for a boat (which obviously was owned by a friend of the driver, and the cost was around 21$ per person and covers the floating village and the sunset in Tonle Sap , it was highly priced). From there, the route to get to the boat was like the one above. A small muddy road (reminded us of Indian roads) which was more muddier due to the rains. And there was this moment when a huge car was in front of us along with a lot of buffaloes and both of the vehicles (our van and that car) had to do some precise maneuvering to ensure the other doesn’t fall off from the road, especially not on the buffaloes that were trying to squeeze in by us. But I guess the drivers are used to these antics. We went on for sometime and then finally landed in the place where we need to get in the boat. It was a motor boat and there was this father and son duo who didn’t speak English much (the small kid didn’t speak at all) who were taking us to through the lake. It was quite a long ride (almost 25 mins or so) before we reached the floating villages. It was quite a sight to see all those houses on the lake or the backwaters of it rather and kids all playing in the water, singing , dancing etc 🙂 After a ride through these floating houses, we were dropped off at a place where the eco tourism starts for the floating forest or the mangroves. It would cost us another 5 $ and we had to shift to a smaller boat and all. This was where A almost fell off while getting off from our boat. It was quite scary. We didnt opt for the tour because it was getting late for the Sunset and we didn’t want to spend 5$ for a tour through the mangrove trees in a small boat. So we went back to our motor boat (which I am not sure is very eco friendly, but every one uses it there) and we were on our way to the lake.

Tonle Sap Lake

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Our first sunset of the tour. Let me tell ya this lake does look like an ocean. Its that huge. No end in sight and the sunset , even though it was a lot cloudy was a beautiful scene. We were there for almost 15 mins or so and did wait for the sunset to happen and when it got all cloudy and no hope of it clearing we decided to start back. I have got so many photos of each angle of this place 🙂

The ride back to the car parking was again a long one through the floating villages and all. Finally came back and started our way to the hotel by 7 pm. It was quite a long day for us and we did manage to cover a lot of places for a day which were quite far from the hotel. We took the Tuk Tuk to go to a Nearly Khmer Restaurant. After the dinner (which was a Khmer Veg Amok , tasted like the Thai veg green curry, with lots of coconut water in it 😀 ) I decided to head back to the hotel, because I had opted for the sunrise view of AngkorWat in the wee hours the next day and on my way back dropped the rest in Pub Street for a night of pub hopping and fun. I only know that these three had good fun (doing shots) and came back by around 1 or so.

A long and fulfilling day I should say.

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