Dragged myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 4:15am. Didn't even bother to bathe, just briefly washed my face, changed and met with the others at the lobby. Hok was still in his PJs or house clothes or something hehehe. Nobody talked much on the way there, it was still very dark outside... But I was prepared! Have my insect repellent at an arm's reach. Ha!
Hok handed me the extra handphone that he has and also a torchlight (if you notice, there are no streetlamps or lanterns or any sort of electricity-powered devices around the temples) and told us to give him a call when we were done, which should be around 7am.
It was pitch dark all the way in, I think the scariest part was crossing the bridge over the moat. Like, what if some random tourist was still having a hangover and couldn't see or walk straight ended up falling 5 meters down into the moat. Hmm...
There was already a small group of people parked by the pond in front of the Angkor Wat. We found a good spot and waited.
And waited.... Until I had to pee, Ev accompanied me to a nearby WC (thank goodness they have them nearby. Cannot imagine if I have to squat by a tree and relief myself T__T). Unlike the other toilets located nearby temples, where you only need to show your temple pass for free use of the toilets, here I had to pay a few hundred riels (which amounts to less than 50 Malaysian cents I think). On the way back, we spotted these two buck-teeth dogs stuffed into a basket hehehe.
Pickles' long lost cousins.
Because it rained the day before, we were actually confident that we will be getting a good sunrise that morning. To our disappointment, after more than an hour's wait, this is the best shot of the sunrise we could get....
I mean it's not bad la, but it's not awesome! TY said he's gonna come back again the next day before we realized that we are already on the third day of the three-day-pass. Too bad.
Nevertheless it was still a great effort for all of us to gamely wake up on time (albeit grudgily), rather than to miss it all out and stay in bed, eh? Great group of travelmates :)
So anyways, it was about 6:45 and we were ready to leave. I called Hok with his phone and he took a while to pick up. I think he went back to doze hehehe. Got back to the hotel and had our breakfast there. I tried the noodles this time and it wasn't bad at all. More toasted croissants and bacon :D Oh got free flow of fruits also, white-fleshed dragon fruit, bananas, papayas and pineapples.
After breakfast, got back up to shower and for more temples again today.....
Today's highlight was to visit the Banteay Srei, a popular temple but is located about 45 minutes from Siem Reap town. But 20 minutes later, Hok brought us to another temple called Banteay Samre. The temple complex has some pretty interesting features to it.
Uh. Nice tower.
Don't these look just like Hallowe'en pumpkins? The others just rolled their eyes at me when I innocently suggest what I see in my mind. Such great friends.
Overall, there are great photo ops in Banteay Samre, but after so many temples in one go, you'll start feeling they look almost the same... batu batu batu... I mean there are genuinely nice temples, but Banteay Samre doesn't pop out to be any extraordinary from the rest.
So after 40 minutes or so in Banteay Samre, we hopped back into Hok's Camry and continued our drive up North (or was it Northeast?). We were getting deeper into the outskirts and without warning, Hok pulled the car over by a local village house.
And just like that he walked over to these group of locals working, and started taking pointing and talking to us, all the while none of these people batted an eyelid lol. I suppose they are used to it. These people are in the process of making palm sugar, one of the main commodities here.
It's just like our sea coconut here. These can be eaten raw too. The locals take the juice out of the palm fruits which are filled into bamboo vessels. Then boil them over fire until the liquid evaporates, leaving a sticky substance.
The sticky substance are scooped out and filled into little round moulds made from palm leaves, wait till they are dry, and then they're done. We tried some, they are really sweet! Tastes a lot like our gula merah here :) Bought quite a few to bring back, after all, they are all-natural, all-organic! Also bought a coaster made of palm leaves (I know- of all things to get hehe) for my room lah.
My favourite temple in all of Siem Reap!
Banteay Srei, or 'Citadel of Woman' is built using pink sandstones, giving the temple its distinctive reddish-pink hues. Call us unlucky but such as we are about to start our tour on Banteay Srei, two buses full of Chinese tourists spilled into the entrance lol! They are loud and rude -.- We had to let them get a head start before we can view the temple in peace.
The carvings on the walls and around the temples are done in minute detail. The most elaborately decorated one I have ever seen so far.
While we were waiting for the slow TY to slowly inch through the place, we saw a mindless tourist climbing over the barrier and in the process, reducing a few hundreds-years-old sandstone rubble into .... dust. The equally mindless boyfriend some more can happily take photos of her vandalising a heritage.
Don't you just love the beautiful and intricate carvings of the temple? Such work... on the pillars, archways... lovely. The temple is on the miniature side. I can't imagine who can go through the little doorways except for dwarfs and 5 year old kids.
Numerous landmine victims playing music at the end of the temple. It certainly adds a nice touch to the whole experience of visiting the temple. Donations are encouraged, and this is one of the cases where I don't mind donating. At least these people are actually doing something to earn the money. Not some able-bodied person just begging for money without effort.
Lol.Squatting in what little shade I can find :p
Our tour around Banteay Srei took more time than expected (if we were to follow according to the itinerary, we would have completed two other destinations by the same hour) and thus make do with lunch at a nearby restaurant.
Clockwise from, uh, that yellow thing on the top right corner: Coconut cream soup (this was what I jotted down, but frankly I can't remember what it's like, so must have been pretty forgettable), sour fish soup with lemongrass (not bad), sweet and sour pork (the best among the rest. fresh and filling), and lastly fried chicken with french fries on the side (kampung chicken again!! sibeh chewy).
When we were done with lunch, it was easily 2pm by then. Hok drove us to a mine museum. This museum was set up by an ex-Khmer Rouge child soldier called Aki Ra. We paid $2 to enter the museum and the staff played a 30-minute long documentary about the founder of the museum. It was quite a sad one to watch. Countless Cambodian kids have become victims of landmines and losing their limbs in the attack. These kids are taken in by Aki Ra and his wife Hourt. They provided shelter, food and also sent these kids to school.
In the documentary, we watched in horror when Aki Ra deactivates or de-mines explosives. He would use sticks, or even parangs to hack at the casing before performing a controlled explosion.
The documentary serves to remind us that the war is only a part of the problem to the people. The aftermath of the war will linger long after and creates a bitter reminder to the victims of landmines. I am once again, reminded of how fortunate I am. These people, seemingly in another world, have gone through so much, so young in their live :(
I'm almost guilty to write up on what we did right after the mine museum. Like super contradicting. But I assure you no living thing is harmed in the process. Unless you consider paper to be alive.
About 10 minutes' drive away from the mine museum, is a commercial shooting range. The place carries an impressive range of weapons like M16, AK47, U-ZI and K-50s, just to name a few. Prices are pretty hefty too... We finally settled on the M16. 30 rounds of shots will set us back by $50!
To tell you the truth I was scared shit hehehe.... Heard plenty of horror stories about the kickbacks that can bruise you and all, but to my disappointment, we were only shooting training bullets! Sort of like shooting blanks la. So.... a bit the potong stim, but at the very least, that's one experience I've added under my belt : Firing M16s in Cambodia ;) LOL.
Shoot d then must do ganas ganas shot.
The shooting range and the mine museum were the two destinations we would have completed before lunch had we not spend too much time at Banteay Srei lol.... Then, it was already around 4:30pm. As much as we wanted to take a cool shower, we discarded the idea to fully utilize our time here. And so, it was the time for Phnom Bakheng.
This temple was built atop a hill. It's very popular for sunset ops. Although it was still pretty early for sunset (the sun sets at around 6:30pm here), Hok wanted us to get up there early so we can get a nice spot for photographs as the crowd up to Phnom Bakheng is usually large.
It took us 10 minutes to climb up the hill at a steady pace. I wasn't expecting much from this site, as I am quite contented with Angkor Wat and Banteay Srei, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Numerous renovations still ongoing....
Steep, steep climb upwards! Steepest I may say.
The view from top of Phnom Bakheng is awesome!! On one side, we were able to catch the Angkor Wat, on another, the West Baray (a reservoir) then can also see the DHL hot air balloon (not the fancy type that you go in, then set sail. It's just a stationary balloon, only moves up or down. Some more costs something like $10 I think.
Spot any historic building on the top pic?
Just right in the middle of the picture, in the between the trees!
The symbolic Angkor Wat, complete with the ugly green nettings in its full glorious display. Hmm.... come to think of it, my camera zoom not bad also eh ? Lol. This is one of the pictures in minority taken from my camera ;)
The group of tourist behind me is just a small number from the total people that made their way up by the time the sun is almost setting. We settled down on one edge of the temple top, with excellent view of the West Baray and the oncoming sunset. When it got to around 5:45pm, my goodness! It was getting way congested up here. The people behind us starting inching closer and closer. Wouldn't have been so bad if there was a bit of breeze but the air was stagnant, and uncomfortably warm. Some more got some ants from dunno which lubang bit me! A few times!
By the way, because of the number of tourists to Phnom Bakheng, it is one of the temples at risk of damage. When we later related our experience to Hok, he says that there is normally about 300-400 people during off-peak season. Come peak season, the number can go up to 1000! Siao! Can crumble liao kot.
One of the best shot I looted from TY's cam. We couldn't get a nice sunset shot as the sky wasn't clear enough :( The sun evaded us yet again....
Sun doing peek-a-boo.
Soon as it was about 6:15pm, a few of the temples guides started to call for everyone to descend the temple. Huge crowd leaving, really pening. Had to wait for the slow ones up front :@. Completely sticky, grimy, and stinky later, (again, I bet Hok had a lot of trouble not to wrinkle his nose too obviously) we were driven back to the hotel to freshen up.
Sharp at 7, Hok collected us from the hotel and this time, he will bring us to a restaurant largely frequented by the locals. When we arrived at the restaurant, I had a few bits of mild surprises. First, two rows of young Cambodian girls all dressed up line the entrance and greeted us. Secondly, the restaurant was set outdoors and barely any lighting! How to eat la if I can't see a thing? Got kacuak also I won't know then how?
Luckily though, we had the option to either dine outside (where it's all dark and possibly can eat kacuak) or there are a few mini huts where wall fans and ceiling lights are attached. Huts it is!
Hok isn't camera shy, that's for sure :p
This place.... though dodgy, serves the best food! Salivating just thinking of them right now. Hok was very apologetic that this place doesn't serve soup lol! We told him that we didn't mind. Funny guy.
Fried rice. A little on the oily side but nobody's complaining. Drooolllll........... See even the fried rice also contains plenty of fiber.
A sort of squid kerabu, with daun kaduk. Double thumbs up!
I think I can flood the floor with saliva... :D
A sort of spicy chicken. Very much like kong po chicken hehehe but this is way better. Chicken pieces are perfectly caramelised....
Fried chicken. Kampung chicken again. Meh.
Chicken pieces cooked with julienned ginger and spring onions. This is also sedap leh. Pretty much all sedap lah.
Grilled and stir fried corns kernel. The taste is quite good but I was a wee bit disappointed with the texture of the corn. I was expecting juicy ones but these were a bit 'lau hong' for lack of better description lol.
Even better still, was the bill. In addition to a couple of large Angkor beers and a Coke (courtesy of ZX who was falling sick) , I would have stabbed the price somewhere between $25-30. When the bill arrived, Ev who was sitting beside Hok (normally Hok checks our bill before we pay) peered over and informed us it looked like $66. Eyes bulged, we thought, nah cannot be, some more we're eating at a local restaurant! Lol. Anyways, because the restaurant caters for the local, the figure on the bill was in Riels. R66,300, which came to about $16.50! What a steal! That's close to RM50 for a large meal to feed five adults, inclusive of beer. I'm falling in love with this city :D
This entry is starting to feel cheong hei to me... okla after dinner, picked up some more bottled water and aspirin for the gin na before ended up in Pub Street again because of u know who... Same old story.... Day 4 has some pretty interesting sights.... the Tonle Sap :D