Cambodia and Laos, Angkor and Luang Prabang - Part 6
Dinner and rest
We are taking it easy tonight. After a brief foray into the market to buy some more gifts we decide to go and eat. We have seen an open air barbeque on the forecourt of a hotel across the road from the Pub Street area and decide that this is what we would like to eat tonight. We choose the squid, pork and chicken which are grilled on a wire mesh over charcoal, we wash it down with several jugs of Angkor beer. It has turned out to be a very busy day with the extra trips we have added to the itinerary. We are contentedly tired and make our way back to Kazna around 9.30 p.m. for some welcome rest. Tomorrow we are off to the temples at Roluos. Later start, around 9.30 a.m. so we ask for breakfast at 8.30 a.m.
The Temples at Roluos
We are picked up at 9.30 a.m. as arranged and told that today is not too busy. The Roluos temples this morning which are about 10km out of town away from the Angkor complex although still considered part of it. We will then be dropped off in town around noon where we can sort out our own lunch and then a pick up at 3.00 p.m. from Kazna to take us to a ferry boat to take us to the lake, Tonle Sap, to see human life on and around the lake and to appreciate the sunset.
We are driven through town and head out to the Roluos area. Rolous consists of three main temples and are the oldest temples in the Angkor area open to tourists, built around the late 9th century. The temples consist of Bakong, Preah Ko and Lolei. We start at Lolei which gives a first impression of being the most ‘ruined’ of all the temples we have seen so far and yet also has a living, working temple right there in the temple grounds. The temple brick work has been laid bare but the carvings of devatas and other deities seem incredibly fresh. Some young monks are fooling around with water nearby and we are distracted for a moment as we watch them, for their part they seem to be oblivious of the tourists wandering around their shrine. Our guide points out the intricacy of the carvings on the various lintels, they are indeed very fine. It seems hard to believe that they are over 1,000 years old.
Next up is Bakong which is just a few moments away. The atmosphere around here feels quite different. Again there is a modern working temple here and to approach the older one we have to pass along a bridge on which brightly coloured flags are fluttering in the breeze. The temple is located next to a small lake which gives it some added ambience. Nagas form the two sides of the bridge and the central tower which we can see from the far end looks imposing but inviting at the same time. This temple is quite popular with quite a lot of people about together with, for the first time, quite a few locals, probably came to the local temple as we are getting near Cambodian New Year now.. This temple is again dedicated to Shiva but what makes this temple stand out are the elephant statues at each corner of the first several tiers of the central tower.
Time to move on to the last temple of the morning, Preah Ko, or sacred bull, so-called because of three separate statues of Nandi situated in the forecourt facing the three towers at the front of the temple, there are also three towers behind these.. This temple was built by King Indravarman and is dedicated to Shiva although we are told that it is also a funerary temple. The three towers at the front are dedicated to Jayavarman II, the founder of the Khmer empire. The lefthand tower to Prithivindreshvara, King Indravarman's father and the righthand tower to Rudreshvara, his grandfather. The three towers at the rear are dedicated to their respective wives. I like this place a lot and although by now nearly noon and baking hot I hang around taking photographs somewhat reluctant to leave knowing of course that this is also the last temple visit for us in Angkor.
Interestingly I am not ‘templed out’ as some people say they get. I have enjoyed every single one and know in my heart that I would not turn down another opportunity to come to this very magical place. In my opinion one of the seven ancient wonders of the world and one of the absolutely must see places in Southeast Asia. OK, off to town for lunch now and a bit of a wander before our sunset boat trip on Tonle Sap.
We are dropped off in town by the old market and decide to have a look around before taking lunch although in fact a drink would be more welcome right now so we sit on the terrace of the Cafe Central and order a fresh lime soda for me and a beer for my son. It is hot and we are grateful to get out of the sun for a while. Having finished our drinks I ask for the bill and give the waiter a $20 bill. He returns a while later, longer than I had expected for such a small bill, and he is looking a bit sheepish.'Problem?''Yes, sir' he replies.'We cannot accept this note because it is damaged.' I take a look and there is a tiny rip in the bill which of course is getting bigger as he takes the note back off me and shows me again. 'Maybe we can change it down the road.' Not really yet comprehending what is going on I say OK and we go a few stores down to a money changer. He explains the problem to the guy who takes the note and examines the rip. 'I'll give you $18 for it' he says. I'm getting a bit annoyed by now and tell him it is either worthless or worth $20 not some arbitrary amount that he is willing to give me because it has a tiny rip. So we leave having achieved nothing other than probably making the rip larger! Back at Cafe Central I pay with an undamaged note but complain bitterly. So it was this experience that alerted us to the fact that damaged bils, in any way, are not acceptable in Siem Reap. Nice crispy clean ones please!
We wandered round the market buying a few pieces of Cambodian cloth used for table runners and shawls, made of cotton and silk. We baragained hard and got acceptable prices. We then moved to the Khmer Kitchen which we had heard about from others. Not too busy at lunch time and we enjoyed some amok and vegetable broth and rice, reasonably priced too. We wander slowly back to Kazna as we still have an hour before our pick up. We go up to our room, turn on the aircon and take a digestive nap.
At 3.00 p.m. our driver and guide are waiting for us in the forecourt and we drive out of town to a strange looking place which seems to be where all tourists come to collect their boat to go out to Tonle Sap. There is a melee of people tourists, guides, boat operators, all sorts. Organized chaos. There is a central place where we have to pay, it is $15 per head and we are shown down to a rickety old boat for just the three of us...the guide and ourselves. There are a miriad of boats all ready to start their journey and the water is whipped up to a filthy dirty brown by the numerous propellors not aided by the fact that obviously this tributary going down to Tonle Sap is very shallow, a fact attested to by the various boats we saw who had run aground both on the outward journey and coming back.
We make our way down the waterway past some very strange looking houseboats and grubby villages by the waterside and about an hour later we find ourselves right on the outskirts of Tonle Sap. It is huge, stretching away as far as the eye can see. We have about 45 minutes before sunset and so we motor around the various floating villages that occupy this stretch of the lake and, who knows, all around it for all we know. We are told that many of them are Vietnamese who were displaced when Cambodia was at war with Vietnam and chose to live here. Small boats dart up to us, like mosquitoes, looking to sell us beer and soft drink but we decline. There are lots of them. The experience is a little bit voyeuristic as you look at these floating residences where these people lead their lives in evident abject poverty. We see some cooking, some bathing, others just getting on with whatever work it is that they do. All rather strange.
We are taken out to a viewing platform, obviously part of the 'work' is catering to tourists. This platform has a sideline in rearing crocodiles who have a pen in the hold of the pontoon. We climb up and watch the sun begin to set, there are about fifty other people there with us and numerous others on other nearby viewing platforms. But the sunset is not going to be a classic as there is too much low level cloud on the horizon, so looking to avoid the inevitable return crush I tell our guide to ask the boatboy to leave now. We are ahead of the game although I note others following us soon after we leave and we take our shots of the sunset as we motor back. It is dusk and more difficult to find our way back to our starting point as the water level appears to have dropped even further in the tributary but 45 minutes later we arrive safely back to where the car is parked and are driven back through the gloom to Kazna.
I didn't enjoy the trip really, it had all felt rather dirty and squalid and the sunset had been nothing to write home about. Nevertheless it had been an experience so all I will say is make your own mind up but don't make special time for it.