Girls finish the Angkor temple tour with a sneeze!

Trip Start Feb 29, 2004
Trip End Apr 12, 2005

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Friday, July 30, 2004

The morning was a bit subdued due to a little...quibbling with the driver about money for the tuk tuk, but we set off for the loooooooong, slllooooooooowwwwww ride up to Bantey Srei, about 40km north. I had also managed to pick up a raging cold overnight--poor Carmen, the last time we took a holiday together in Bulgaria at the Black Sea I also got sick (but that's cause she tried to kill me with her Special G+T's....).

Bantey Srei ('the Citadel of Women') was only recently (1998) re-opened to the public due to former Khmer Rouge activity in the area, but now it's perfectly safe. It's ooooh'd and aaaaaah'd in all the guides as a 'jewel of a temple', not to be missed, the most outstanding stone carvings in Angkor, etc. It did have some remarkable carvings, and the buildings were made with a very nice pinkish sandstone. But it's small, and because much of it is under restoration atm, unfortunately a good chunk was taped off and we couldn't access the inner courtyard, where a lot of the really good stonework is. But what we saw was pretty cool.

We then bounced back down the scenic roads to Bantey Samre, a quite interesting temple because of the inner moats/pools that look to have surrounded the main sanctuary in the center of the courtyard. We could really envision the idea of the ancients lounging around on floating mats, sipping cool drinks whilst idling among the temples...Or maybe we were just thirsty.

Then we went to Ta Keo, the first temple in the Angkor area to be made completely of sandstone. Well, it's all sandstone, but it wasn't actually completely made because it was left unfinished and has virtually no decoration or carving at all--an interesting contrast to what we'd already seen. One historian claims it was hit my lightning and because it was considered a bad omen, it was chucked aside during the last stages of construction. A shame, because it's pretty impressive at 50m high, including 5 towers at the top of the main 5-tiered hulking square pyramid.

We had an interesting time there mostly due to sharing the top level with about 80 Thai tourists on a package holiday from Bangkok. They all had matching red shirts and a loud guide who we found out later was a history professor. He droned--I mean lectured via a microphone and a very annoying loudpeaker, which was carried around by a guy who looked like he had a night job as a DJ. When we got there, one of the group was busy snapping photos of the thinnest old man I've seen in Cambodia. He was dressed only in a sarong around his bony hips and a checked Khmer scarf (a kramah) and some kind of traditional stringed instrument on his lap. The photographer was shoving a huge lens in the poor guy's face, and occasionally would reach out to adjust a thin leg or a bony knee to some more photogenic (but completely unnatural) pose. The subject looked like he'd really rather be elsewhere, but I think he was weighing the odds and hoping for a nice financial windfall from the session. The photographer ended up giving him 2000 riel, 50 cents, for the 10 minute ordeal.

After the group left, Carmen and I were called over by the old man, who by that time had retired sensibly to the shade of a doorway. We tried a conversation but ended up in body language. He wanted to sell us some souvenirs--little Buddha statues and, HEY, cute, little monkeys! And they have bananas in their hands and their arms move. Oh shit, that's not a banana...And we had a huge laugh as we discovered that if you bounce a lever on the monkey's back, his arm moves up and down and he...erm--cover your eyes, grandma--he jerks off! Oi, we had tears in our eyes we were laughing so hard, much to the amusement of the old man, who I saw in a very different light then!

After we zipped off north to Ta Som which had another cool tree enveloping the gate tower at the backside, we'd just about had it and decided that a nap was in order! We also decided that a day off doing nothing was in order to deal with my sneezes and fever, so we changed guesthouses to the Golden Temple Villa, a new place full of very nice people and the all-important satellite tv to veg in front of while you're sick!
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