More military, more Khmer sites

Trip Start Aug 30, 2012
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112
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Trip End Mar 21, 2013


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Flag of Thailand  , Surin,
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sitting outside the coffee shop about 6:45 writing up these notes when Max appears with another strong frothy coffee to help wake me up.  I slept a lot better last night although still woke up with a stiff neck.  We were supposed to have been leaving at 8:00 but a phone call tells us that where we are going is about to be visited by some senior Thai army officers-perhaps the same ones we bumped into yesterday-and it would be best if we delayed our arrival until they have left.  About 9:00 a small group of us set off in Dave's truck for the short drive to the Huaituptun Huaisamran Wildlife Sanctuary in the Dongkrek mountains. This place is crawling with soldiers and you are no longer allowed entry to the site without permission.  Luckily we are met by Max's friend who is a wildlife ranger here and who escorts us through the military checkpoints.  Leaving the site office we drive up a steep dirt track until we reach an army camp at the top. We leave the truck and walk into the camp which is full of bunkers and trenches.   Outside each 'hut' each soldier has tidily stacked their belongings topped with their hard hats and M16s probably as a resultof the recently completed inspection.  We walk up to the edge of the escarpment which affords great views into Cambodia in the valley below, obviously why this place has been chosen for a military camp.  The escarpment edge is lined with reinforced bunkers and a few pairs of high powered binoculars are perched on tripods which give us a great close up view of the edge of O'Smach town over the border.  A Buddha figure stands beneath a small shelter looking out towards Cambodia but it seems pretty bad form to me to see that the soldiers have been laying their M16s against the statue !!  One of the soldiers we chat to actually comes from Roi Et and knows our neck of the woods well.  Returning to the Sanctuary reception we visit a small museum that contains a few mangy stuffed animals and little else.  We descend past the Huay Ta Kan Dam built by the Japanese in 1982 and the picturesque reservoir that has built up behind it.
Our next stop is the Chong Chom Cambodian market selling mile after mile of laregly rubbish.  Leaving the market we drive to within 100m of the Thai-Cambodia border crossing at Chong Chom-O'Smach before making a U-turnand returning to the coffee shop for lunch. 
Jai has a bit of a dodgy tummy today as a result  of too much red wine last night and retires for a lie down with a few tablets.  We sit around chatting for a while before Dave, Aussie Dave and myself head out in the truck to find a few more Khmer ruins we have identified on Google Earth.  Within 10km we pull off onto a farm track that takes us to Prasat Beng Sanctuary, now little more than a pile of stones within a U-shaped moat.  A further 10km and we eventually find another site that even has an English information board; Prasat Muen Chai.  No carvings etc have ever been found on the ruin here so it has not proved possible to positively identify or date the site and there is little left here to see.  About 100m away stands the tower remains of Prasat Ban Prasat.  This site has been recently studied and the site has been dug out with free standing stones all identified and grouped together to one side.  Alledgedly built asanursing home by King Jayavarman VII in the 13th Century.  The tower looks as though it would fall down immediately without the heavy steel frame that now supports it and there is little else left here.
We drive back to Kap Choeng on a very circuitous route along mainly dirt roads and are in great need of a cold beer upon our arrival to dampen down the dust.
Jai spends most of the evening in bed and I join her shortly after 20:00.
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