Art, Creativity, Photography, Travel, Writing

Siem Reap part IV

Saturday 06.03we were rudely awakened at 5.15am by the wedding music again.  After an excellent  breakfast at 6.30 of fresh fruit, fresh orange juice and two boiled eggs with brown bread, we left just after 7am and drove to Chong Khneas to take a boat to Tonle Sap (boat tickets cost 10USD each). There were just the two of us plus our guide in our boat.

The boat goes up the waterway and then out into the lake which is the largest inland body of water in Cambodia (it’s impossible to see from one side to the other). In the wet season all the forest on either side of the waterway is under water for about a month and the rise and fall can be 8 metres in places.

this village will have to be relocated during the wet season

Our first glimpse of the floating village in the distance was an amazing sight.

The Buddhist monastery (in the middle of the picture), built out of concrete and rising several metres above the water surface, is the only permanent building there.

Everyone else lives on boats or rafts floating on oil drums. There was a floating school, floating volleyball court,

a floating catholic church,

floating pig pens,

vegetable gardens, etc.

several kids with pythons round their necks appeared by boat from nowhere wanting a dollar to be photographed but we steadfastly refused. Closer inspection revealed that  most of these people live in dire poverty in conditions which we would consider truly appalling. Many of them are refugees. Everything has to be transported by boat.

We stopped off at a fish and crocodile farm where there was an interesting exhibition of fish, eel and frog traps. Crocodiles were kept in pens under floating docks and the fish farm produced huge cat fish.

I would have liked to spend more time in the floating village as it was quite difficult taking photos in the bright early morning sunshine but the boat went straight back on the return journey, passing a “boatyard” in the making.

We met lots more boats heading out to the village so we were glad we had made the effort to get up and out early.

As we headed back towards Siem Reap we passed fields and fields of lotus paddies. I was able to climb down the embankment and walk out on a raised pathway among the flowers.

Our guide purchased a bunch of the green seed heads whose seeds are edible. You need to squeeze the acorn-sized seeds out through the holes and then peel them before you can eat them. They taste of and have a similar consistency to any fresh nut.

Then we went to visit the temples that are known as the Roluos group, starting at Lolei, then Preah Ko and finally Bakong, situated some 13km outside Siem Reap. Lolei was originally an island temple but there is no trace of that nowadays and seems to be overshadowed by the modern monastery which has grown up nearby. Its towers are made of brick and the holes for bonding the stucco on to the building were clearly visible. The figures in the niches and carved lintels were of sandstone which have stood the test of time much better than the brickwork.

Preah Ko, a small brick temple with six towers, had some good examples of remnants of the lime mortar used for decoration. Three figures of the kneeling bull, Shiva’s Nandi, face the steps and give the temple its modern  name “the sacred bull”.

a sanskrit inscription on one of the walls at Preah Ko

Bakong, the last and largest temple in the Roluos group, was another moated pyramid temple constructed of laterite blocks and bricks. I’m sorry to say that by this time I was templed-out and really too hot to take much interest in it so the guide and I just walked around the base of it.

Then we were driven back to Siem Reap to the training centre for craftspeople where we saw deaf mute artists painting on silk,

carvers of wood and stone, gilders and metal workers.

 Once the artisans are trained they are given help to return to their villages and to work independently. There is a shop on the premises (the same shop is also at the airport) and the items on sale were very high quality and priced accordingly.

Various photos taken in Siem Reap: a lotus vendor, a vendor of palm sugar juice, and flowersellers

These beautiful little baskets contained spices and teas. I wish now that I had bought a couple but I was afraid they  would get squashed in our suitcases.

bags made from recycled rice sacks

some of the housing close to our hotel

note the little umbrella protecting the spirit house

the road leading from our hotel up to the main road – very red and dusty in the dry season but can you imagine what it must be like in the wet season?!

the cheapest way to get around was in these tuk-tuks

early morning at the market

Our last night in Siem Reap and we went back to the Amok for dinner.  The starter was a cold beef salad served on a sort of rice puff

and the main course was stir fried pork and vegetables served in a banana leaf basket

We really enjoyed our visit to Siem Reap which was a lively and colourful place. There was plenty of choice of places to eat and a glass of beer only cost 50 cents (US)! I would love to go back towards the end of the rainy season when there is water in the moats and rivers and the temples would have more colour to them.

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