Angkor Day 2 (9 Sept 02): Thousand Lingas and Bantey Srei

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On the second day in Cambodia, Mark and I slept in, even though we had gone to bed early the night before. Our motorcycle drivers from the day before were waiting in front of the hotel when we stepped outside. The agenda for the day was to take a 35 km ride through the countryside to see the "River of a Thousand Lingas" with some waterfalls and stone carvings, and then to head back to see Angkor Wat itself.

The 30 km ride took us an hour and a half, as the road turned from a paved one-laner to a potholed clay one-laner. Again, words failed us as we tried to think about how to describe what we saw. Grass huts on stilts lined the road, naked babies played in the clay mud at the side, men bathed in their sarongs from a big cement container in their front yard, chickens, pigs, water buffalo, fields of rice as far as the eye could see, tuk-tuks and trucks and bikes and motorcycles and tourist busses all making their way down the narrow road.

When we finally got off the motorcycles, our drivers explained to us how the road we had been on continued on north to the Thailand border, and as few as 3 years ago was controlled by the Khmer Rouge and was a dangerous journey if not outright impossible. But now the people are free to move about as they wish. They went on to tell us that as few as 6 months ago, wild tigers roamed the mountain jungle we were about to hike through. But now that the mountain was open again to the public, the tigers were gone.

An uneventful 20 minute hike brought us to the waterfalls. The waterfalls were not that impressive themselves, but what was impressive was that the entire creek bed and the rocks around it were carved with Hindu figures from the same time period as the temples of Angkor. In the river bed iteslf, thousands of lingas had been carved (hence the name of the river). Again, the attention to detail and the beauty of the reliefs in the natural setting was overwhelming. The fact that no one was allowed to see them until only 6 months ago added to the thrill.

On the way back to town, we stopped at a small temple called Bantay Srei, and then went to Angkor Wat itself. It is billed as the largest temple in the world, and I believe it. Again, words failed us as we climbed the extremely steep and extrememly old carved stone staircases to the top. Un-imaginable. Phenomenal.

That night our motorcycle drivers took us to a Cambodian restaurant and left for the night. We walked back through town as motorcycles flew by and tuk-tuks pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride. Ahhh, Siem Reap: small but loud. Chaotic and dusty. Struggling to build and repair and turn itself into one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world overnight.

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This page contains a single entry by Stuart published on August 11, 2002 7:13 AM.

Angkor Wat Day 3 (10 Sept 02): Floating Village of Tonle Sap was the previous entry in this blog.

Angkor Day 1 (8 Sept 02): Climbing Temple Ruins is the next entry in this blog.

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