The next two days we had plans to go to an off-the-beaten-path temple group called Koh Ker (pronounced Kah Kay). We had joined a tour group that would take us there, plus to some other temples along the way and back. It was expensive, and we could probably have done it ourselves for cheaper, but it was nice to have the guide, etc.
Unfortunately, that night I had caught something (probably what Kenji had), and was pretty sick for the entire first day. We still did everything according to schedule, but it was quite an effort, especially the path up the mountain to the river!
We were picked up at 7am, checked out after breakfast, and headed to the first stop, a temple called Banteay Srei.
The temple was really beautiful, with deep wall carvings and interesting statues. It was small, but pretty. It also lay right in the middle of the government forces and the Khmer Rouge during the civil war, but luckily it was agreed by both sides not to destroy the temples. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really enjoy it as well as I wanted.
Next we drove to Kbal Spean, the river of 1000 lingas. It is about 45 minutes walk from the parking area, made longer by the fact that I needed to rest every 10 minutes or so. Usually a hike like that would be absolutely no problem, but I was feeling weak and dizzy overall. The river is really beautiful… it was the dry season, so a lot of the lingas are exposed. The carvings are beautiful, and that waterfall felt SO GOOD! It was great to cool off! I took a mini-nap at the top as well, and felt well enough to go strait down without stopping any. The car air-conditioning was really nice though. We had lunch, then headed toward Koh Ker. We were going to see the temple in the morning, and stay in a nearby village for the night.
So the village. It was, um, an interesting stay to say the least! First off, they only had power from about 6pm-10pm. After that, there were no fans. Before that, you could barely hear anything over the generators. Second, it was the last day of the Ploughing Festival, which I guess is some sort of important Buddhist festival, I don’t know, but basically the temple in town blasted the Buddhist chanting ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Guess who got little to no sleep that night? Actually I had earplugs so I wasn’t so bad. I also utilized the ipod to drown it out at points, but it was not a comfortable nights sleep. It was also HOT, with no air conditioner or fan, and the sounds were even louder with the windows open. So either it was loud, or we had a breeze.
When we got in I napped, woke up for dinner and a quick walk through town, then napped again. Then after dinner we went to sleep SUPER early, although we certainly didn’t get a full sleep. Luckily by morning I was feeling MUCH much better (though not 100%), so had a better time that day!
Freak rain storm which Kenji just HAD to go play in!
From there it was a short drive to the temples of Koh Ker, of which there were many and I didn’t really pay attention to names, so I’ll just post pics.
The first, spectacularly tree-covered
We headed back toward Siem Reap and stopped at a place for lunch near our last temple of the tour, the one I was most looking forward to: Beng Melea. It was supposedly really overgrown and unrestored, so I really wanted to see it. But first we had to wait out the rainstorm that came up while we ate!
Lunch while we waited
Paths built when they filmed Tomb Raider take you around, but you can also go climbing around inside. I insisted despite the rain, so there was a woman there with a vice-like grip on my wrist to lead us through. I noticed Kenji had no one to help him around!
Finally tired of temples, we climbed back into the car to go to Siem Reap. We grabbed a snack on the way… sweet rice cakes cooked in bamboo! They were SO good, I wish we had gotten more, or at least a bigger one! I wasn’t feeling hungry when we stopped but by the end of the trip I was glad for it!
We checked into our small hotel for the one night. It was the cheapest hotel we were staying in, and probably also the worst of the trip I wasn’t happy with it, but it was close to downtown and also only a night, so it was fine.
The next morning we left for a day in Phnom Penh before heading to the beaches of Koh Kong!