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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cambodia 1.14 - Part 1: Banteay Srei, Kabal Spean, Beng Mealea & Photo Album

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We had a new driver picking us up at 7 AM as we arranged a car for transportation today.
The driver was a young man who barely spoke any English.
He showed up with an old car from Thailand that had the driver seat on the right side.

I was really excited about today as we would venture out of Angkor Park for a change of scenery.

First stop: Banteay Srei
Distance:  45 minutes drive from Siem Reap
Entrance Fee: Included in the Angkor Park pass. 

Banteay Srei was very different from the temples we had seen so far.
It was much smaller in size.  The sandstone gave the temple the distinctive color.  The carvings were very decorative and exquisite. 

By the time we came out of the temple around 9 AM, there were buses after buses of tours arriving at the site.  I was glad that we beat the crowd.  After some traditional Cambodian noodle soup for breakfast, we were ready to go.

Second stop: Kbal Spean
Distance: 30 minutes drive from Banteay Srei & 45 minutes hiking to the riverbed stone carvings
Entrance Fee: Included in the Angkor Park Pass. 

I enjoyed the hiking more than the carvings. It was worth having a local to show you around as some of the carvings were hard to find.
We were told that the water was blessed by the gods and goddesses carved on the river bed.  The sacred water then fertilizes the soil of Angkor.

After the Kabal Spean, it was another solid hour to our next stop.  We were deep in the Cambodian country side: the water buffalos roaming in the rice fields; little kids laughing and playing in the woods; elders laying in canapes under elevated wooden shacks;  teenagers in school uniforms riding bikes; little piglets stuffed in bamboo cages on the back of motorcycles....

No doubt that the living conditions were harsh, but it was hard not to romanticize what we had seen.
Children had the cutest faces and brightest smiles.
People were at ease with their surroundings.
Time seemed to go at a slower pace in this part of the world.

Perhaps it evoked the nostalgia in me of the simpler eras that our ancestors had once lived when humans were one with nature.

We made frequent stops at the roadside vendors and outdoor markets and past by at least 4 wedding banquets blasting loud and festive music. 

Third stop:  Beng Mealea
Distance: 1 hour drive from Kabal Spean
Entrance Fee: $5

After we past the entrance checkpoint, a park keeper led us inside the temple where we did not encounter any tourists. The park keeper was an older woman with dark wrinkled face, small frame, and limped right leg when she walked.  The temple was mysterious and mystical.  Climbing on the rocks through the ruins of library and galleries, I felt I was in the "Indian Jones" movie set.  It was so surreal, even the park keeper felt like a character  in the movie.
The temple was so quiet that Hans and I whispered to each other, not wanting to disturb any spirits that were present.
We did not want to leave.  If it was not for the park keeper who were waiting for us, we could have stayed in this temple the whole day.
We thanked the park keeper and gave her some tips for taking the time to show us around.

1.14.2010 Part I

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