The next morning we somehow got up at 3:30am. We like to sleep, actually I love to sleep, so this was a real feat! Angkor Wat is the main attraction around Siem Reap and everything around the city is Angkor this…Angkor that…. It’s a complex of old temples dating back to the 1100’s dedicated to Vishnu. You can Wikipedia it J It was worth the visit, definitely interesting. The sunrise is popular to see but it was a bit of a cloudy day so the scene didn’t get too impressive until later around 7am. We were able to bring our motorcycle in and we rode from one temple to another, thank goodness, it was hot (as usual). We also visited Angkor Thom which is the old city. One of my favorite temples was Ta Phrom in the Angkor Thom complex. Much of the temples were destroyed and crumbled because of huge old trees that had grown right through the structures. The roots tore the buildings apart leaving a mess of sandstone blocks. Interestingly enough, the Archeological Survey of India is restoring the temple due to it being a part of Indian heritage (since it used to be a Hindu temple). I didn’t know, but the AIS has taken care of over 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world… from Southeast Asia to the Middle East. I thought it was impressive…but India has sooo much to see and offer. I’m sure there are plenty of things to restore or excavate what’s there but infrastructure, money blah blah blah. So right before we visited Angkor Wat, we heard on the news that the Indian state of Bihar wants to make an Angkor Wat copy, they need to consider doing some excavating of their own or do something for the people with that money but I guess I’m asking for too much. But can you imagine what you would find in UP or Bihar, the old civilization??? Anyways…Angkor Wat etc is definitely interesting and if you are into details and into history/art/architecture, there’s a lot to see and photograph. After a while you kind of get templed out… so we spent a full day there and decided to bounce. More than one day would have been too much for us, but it’s definitely beautiful and something that Cambodians should be proud to have especially since their art and history were so brutally destroyed or taken away from them for a period of time.
After resting up we went to the night market which was probably one of the best night markets we’ve gone to (Chiang Mai was good too) in terms of size and things to see. One thing I definitely wanted to see was an apsara dance show. Most of the shows were quite expensive and included a buffet dinner but I found a free show at the Temple Restaurant. Every night from 7-9pm they have a free show of about 6-7 classical and folk dances with live music and singing. We had a great dinner and got to see the show for free, much cheaper than the other shows. As for the actual show, it was better than I thought it would be and I felt thoroughly satisfied. The classical dancing is a little bit slow but elegant and pretty. Guys may get a bit bored though, but hubby’s always a good sport!
The next day we decided to head out, we had to get to Bangkok! We decided to make a stop in Battambang but before that we stopped at a silk farm and workshop. I love textiles, embroidery and all that good stuff! At Les Chantiers Ecoles, they gave us a free tour of the facility from feeding the silk worms to the finished products. The most interesting thing to me was how they take the silk threads from the cocoons. They basically boil the cocoons to extract the thread and one cocoon produces 400m of silk thread! The first part of the thread or first cover of the cocoon is the raw silk and after the cocoons become transparent they start to take out the fine silk threads. The actual thread is a golden yellow color like the cocoons and they color them white later on or use natural roots, bark etc to give color. Ugghh is was all just too beautiful, I couldn’t get over it!
In the afternoon we got to Battambang and settled in to our guest house. That evening we decided to get in some of the sights. We ended up going to Phnom Sampeau where there was a complex of temples and a couple of caves. One of the caves was the Killing Cave. Before we got to the cave we were greeted by a little boy probably in middle school. He insisted on showing us around and we obliged. His English wasn’t great but it was somewhat understandable and it was a chance for him to practice his English. The little guy told us that this cave is where the Khmer Rouge used to beat and then throw (whether dead or alive) people, mostly kids and women. Once you go down you see two cases of skulls and bones and pieces of clothing. There’s a reclining Buddha which is definitely fitting as Buddha’s position signifies his death or reaching Nirvana. It’s a sombering experience and a little frightening especially since it was getting dark and there were bats hanging about. Oh what these people have gone through, I can’t imagine! After tipping the kid and taking some pics for him on the bike, we started back to the guest house. Nick saw a trail on the way and took it. It led to a dead end but it had been a while since we had done any offroad so it was somewhat suspenseful!
When we got back we were chatted up by a motorbike taxi guy. He wanted to know more about Hinduism. I guess everywhere you look in Cambodia and Thailand there’s some reminder. Even in a random village in Thailand, there was a restaurant with tons of pics of Shiva Ji at their altar. So this guy wanted to know the whole lineage. Unfortunately I could only answer two questions…Yes, Shiva is married to Parvati and their son is Ganesh. He asked if we had any books but unfortunately no. We talked to him about how Cambodians feel about all the progress that’s been made (so many pick-up trucks and Range Rovers around!), the effects of tourism, and what the real situation is. He said the money doesn’t trickle down to the average person and life’s a struggle. I guess it’s expected. Seems like that’s the story everywhere! Another interesting thing was that people were really happy about the fact we were from India. People would say to us ‘you the same color as me!’ And they were really excited about that. Felt good to be appreciated for our brown-ness at least somewhere in the world.