Land of ancient temple ruins
This is my second visit to Siem Reap. Maz has arranged with About Asia Travel Company to take care of us in Siem Reap. When we arrived at Siem Reap airport from Phnom Penh, See Lai, the tour guide was waiting for us. Because today was a cloudy day there was no possibility to see colourful sunset in the evening when cruising Angkor Thom mote. We understood.. So we requested to go straight for the mote cruise, to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the surrounding area. It seems June, July, August are low season because of the rain and few tourists come. True enough, it was drizzling when we got on the rowing boat but it was relaxing and calming, preparing us for the hectic Angkor tours for 4 days. The mote also becomes a source of livelihood for people living in the surrounding area.
They catch fish and made their own float from discarded foam.
We checked in Mulberry Boutique Hotel.
The hotel is small and sandwiched between houses but when we were inside we felt comfortable. Unfortunately the nearest neighbours have dogs and the barking in the morning was quite irritating. Maz booked us a family suite with 2 bathrooms. I took the lower level and she was on the upper level. The room was really comfortable for the price she paid.
The next day was a full day tour of temples ruins in Angkor. It was exciting seeing Ta Prohm again with its massive fig tree roots choking the ruins. It was intentionally left as part of a natural jungle but because of huge number of tourists, it has lost its jungle charm as plank walkways are built around it. Anyway it was unbelievable to see tall trees with huge roots above ground winding around the stones of the temple. It's not the temple that keeps me in awe but the powerful gigantic roots.
According the guide there are about 290 ancient temples in Siem Reap. Some are restored with the help of foreign governments like China, France, Japan, India etc. It's quite confusing to remember the names of these temples without a guide book as they look almost similar. The Angkor Archaeological Park is a World Heritage site and they are well preserved. Now Siem Reap has become a major tourists attraction in Cambodia. My second visit here sees much difference in the Park Management especially in controlling huge numbers of visitors. The entry tickets are checked and scrutinized at every entry point. A photo of your face is there at the ticket and it cannot be sold or given to somebody else if you don't use it. In certain part of the park big 40-seater buses were not allowed in and there are park officers everywhere to make sure no unwanted activities are carried out. They are quite efficient and the park is clean, so are the toilets and they use water too.
Since ours was a private tour, we were taken to temples that not many tourists would go.
One such temple ruin we went to was Ta Nei Temple or Jungle Temple. It was hidden behind shaded trees. Only cars and vans are allowed in. This was a Budhist Temple but was destroyed by the Hindus. There was no restoration done yet as a research is being carried out to find out the effect of weather to the stones. This temple is left as it is. Huge trees with massive roots can be found here too but unlike Ta Promh, the trees are outside the temple.
Another quiet temple we went which was Hindu, was Ta Keo Temple or the Mountain with Golden Peaks, constructed wholly with sandstones. As many multi-levels temples in Angkor, it has steep, narrow stone steps. This temple is still under restoration funded by the government of Republic of China.
One of the most attractively carved temple ruins we visited was Banteay Srei or Citadel of a Woman. The carving on pink sandstone was beautiful, intricate and delicate like a lady. It's Hindu and built on ground level only, about 38 km from Siem Reap town. Not many tourist groups go there because of the distance. carvings were so delicate that it seemed like they were done by women. Time and weather have taken a toll on some of the stones which have lost the pink colouring.
It was quite a tiring visit and by the afternoon we were back at the hotel to rest. On the way back, we stopped at a palm sugar stall and at a silver shop to buy something to bring home. In the evening we were able to explore on our own a little bit of Siem Reap town and to trace cafe Blue Pumpkin where I celebrated my birthday the first time I was there.
At the Old Market. we met Zamrah, a Muslim shop owner who sells Cambodian silk, clothes etc. and spoke fluent Malay. We chatted a while and she promised to help us if we need to visit and donate school supplies to the Islamic schools in Siem Reap near her house. She can be reached at tel. no. 092307720. Her shop is on the same road as the Blue Pumpkin Cafe and the Kokoon ( The local craft products shop). We needed to rest to prepare for a more hectic tour the next day.