From Diary 1 and the
south-western wilderness, I now explore the north-western Cambodia.
3/1 I am up early - maybe too early, and finding breakfast causes a problem. Then just before I reach the car, Gloria Jean's offers pasteurise and tea. I go for a medium mug, and get a bucket of scolding hot tea. It remain that way after I have finished eating, and I get it in a "to-go" cup.
I put it in the car, and start looking for an ATM. But the car won't open, and it turns out the battery is flat, and not the little one in the remote. And I did NOT leave the lights on. Could be causes by a short circuit due to yesterday's rattling around, the rain which felt during the night or just the car getting back at me? I consider my self lucky it didn't give up on that long, desolate road yesterday - same goes for the rain!
I call the rental company, but they consider it my
problem. I ask a girl in the nearest shop, and her first customer know a
mechanic. He drive me through town on his moped, but his friend is busy.
He find another one nearby, and he grab some tools and a starter-battery
and jump on our moped.
I have two sights around Battambang, both fifteen kilometres out. I chose what seems to be the less interesting to start with; Prasat Banan, which is an old ruin on a mountain top. A staircase with 358 steps leads up to the top, but the surroundings sucks me in. Post-huts in a mirror lake, another lake with a bunch of white herons and huge trees, cliffs of almost marble and attractive nature in general.
I do a long walk in the area, and see some of the biggest butterflies, I have ever seen. And numerous other species of butterflies too. Some skinks are too quick, just like the grasshoppers. I have more success with the giant lianas and the few flowers.
Then I find a cave. It is more a sink-hole, but the bats love it, and someone have places a few religious figures in it. The ladders leading down to it, is slimy, rotten and seems unused for ages. I check if I can climb up another way, before I head down the cave. On the way up, two steps give in.
I follow a small path up the mountain, hoping to
reach the top. And I do. Or at least the long set of stairs leading up
to it. It is a fantastic
This 11th century temple was build by king Udayadityavarman II in the
same style as Angkor Wat. Here are five towers, which have had extensive
rock carvings and probably colouring. The light is perfect, so is the
sky, and I get some fine photos.
I take the stairs down, and see a new Buddha-thing
and the lake. A cup of tea, served with both fresh- and condensed milk,
while I look over the lake. And no tourists but me. Could be worse...
And it is for sure. It is a beautiful road, leading thought newly sown and harvested rice patches, lotus ponds, cattle, huts and nature. I see an overloaded moped, a farmer drying his rice, Indian oxen, ponds with lotus flowers and then the Phnom Sampeau, way up on a pointy mountain.
Before I get to it, I check-out one of the fancy
looking temples, which I have passed a few of. They seems to be closed, but the
exterior is impressive.
I pass some more or less deserted tiny shops, and get to one of the caves. One of the caves should have millions of bats, but this one only host a few - I think. I hear some, but the only animals I see are some banana-fed monkeys along the stairs leading to the cave. A few large Buddha statues in standing- sitting- and reclining postures are placed in various building, some just corroded tinplates.
A long walk bring me to the top, where a bright
young kid show me around. The golden temple is from 1964, and it is
surrounded by other religious buildings. None are really that
impressive, but the view over the plains are for sure.
I find some small trails leading around the
mountain, and head out for a bit more botanizing. A single, rather
large Euphorbia seems to be the only new discovery. Slight
disappointing, where the first sight was a real treat.
Back in town, I start looking for a place to get
my camera-battery-charger fixed - again. Then I investigate the central
market. It is so clean, and it seems like gold smiths are the most
numerous. I still look for a small Buddha head, but end up with a bone
statue of Buddha in the typical Cambodian style. Some of these I asked on, turned out to be ivory, but I
find one, which is magnificent work for a third of that price. Must be
A tour around the market give the usual dry fish, live fish, plastic, cloths, vegetables, eggs and meat. Then I head around in old colonial Battambang and look for architecture. It is here, but under the many billboards and other huge signs.
It is time for dinner, and I piece some together
in the night-market. But it is so hard avoiding the meat, fish and
shrimps! I end
up with fried bean-sprouts and have to top-up with a pizza and some
4/1 The car start like nothing have happened, I think - and hope - I have figured the problem: When one door is open just two millimetres, the hazard lights will go on after some time, and perhaps other "vital" operations. I hate cars that are "smart"!
I get some bread at a bakery, and head out of Battambang towards the north. A few kilometres out, I pass a bridge with a great view over a bend in the river with lotus. Perfect for breakfast, except the lack of tea. And the fact the big scone turns out to be filled with meat.
Despite it is a good road, the traffic is real
light; mainly mopeds. The first part is rice patches with a few, small
and scatted trees. In Sisophon, I find some tea and a rest. I is a small
town, and don't seems to have any interesting sights, except the temple
at the river.
The first sight in the Banteay Chhmar area is a
magnificent bridge. Well, it was until the Thai nicked all the heads in
1998. It is two snakes which are held by numerous men, creating
the sides of the bridge.
Within is the huge temple area build by Jayavarman VII, who ruled from 1181 to 1219. The buildings have suffered from huge trees and earthshakes, but some of the massive bas-reliefs are still intact, and so are some of the towers. Here are actually 2000 square metres of them!
I find the right entrance, pay the five dollars, and rejects a guide. The first I see is a little snake, which are in a real defensive mode. Then the first buildings starts, and it is so much Indiana Jones experience. Well, except I have it to my self; no bad guys or other tourists mingle.
The sandstone carvings are fantastic, and so well
preserved. The buildings, on the other hand are for a big part just
piles of sandstone. It must have looked astonishing, when it was
I try to
catch the buildings, the carvings and the
atmosphere. The huge fig trees offers shade, but are so destructive to
the walls. Some of the buildings are complete enough to offer indoor
tours. The roofs are not made by arches, and the vide is there for
After several hours, I have seen sandstone enough for one day, and head on. The nearby village is real rural, and I fail to find anything hot to eat, not containing meat. I see the small market, and the pigs out back at the sweet-potato drying area.
The area, from the turn-of at Sisophon and up here, are dominated by sweet-potatoes. When they are harvested, they get chopped up and dried in the sun. And here are mountains of them! Every tuck-tuck, rice tractor and huge truck seems to be filled with white, dry potato material.
Back in Sisophon, I find a cup of tea and a meal.
It is still early in the afternoon, and I head on towards the large town
of Siem Reap, which will be my base for Preah Khan and the Angkor
temples. The area turns in to a flat rice patch plain, with little to
When I have secured a room - as the only guest - I
want to drive into the centre of town, but the car refuses to start. The
battery is full, but no ignition. Well, It have been a warm day, and
I'll let it rest, while I start walking.
He drives me through, what could be interesting streets, but I am fare from prepared for what meets us down-town. It is packed with pale-faced tourists, and here are the shops, restaurants and bars for ten times that many. The old marked is 70% tourist shops, but the rest is still real charming, and provide the locals with fresh food.
Despite I have found several souvenirs, I still want to find the one I have in mind, and I go into this inferno of tourist shops. They have pretty much the same, but one shop is different, and I find exactly the Buddha head I have been looking for.
Then it is time for dinner, and Little Khmer
Restaurant offers some genuine local food, and to such low prices. It is
real tasty, and I might return.
The Bar Street is lighted up, and here are quite some people. The bridges are each one decorated with colourful LED lights. Some like traditional bridges, some with rainbows and other silly things. All in all a bit tacky, but real cosy as well. A tuck-tuck bring me the last bit home, as the road with the large hotels are not that interesting for three kilometres. A test-start of the car, and it have no problems now.
I start working at eight, realising the numerous pictures will be tacked "Banteay Chhmar" alone for the bigger part. Then I have to work quite some on my job, and it get real late again. Banteay Chhmar get a slideshow.
5/1 It is a greyish morning, and I start the day with some accounting. VAT have to be paid, wages to my self and so on. The the hunt for breakfast sets in. The first restaurants have one attitude to vegetarian: "No have". The huge and new Shopping Arcade have no restaurants. Some are closed, but finally one have American-, English-, Norwegian- (with salmon) and Healthy Breakfast. The last does not contain any meat, but on the other hand, not much food either.
The GPS is set to Preah Khan, the large
temple complex. It is only twelve kilometres away, but somehow, it seems
like I have to drive right through Angkor
Wat with its hundreds of
tourist busses, elephants and general crowds.
The entrance to the temple complex is impressive.
First the classic "a lot of angry men hold two snakes" bridge over the
moat, then three towers with high walls to the sides.
The place have truly this "Lost World Ambience", and despite it is that close to the main attraction, only a few have found out here. It is one of the largest complexes within Angkor. It was build by Jayavarman VII around 1191 AD. The inner constructions covers an area of 700 times 800 metres, and the numerous buildings forms endless motives. Especially if the sun was a bit more cooperative.
Many buildings are still rather intact, and the
bats have a home in some. While I walk around within the main buildings,
the only flowers I find are terrestrial orchids of a, for me, unknown
genera. When I head into the forests within the walls, hardly any
flowers are found. That does not hinder a wide range of butterflies to
be found in the area.
I exit at an other portal, and do a long walk
around the forest to get back. Despite the water filled ponds, the sandy
soil are real dry, and does not support small plants.
On the way back through the temples, I make some more photos, but it all start too look alike. Considering I'm going to do the rest of Angkor Wat tomorrow, I head home rather early. I make a detour around the farmland, and see some newly sown rice and other idyllic sceneries.
Back at four, I start working on the photos -
which somehow look a bit alike... Common for them is the bad light of
the day - and red sandstone bricks. All in one slideshow: Temples
of Preah Khan.
Despite I'm still exploring the north-western Cambodia, the tour will continue in Diary 3