The Khmers are such lovely people, so gracious and lithe, they move like dancers through the landscape.
Siem Reap itself continues to please, it’s beautiful as well as having bikes, baguettes and bridges.
Our favourite Khmerian is Moy from the Kymer Grill in the Wat Damnak area. She greets us as old friends, is always cheerful, nothing is too much trouble. She’s enthusiastic and curious. I’m sure our advanced years make us an oddity in this land with a couple of missing generations. In a land of sunshine smiles she is the sunniest. And before you cynics start in let me say that if you can fake such sincerity then you’ve got it made.
Climbing all over Angkor Wat has left us sore but happy. Such towering gopurams, such bewitching asparas, divinity carved in stone, the great stories played out, everything you need to know about life and how to live it. The Gods are implacable, life is predictable, good and bad deeds have their own rewards.
As in all the great stories from Homer to the Ramayana, from Genesis to Mike Hammer there’s a woman at the centre of things and a pack of wild men destroying everything in sight to get at her.
We were still absorbing this when, with a gulp, we realised there was a LOT more to see.
So to the charming Withi, the brother of Sam and nephew of Kachhel who took over today and tuk-tuked us to further fields and broader pastures.
The temples referred to in our earlier blog were the “main attractions” all quite close to Siem Reap. Honestly we thought “you’ve seen one Angkor Wat, you’ve seen them all” so we were amazed to discover new, fascinating DIFFERENT temples. Pink stone, lush jungly surrounds, exotic animals grazing in the forecourts, different and captivating gods and goddesses and STEEPER steps to climb.
Withi took us 40 or 50 kms out, through idyllic rural scenes, water buffaloes in paddies, shanty towns, billboards suggesting it’s not a good idea to shoot your neighbours, schools, geese, statues, farms and fields, moats and rivers, goats and chickens, jungles and forests, elephant, deer and monkey crossings, (alas we only saw the latter and not even many of them…though we do have a surprise Monkey moment if you persist to the bitter end).
We noticed as soon as we had left Thailand that the dual carriageway becomes a single strip, like the old Hume Highway in the 60s. As a result all of the considerable traffic slaloms along, gently careening with a decorous bip-bip, gracefully moving from one side of the road to the other. Thus a 10 km trip becomes more like 12.
Withi took us to 6 further temples, each more extraordinary than the last.
And from that tiny pink table in the middle photo above leapt one of the keepers of the Temples, a Temple Ticket Checker.
Sublime maidens and priests and warriors, their eyes closed in blissful meditation.
Anyone for table-tennis?
Athletic Priests and flowers and pillars and demons and lions abounded.
Medusa was there.
There were Gods churning the Sea of Milk
This Sea of Milk Saga is a long and very significant story, images from it seem to be all over Cambodia. It involves Gods, Demons, a huge snake, an even huger turtle, gorgeous nubile goddesses being created (of course), a mountain, the sea of milk and a quest for eternity. A really ball tearing blockbuster.
Kachhel had explained that the Khmers could be differentiated from the Chams and the Chinese in the battle panels around several of the Temples by their gorgeous elongated ears.
What’s that ?
There were loooooooong (and deep) stairs, which made us boggle at the physiognomy of the ancient Khmers, they must have had very long legs and thighs like barrels. You’ll be pleased to hear we are fast transmogrophying.
Chinese tour groups were everywhere. This lovely lady loved to pose, and we are constantly waiting whilst young Chinese girls primp and posture to find the perfect shot. We are both taking note for future blogs.
There were extremly clean but rather proscriptive toilets.
Sore as we were after Angkor we were sorer still after this latest madcap gallivant. On the dislocatedhippies soreness table Carnarvon Gorge is paralytic with limb-recovery-time about 7 hours, Today’s Temples: limbs barely-moving-pain-in-new-&-unusual-places internal organ displacement etc, LRT: 5 hours and Angkor Wat – use-of-limbs-but-sluggish LRT: 3 hours.
All up, 9 Temples in 2 days over about 14 hours. We could barely move…but move we did for the famous Koulan Restaurant Aspara dancing show.
Surely a place with an all you can eat buffet in a giant shed with a cultural experience thrown in can’t be a tourist trap ? Can it ?
The giant barn slowly filled and we shuffled around the Bain Marie’s dishing up what turned out to be our only seriously bad meal of the trip so far. Buffets are deathtraps. We weren’t sure if the bubbling curries and stews were doing so of their own volition. Sushi – we’re not insane – no thank you! Spag Bol – made with water buffalo perhaps, the inevitable frog dishes (to which Kristen normally is quite partial but not sure how long they’ve been bubbling away in this particular Bain-Marie). We tried the grass jelly dessert (the trials we go through for our devoted readers). This tasted like green dirt in a ashtray soup with a wobbly texture. You’ll thank us for the warning.
The band warmed us up with a few xylophone and zither tunes and then on came the dancers somewhat confusingly dressed in the SE Asian equivalent of Lil Abner outfits.
First came the girls complete with two halves of a coconut they were playing with, then the boys appeared, playing with their own coconuts, then the boys and girls started playing with each other’s coconuts, it was pretty racy stuff.
After this confusion the girls re-appeared, resplendent in their Aspara clobber, pagoda hats, brocades, silk bustles and sashes, dancing gracefully with beautiful arched, fluttering hand gestures.
A day of rest today and we have discovered the DELIGHTS of Khymer TV – the Cambodian version of Monkey – dare I suggest almost as fabulous as the original. We are riveted.
Angkor Wat at sunrise tomorrow ( we have to do it, at our age who knows) ? Then on Tuesday the Great March continues…onwards to Phnompers !!! Citizen 1 and I are very excited.
And as we sign off the Monsoon is just hitting, purple clouds and silent sheet lightning last night have given way to flailing palm branches and basso profundo thunder.