Monday, March 21, 2011

Last week -- On to Siem Reap

Check Picasa occasionally for photos. I'm not having much luck uploading; it takes too much time.
Not far from Kompong Thom is the Prasat Sambour Prey Kok. (There are other spellings; I don't know how to choose.) This is a forest of a 9th century sanctuary complex. Up to now, we've been seeing sanctuaries grouped with several buildings, but here you can see the outer wall and then the inner square perimeter and finally the sanctuary buildings, which are in ruins. It seems that the destruction is recent. First, of course, the statuary disappeared. That was for the gold. More recently, this was a Khmer Rouge refuge before they came to power in 1975, when they were still guerrillas. They used the buildings as prisons. The Cambodian army fired on them. General destruction. There's a round sanctuary, all brick, that is coming apart. Japanese archeologists have placed wire belts around the building to hold it together. In some cases the sculptures in the brick have been damaged, but you can still make out what they were. In the forest, there are three sites, so it took about an hour to go from one to another and visit. We came out at the other side, where the minibus was waiting for us. From the beginning to the end, little girls stuck to us like glue trying to sell us scarves.
Each farmer has his own rice paddy (or paddies), his own house, and his own pond in front of the house. The ponds are all dried up, so there are deeper holes dug in the middle. Most are also dried up. Occasionally, however, there is still water and we saw some water buffalo bathing.
We also saw the rice truck come by and stop at each house to pick up the farmers' crops. There are also coconut trees, bananas, and mangoes everywhere. From the amount of fruit I've seen on the stands, there seems to be an abundance far above what they can each sell to passing vehicles, or take to market. We've seen no evidence of collection for export or anything like that. No middle man, except for the rice.
The rest of the ride to Siem Reap was long, but we got there in time for a late lunch, after which we drove to the northern end of Tonle Sap, a big lake, with a fishing village on the water. The lake is very low, so the lake covers "only" 2700 km². It's not very deep and it's extremely muddy. There were children having fund in the water; one little girl was giving herself a mud bath, smearing the mud all over herself. There are some floating churches, evidence of the Vietnamese living here. The two communities get along fine. Among the houseboats are also shops and mechanics; it's a whole village. We stopped at a big floating tourist attraction with a crocodile pit. We returned to our minibus as the sun was setting – very pretty.
Dinner was at at a restaurant that seemed like a twin to the one we had lunch at – same food, same tables, same service, same satisfaction poll. Yes, it is a chain, but the guy only has two restaurants. He caters to tourists and serves very bland food.
We said goodbye to San Pol. He's going back to Phnom Penh tomorrow.

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