Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Siem Reap IV: Temple and Market
The third and last day of our temple crawl left us with a choice of whether to visit Tonle Sap Lake or not. The Roluos Group of temples was very near the largest fresh water lake of South East Asia so Nat asked us if we would like a visit. After some deliberation, KH and I decided not to go for it. Our first stop was Preah Ko, the first temple built in the ancient city of Hariharalaya. Built in the 9th century, its older than all the other temples that we had seen in the last two days. Preah Ko means Temple of Sacred Bull and rightly so with three statues of Nandi, Shiva's sacred mount facing three of main brick towers. Behind those three towers are another three smaller towers. Like all the older temples, this temple had decorations using stucco. Although old, it had beautiful sandstone carvings on the lintels. Although small, it was beautiful to look at.
Second temple of the day was Bakong, the first temple mountain of sandstone built by Indravarman I. It is said to be similar to Borobudur, but truthfully I do not get the feeling. Like the other temples, it has elephant statues at the corners and stone lions guarding gateways. Nat liked to joke that legless statues were landmine victims. There were also several brick towers surrounding the central temple.
Lolei was the final stop of our great temple crawl, however the most unimpressive. Very small compared to the rest and under heavy restoration. The whole temple was covered by scaffolding. But what Nat wanted to highlight to us was the exquisite sanksrit inscriptions on one of the doorways. Extremely clear, like it was carved yesterday. Built very close to the site is a modern Buddhist monastery. One could see monks going about their daily chores. We went into the temple to look at the paintings that depict the story of Gautama Buddha that cover all the walls and the whole ceiling.
Since we had half a day left, we convinced Nat to bring us to Psar Leu, the Upper Market. Unlike the Old Market, Psar Leu is for the locals. Very much like Malaysian wet markets, with a whole lot of hustle and bustle. Vendors sells everything from fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, home wares, food to clothes. Interestingly, they actually sell gold in the market, without the need for any security guards or grilled display cabinets. KH and I were adventurous enough to wanna try some of the local food but Nat shaked his head rigourously. He was convinced that our tummies were not fortified enough. But he did let us try a snack of grilled glutinous rice with banana. Although there was a lot more to see, Nat ushered us to the car pretty quickly. We only managed to buy a packet of banana chips that was quite yummy. We also made a short stop at Angkor Market, a supermarket that stocks plenty of imported goods. I was impressed by their selection of condoms. All the Trojans and Magnums were available for their XL tourists. LOL.
Nat and Dar dropped us off at the hotel and we made the payment for their services. Back in our room, KH did some research and decided on our lunch venue, Kanell. It was walking distance, just had to brave the sun and dust. The place is a bungalow with a huge garden. Several gazebos were built around the compound with lots of greenery and decorations. One can even use their pool. Foursquare recommended that we try the Discovery Plate for USD12. The appetiser was crackers with bean paste followed by banana flower salad and butter chicken with rice. The main had a creamy flavour with a tinge of sourness. Dessert was sankhya lapov which is steamed pumpkin with coconut custard. In addition to this, we also ordered stir-fried calamari with Kampot peppers. Felt so stuffed.
Our evening's activity was a traditiona Khmer massage before dinner. KH chose Lemongrass Garden that was located at Sivatha Boulevard. I was given the job of navigating. Halfway there, we passed by Hatha Spa. The banner out front made me look twice-- pretty boy on pretty boy with bedroom eyes! That was definitely a gay spa. Anyway, we went on our way and found our destination without much fuss. We paid USD15 for a ninety minute traditional massage. Some parts felt like traditional Thai massage, but most of it involved much sweeping motions that didn't quite do it for KH and I. Although the front desk was a bit cold, at least the place was clean and professional. Didn't really know what to have for dinner. Actually walked into KFC, but walked out soon after. Ended up back near Pub Street. However, we chose another local eatery that served white porridge with stewed pork. Cheap and nourishing. Went to the night market again to buy some last minute souveniers. Then walked into Pub Street and took in some of the night life. Noisy bars and benches full of gweilos. Not quite our thing. Sat down at Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar for a farewell drink and ordered a plate of lotus root salad (the thinnest variety I ever saw!).
The next day, we took a tuk-tuk to the airport. A final experience of the wind, dust and rain in our faces. Would we visit Cambodia again the future? A visit to Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville perhaps? We shall see...