|Was this our fate?|
I guess we were a little stung by the temple bug after having a good look at Angkor Wat and its surrounds but if there was going to be something to really grab us it was still to come.
After Angkor we had a rest in Siem Reap, good food and researching the way forward on our adventure. We made a visit to the Landmine museum and Butterfly farm though. These two places are a good attempt at balancing out the good and bad we found. Its safe to say that landmines/UXO's (un-exploded ordinance) are a horrible scar on the face of the earth. Looking at Cambodia during our fleeting visit, its easy too see them paving the way forward these days. Alas with the after effects of landmines/UXO's they're constantly being reminded of their shattered past.
The Butterflys helped smooth the sharp edge of these thoughts but it really dose make you shed a tear for the real victims of mines, not the soldiers of the conflict but the villagers and children of the later years.
A few showers along the way are welcomed and kept us cool. Stopping for icy cold drinks gives me some relief with my sore neck (pinched nerve?).
We arrived at Anlong Veng, home of Ta Mok's house and Pol Pots grave, around 2 in the afternoon. Checked in to the New Lucky Star Guest house, with fifteen gold coins securing Clarissa her air-conditioning. We noted the few Cambodian dirt bike tour stickers above the entrance. Making us feel like kings that we had found a biker orientated place. Its always a concern if parking isn't up to scratch and has us both waking in the middle of the night to check the bikes. Alas, New Lucky Star had a big car park but the front gate looked like it was 'out of order'.
|Yep, restaurant too!|
|Neils attempt at getting a whole fish seem to be in vain... Its never a whole fish!|
|Amok Chicken, good stuff. Traditional style is with Fish but we got this specially for Clarissa.|
As Clarissa had no real desire to see the local 'attractions' I had headed off by myself to see ta mok's digs and pol pots grave (no capitals for these scumbags).
At $2 to see either attraction I walked away feeling a little had. The murals in the house where a little creepy rather than beautiful and with minimal english signage I was left to wander and wonder how the world let the khmer rouge (scumbags, no capitals) run around for so long.
World police should have annihilated these buggers long before the damage was done. Scumbags grave that I found was remarkably different to the pictures I had seen and guessed it was a tourist trap that I fell into. The kids got me but were good value, after we established that I don't play the begging game. After they laughed at me, and I took photos of them, they were promptly paid in Milo.
|Behind is pol pots grave, the kids on the bike are much more exciting.|
Early the next morning it was interesting to see that about 10 cars had checked in later on that night after we had headed to bed. Alas we got up earlier than usual to press on. As Pusat Preah Vihear temple was our goal to visit. Heading East we had some more rain. Where is rain spelt in Monsoon season? Ha ha. Sometimes it would be extremely heavy stuff for all of 2kms then just stop. Other times it would be annoying rain of the light variety, the stuff that really mists up glasses or visor. Either way we cruise now closer to 80km/h so its no problem. Actually enjoyable, as it really dose cool the body down significantly. We have submitted to the fact that any main dirt roads could become instantly hellish and should be avoided this time of year. We make note to come back and visit in the dry season in the distant future and enjoy the trails.
After paying nothing for temple fee, as it was free (yay!), we chatted about our route to some local guides. They were excellent value and most spoke a solid little english. I'm expecting a slap in the face soon, for the fact that we only know Hello, thankyou and 'a little bit' in Khmer. I had warned Clarissa that the road up may be a doozy but she didn't have time to think before it was all over and we parked our bikes. At one point I seriously thought my bike was going to flip going up the crazy gradient. As usual, scooters with one or two people on them powered up the hill with grace. 4WD's were left to carry the loads up this hill.
|The ride up from the bottom.|
|The ride up from the top. Gnarly dudes.|
Was the crazy ride up the top worth it? Hell yes. This temple in my own humble opinion really wiped the floor with Ankor. Any one can build a wicked temple on the flat lowlands but building this beastie on top of a mountain with solid views of Thailand and Cambodia is special. The multi-tier temple leaves one breathless as you ascend. Constantly thinking, 'what? there's still more?'
|It was still hot up the Dangrek Range.|
|The guy on the left declined to comment on the weather.|
|Obviously people hit their heads here, look at the damage to the doorway!|
|Don't build em like they used too...|
|The view was magical.|
|Rain. How you cool us down and make things green.|
|The walk ways can be slippery. 'Be careful!' Mr. Chief said!|
|The crew supporting drink sales.|
|Temple + Crazy goose guard = exciting times.|
This chap was brave enough to sit on Clarissa's bike, which then bestowed on him the great task of being our guide. He didn't know any english but he dutifully pointed out the vantage points in the tourist brochure for me to get the same pictures. Reading the brochure later on explained the history and like most Khmer temple talk left me a little confused and in wonder, maybe the desired effect?
|Imagine what it was like back in the day? Much better than Sydney I can tell you.|
|Need to cut the grass.|
|The acted quickly for the foreign visitors.|
|Modern bunker. Vietnamese potentially then used by the Cambodians against the Thais.|
|There was crops planted around the UXO/Mines here.|
|Quiet popular with local tourists.|
Amongst the amazing Temples and ruins we noted a few police/army posts still in operation from the border dispute. You can easily see the Thai flag flying a distance away. Without reading transcripts from the international court of justice, its pretty easy too see that the temple is Khmer and the Thai's had no right to go in there. We met Eric, a Cambodian doing photography of Cambodian temples too sponsor disadvantaged kids. Top bloke. Bugger his battery died before he made it too the top of the Preah Vihear temple system!
|Our guide, I called him Chief.|
We left the mountain to avoid the ride down in the dark. Clarissa was dreading it, but after some coaching she dominated it. I threw a salute to the police with the AK47's but didn't stop for a picture as it was way too steep. It would be easy to spend a couple of days enjoying the temple system. At a minimum I think half a day is required for a whirlwind tour. A sunrise or sunset would be killer also.
|Yay, I made it down death hill!|
The plan was to head further south but we found a guesthouse on dusk back in the closest town. We had some solidly powerful ginger chicken and rice from a local restaurant for dinner. The chicken part was mainly knuckles and liver. So it was ginger and rice for us. I tried some liver but it wasn't the most appealing stuff. Luckily to recover, the next morning I got up early to find a few baguettes and sweet bread for breakfast. Coupled with the French Raspberry jam I had found in Seam Riep, it was good to go.
Fuelled by Jam and dark and stormy Cambodian petrol we rocketed (at a cruisey 80km/h) down south towards our next Temple stop. Koh Ker was our goal and with it came many smaller temples along the good dirt road that led out to it. We thought we had another freebie here too as the entrance was empty and the whole place deserted. Alas we met Mick Shippen, master of South East Asia, who mentioned it was $10 per person finally when you reached the main temple. We had had our temple fill with the few mini sites we visited and decided to give the final temple a miss. Instead focusing on another temple complex along the way, Sambor Prei Kuk.
|Its great to visit these places in the low season. The peaceful ambience is beautiful.|
|Big Zeus is such a poser.|
The road was not Clarissa friendly, so she stayed at home for this one. I rode her bike out to the temple as the big Zeus gets the most kilometers usually when we both run around town on it for ease. A big reminder that the soft luggage and weight of the 650cc bike are a killer combo. Really should have the smaller engine in my bike too. Choosing to not let air from the tires probably didn't help but Yeeeee Haaaa she was a slippery ride. The ride out was good fun but the little sun shower while exploring the temple was actually a giant thunderstorm back in town (and over the dirt road for return). Riding back at one point whilst trying to wave at some super friendly locals, standing up and drifting front and back wheels sideways I almost thought my ego was about to be covered in mud.
When in doubt, gas it out, fixed numerous problems but the slipping and sliding was making it looking like I would end up in a rice paddy many a time on the way back. Thankfully no get offs today. Although coming to a sliding halt did occur a few times.
Without raving on too much about Sambor Prei Kuk, it was certainly worth a visit. There as a few girl there trying to sell me scarfs but they ended up following my guide (Mr. Vuthear Nuan, 089749915) and I around while we explored the place. Posing extremely well for many a photo. They went about gathering some local bush tucker for me and I payed them all plenty of candy money at the end (which caused a shit fight with the other girls, woops).
|The quality is beyond fantastic. So many years and it still looks this good. I was told that the holes are for flowers to be attached too. The temple covered in flowers would have been one trendy looking thing.|
|Local bush tucker.|
Which brings me to wonder about giving money at all. The average tourist will find it hard to direct the money to the correct place here. This time I seen the money divided up and handed out equally... Didn't help with the sour looks from those who didn't get any though. The painful part was when Mr. Vuthear mentioned it takes 4 days for a woman to weave a rattan hat, they sell for $4. I was the only tourist that day to the temple, and I didn't buy a hat. The photos show it better than my explanations anyway.
|My guide and crew.|
|Cutie 3, I do regret not remembering the names!|
|Only one temple still had a enclosed roof.|
|Great nick considering B52's dropped plenty of bombs around the joint.|
|Two of the six orignal Lion statues still remained. The rest are in someones garden or a museum.|
|Get to the temple! (it started raining).|
|Trees have taken over.|
|Always look up.|
|This bad boy was apparently well sort after for use in an Omelet. The girl that found it replanted it later for me to find, cutie.|
|This fungus apparently is a bit of a tasty option also!|
|One, two, three is the magic words to get a peace sign.|
|The guide got some good ones of me holding the temples up.|
|Not sure what this was but the tree owns it now.|
|There was always one natural swingset near a temple.|
|Looking up was always good fun. Makes you wonder what a bugger it would have been building them.|
|They knew how to strike a pose this crew.|
I've also managed to invite my wormy friend back for another go at my leg. Although he has moved up to my left quad from my calf. Although, maybe its his brother? This time we have picked up more medicine (Albendazole, for those who are lucky) for the three week post dose. It cost $2 for 6 tablets as apposed to $30 for 3 tablets in Thailand. Hooray for Cambodian tablety goodness!
We have paid for another night here in Stung Sen.
|Our hotel in Kampong Thom. And the top of Clarissa's head.|
Not because of the wealth of things to see but because we are no good at riding every day in SEA. Tomorrow we shall ride south a little before latching on to the Mekong river. To follow it north, to the top of Laos. Although we plan on spending another week or so here in Cambodia. I cannot stress enough how wonderfully friendly the people are here. Get yourself outside of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and experience the smiles and hospitality. Let alone the other amazing temples and culture.
If you do pass through Stung Sen, make sure to drop into Stung Sen Bridge Restaurant. Great western and Khmer food and a fantastic view of the river whilst sinking some cold beers. We've ended up here every day for the relaxed and tasty atmosphere.
|This whole post was typed whilst drinking cold beer and eating good food here in Stung Sen Restaurant.|
|The Library next door is quiet small though!|