OK this blogging lark is quite a task whilst still enjoying oneself, especially when trying to make it interesting which I hope I’m not failing at? Therefore I was happy we were on a ten hour bus journey in Thailand, which gave me plenty of time to get this next section boxed off, apart from adding the photos it was achieved.
Well I’m fuming right now, as the words I penned for about five or six hours during the trip has been lost into fucking nothingness thanks to WordPress, Apple and the fucking iPad. Yes readers I need to come up with it allafuckingain! There’s nothing worse than repeating something you’ve already done, especially when it takes thought and a little bit of inspiration, it’s almost irretrievable!
I’ve had a few pints to calm me down and gather my thoughts, I take solace from the fact I should do it quicker as not typing on the pad, whether it’s like the original draft lets see, if it’s interesting enough for you all I’ll be happy, so here goes………
We are off on our latest set of wheels to the Temple (Wat) Ek Phnom, which is about 15Km northeast-ish from town. We’re on local roads and pass through a few small villages which is always interesting as there’s the odd sight or five that will surprise you. With the speedo once again out of action it’s difficult to judge how far we’ve come. Inevitably we miss our destination not knowing the ruins we seek are located at a new temple. It’s not missed by much tho’ due to the need for juice. The girl working the gas (petrol in beer bottles) points us back in the direction we’ve come from, having only overrun by about a mile. There’s a temple one of many in the area, the usual budda with the ruins just behind.
Now if you’ve done Angkor and the temples in the surrounding area, most other historical temples are a bit disappointing in comparison. Wat Ek Phnom is also, but what is impressive is that it was actually built before Angkor in 1027, so yes it’s almost a thousand years old. To be honest it’s nothing to write home about, but that maybe a lot to do with the damage it encountered during the reign of Pol Pot, as his and his regime tried to destroy everything, not just the lives of the people.
However it’s certainly good enough to blog about as we are treated by a few wedded couples who are using the venue for a photoshoot. The grooms outfits and hairdos being the highlight. Maybe we’ll go native for our big day next year, I could also dress like an Asian Elvis with a spikey wig also? Obviously that will be the KP’s call, but for sure it’s not going to be a traditionally British affair, those who accept the invite should be excited!
We don’t stay a great deal of time as the KP made the mistake of giving a child beggar with eyes that could melt stone (it takes great will power not to) a 1000 riel note (25 cents), soon we are plagued by them, tracking our every move. Not even bothering to clamber over the stones all the way to the top, we retreat and instead we find refuge alongside the lotus pond with a few beers.
Before leaving we wander the more modern temple, which is a bit tired but has fantastic ornate paintings to the ceiling all around (home page), then we’re heading back to town where we find a very smart venue. Bingo it’s happy hour, we enjoy half a dollar beers and two dollar tacos, result. The plan for the early evening is to visit the bat cave, no we are not going to visit Bruce Wayne’s dwelling, this is DaBong not Gotham. This particular cave is home to the winged primates that go out on the hunt at night. It’s located at Phnom Sampov about 12Km to the west, we decide to take a Tuk-Tuk for two reasons: 1. So we don’t miss it. 2. The thirst for ale. Not only do the bats reside at the address, but human remains are also located close-by in caves known as the killing caves. Today we’ve only got time for the bats, which we are not too disappointed by as we don’t quite have the mood today for observing more of the Khmer Rouges evil work. Prior to visiting the Killing Fields local to Phnom Penh my understanding was that all the millions of innocents were murdered there, wrong! There are tens of thousands of killing fields and caves and who knows what else located throughout the Kingdom. Let’s not forget this was happening less than forty years ago! When you see or especially meet people who are in their forties, fifties or older. You often think, as it’s impossible not to – they lived through that! It must have been fucking terrifying! It’s something you need to have respect for, and for sure never to forget. When you see the huge grins on their faces you have even more respect and love for them and their country. Somehow to this day it is yet be resolved in the courts with those that were responsible and still alive! Tho’ it never can be resolved can it? It’s impossible, something as evil as that! Drive gets us a great spot just in front of the opening, but far enough away so we don’t get covered in bat shit. We settle ourselves down on a wall with a few beers awaiting the nightly show to begin. The opening looks a bit like a minge and that was the KP’s observation not mine, honest. The guide-less book mentions that there are thousands upon thousands of the little blighters, so this should be good. After waiting about 30 minutes or so, bang on time close to six, there’s some movement and a bit of excitement from the sizeable crowd, then they start streaming out of the vaginal opening quicker than twenty five megabite fibre optic broadband !
A driveguide close by explains in good English to his Tuk-Tuk passengers that it takes a full forty five minutes for them all to emerge, returning at about four in the morning. Now in the first eleventeen seconds I counted at least twelveteen thousand of them, plus a few extra, so it means there’s not thousands upon thousands, but over a million, possibly two that call this hole in the cliff home. Fucking bonkers, what’s more mad tho’ and something which involves a fair bit of discussion, is how do they decide who leaves first? Is there a king bat who dishes out numbers? Maybe Bruce is in there after all? Another interesting snippet of of info I eaves drop, is that once a month, the bat crap is collected and used locally as fertiliser. It’s not a local job we’d like to help out with, but I’m sure we’ve all done a bit of shit shovelling at work, regardless of our jobs. Just maybe not literally.
Back to town we decide to try the restaurant next to the hotel which happens to be an Italian ran by a friendly young Swiss lady. The pre-meal taster and starters are good so we enjoy wine with the mains, followed by dessert which is cracking! The chef specialises in pastries we are informed, and who are we to disagree? The bill is a pricey $41, ok compared to home it’s peanuts for the full shabonka. Locally tho’ it’s possible to have a tasty meal for two with beers for about $6 or so, our bills usually weigh in at about $8-12. It depends where you choose to eat and how many bevvies you have ;-). The heavy outlay was worth it tho’ as it ended a perfect day, even the KP is happy (ok happier) with her hair and she’s looking both cool and sexy in her specs even if she don’t believe me. The following day we check out a bit more round about town and it’s outskirts. As usual there’s a number of statues to aid navigation, bridges and other interesting buildings, many of them of french colonial dwellings. We have a delicious lunch at an out of town resort that would be perfect for a few days of R&R, but we are happy with our more central location as it would be a bit boring here in the evenings.
Where we stopped is on the way to the Banan Temple where we are heading for another dollop of culture, it’s about 25 klicks southwest of town. The drive is pleasant as the smooth road meanders through the countryside and a scattering of little villages, with the usual interesting sights. Our eyes are peeled to spot the destination and this time we find it without the need of a 180 :-). It’s not quiet as ancient as yesterdays temple, being complete thirty years later in 1057. Before we can check it’s condition tho’ there’s a few steps that we need to mount, 358 to be exact. Not that we count them, if we did I’d say there was more than 450, as the rise and incline is such that some steps should actually count as two!
There’s kids again but today they are not strictly begging, more working un-invited I suppose :-). We got one each following our path, girls not more than nine or ten years old fanning us. Our immediate efforts to shoo them away are ignored and by about step 263 we are thankful they stuck to their task. At the summit there’s no request for payment just that look and they get their rewards. Now if you’ve seen Angkor bla, bla, blah, other temples bla blah 😉 We are happy enough tho’ if a bit tired, well at least I am, tired I mean and happy that the ankle endured it’s latest bit of physio. I’m not as tired as those who lumped the blocks of sandstone and dolomite up here though all that time ago. We are also happy with the sight we get of the five temples on this hill top which are all still standing, one of them only just mind. The view all around is also impressive.
Being happy with what greeted us following the climb is more than can be said for some of trip advisor posters, the grumpy fucks! Maybe they would have been happier if the Vietnamese didn’t pilfer statues and recklessly damage the temples as they did during their occupation during the 1980’s. The temples on the hill top were used as a military base, some of the damage caused is plainly visible as you can see in the photo here, where parts of the carvings have been hacked away.
Now I’m sure most of you have used the over popular internet review site, whether it’s for hotels, restaurants or attractions. So you will already understand there’s loads of people out there who are never happy with fuck all, not to mention the bogus positive reviews the site is meant to be plagued with. I like a good moan on occasions (those that know me might say too much), but some of the negative comments there, you could right a fucking comedy book. If you believed half the shit written you’d never leave the house. But hey, and I’m moaning now so will stop soon, promise. As I’ve said here before don’t always believe the hype. There’s only truly one way to find out and that’s what makes travel one of the worlds most interesting and rewarding pastimes, yes you get off your ass and check it yourself, of course when it’s possible. I fully understand tho’ that travel is a privilege, but it’s something we should all try to do as much as possible. Some just don’t make enough effort, but hey each to their own I suppose.
We descend which is even more of a lower leg physical challenge but it holds out getting stronger with each step, we spot a red pagoda and check that out before heading back to town. We are greeted by out first budda mermaid who looks like she’s protecting her very own large pond of lotuses, which are yet to flower, bloody luverly all the same tho’
We head back to town and I think I know a short cut, but turn too soon and after about 30mins we are heading to Phnom Penh, we turn where we can and head back the other way. Unsure of our bearings in this next of the woods, so we just follow the road, then in the distance a familiar sight greats us and also navigates us back to town. It’s proves that using the statues rather than signs for directions is a good one.
Now I had a bit of a go at some trip advisor’s earlier, but it’s not all bad, and it’s worth the occasional check. It’s soon proven as we try out a highly rated eatery in town, you know the one’s that get the trip advisor 2013 sticker in the window, just like an AA three star rated plaque at a guest house in the 80’s. It’s good and so are the cocktails, the menu has a very interesting entry. It’s possible to ask the person serving you to have what they had today for lunch, a local surprise it’s called $4. The KP is interested until that is I mention that maybe they had spiders. We share a curry with rice :-). On the stroll back we check a few other venues, it’s all very nice and laid back. The town has a very friendly arty community feel, if such an expression can be used to explain somewhere? Maybe I’m getting better at this blogging malarkey, or possibly not? When we first headed out on the scooter we passed a sign that read ‘crocodile farm’. I’ve been to one before in Thailand on that famous maiden trip, the KP hasn’t and is more than keen. Now I’m not for animals being kept captive, but do understand there are quite a few organisations ran by people doing good work and research helping to protect endangered species. However the majority are in it for the coin, exploiting their position at the top of the food chain to bring unnecessary pain and suffering to various creatures for financial gain. Now I’m not a vegan or even a vegetarian, so shoot me down in flames as some of my words that follow could be classed as hypocritical. Those bastard Japanese whaling ships need to be stopped tho’ for sure and don’t get me started on the killer whales and dolphins that are paraded in marine parks around the world. Also I’m not too keen on eating horse in Kazakhstan, tho’ I have, the second time and beyond knowingly. Even tho’ I still can’t understand using intelligent animals for food, tho’ it does depend on ones needs so let’s not judge. The place is not inundated with big fat cows like at home, and wrongly or rightly that’s where I class crocs. Not that they are stupid like cows, they’re just not cute like dolphins or majestic like elephants and no doubt would have you in a death barrel roll quicker than you could say rump steak. Plus if it’s a farm it must mean they breed them. Anyway it’s closed 🙂 the KP’s not happy, the last hand painted sign we passed that read ‘hold a baby croc’ increased her excitement. The banging she makes on the gate which looks like someone’s back door, goes unanswered. My conscience is intact for now, hey, I might just order one of the crocodile kebabs they advertise in Siem Reap next time we are there :-). We head back to the city with plan to get push bikes for the rest of the day. It has the desired effect and lifts her mood as now she’ll be at the controls for a change. The bikes are $2 a day but we’ve past lunch and now a single dollar, plus you get a free bottle of water, full of bargains this town is see. It soon becomes apparent that being on a pushbike is more fucking dangerous that being on a scooter, as the vehicle of choice has less clout on the roads. Especially if you are the KP, not that it’s any fault of her own. Not having driven her road sense is never going to be the best, that may actually be an advantage as she’s in the same boat os the locals. Actual time on a bicycle has also been limited, it’s not so popular at home, you’d have three punctures a day and need a new set of wheels a week, the roads really are that bad. Thankfully we are mainly outside of the city and she’s doing better than fine love her. However by the third or fourth road crossing it’s all too much for my stress levels, the bikes get ditched, we lasted less than ninety minutes agreeing that the crazy roads of cambo are not the best place to find your feet on two wheels. We did get to see and shoot quite a few of the towns notable sights and here they are for your perusal……….
That’s it for now, and if your enjoying the read you’ll be happy to know our time in DaBong and beyond continues, as just a few days ago we extended our three month plane tickets to a date yet to be confirmed as the fun rolls on just a bit further.