Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
171Trip End Ongoing
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Next morning I decide to head out to Banteay Srey which is a further 37km from Angkor Wat and visit the land mine museum on the way back, it’s a hot day and a round trip of around 100km but well worth it
Banteay Srey is called ‘Citadel of Women’ and built from red sandstone, it’s actually quite pink in appearance with delicate and intricate carvings which are thought to have been done by women as they are so fine and is really beautiful, I am glad I made the effort. On the way back I visit the land mine museum which I have in interest in with my recent experience of the ‘Danger! Mines!’ sign I came across while camping. The founder of the museum is Aki Ra, who went from laying land mines to disarming them using a stick and a pair of pliers… nowadays he works for the UN and is not allowed to use these methods, instead is fully protected using the latest body armor and helmets however, it sounds like he still goes AWOL from time to time
The museum houses shells that he has disarmed and tells his story, from being orphaned in a Khmer Rouge camp where his parents were murdered, to being conscripted by them around the age of 10, being given a gun as big as him at this age, to being captured and made to fight for the Vietnamese army while still a child, before returning and fighting for the Cambodian army and later working for the UN to clear land mines many of which he had probably lain. He has an orphanage at the museum which houses many children he brought home from mine clearance areas which had been injured or abandoned, with Aki and his wife taking them in and treating them as their own.
Next visit, I go to Angkor Wat for sunrise and more exploring before visiting Angkor Thom and the surrounding area properly following the Mini Tour. The face carvings are a highlight for me and sum up the temples, I enjoy looking around, visiting the temple inside, watching people being taken round by elephant and meeting local dancers in their traditional dress, although this time there are many tourists around with the usual big groups of Chinese following some guide with a flag as they quickly snap away before rushing onto the next place, I find this hilarious to witness and it happens everywhere they go!
Once I’ve finished I head onto Ta Promh which I’ve been looking forward to and has been made famous for the Tomb Raider movie with the temples covered in the roots of trees. I end up making friends with a young monk called Phai, and it’s funny with me taking a photo for him, then him taking one for me and so on plus a few people take pictures of the both of us, which is a nice momentum for my day
Last day for the temples and I visit Lolei and the Rolous Group around 15km out of Siem Reap before taking on the Grand Tour and I have to admit that I was expecting lots of it to be the same but actually I find all the different temples really unique with my favorite one today being one of the last I visited Preah Khan which had a huge stupa in the middle of it which looked like it was on fire by the sun pouring in a crack in the stone above. Another, Neak Pean was surrounded by water and was more of an island so once again very different.
You can see the rest by my photographs which I will try and name (and not post too many) but it really is an incredible place to visit, if I was only a proper photographer to actually do it justice…