I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Cambodia (9)


A few more Buddhas




Our last stop was a pagoda high up in the woods.  Amidst some unusual rock formations a temple had been built and some Buddhas carved into the rockfaces around it.




There are resident monks here too and their washing line makes for a blast of colour amongst the trees.




Not that colour was lacking in any respect, inside or out!  The interior of the temple was still being built but the central collection of Buddhas was unlike anything we’ve seen before.




The wall paintings were bright and freshly painted in a modern style.  I rather liked the exuberance of colour and the flashes of fluorescent yellow, orange and pink.




The light made photography a challenge but I was happy to simply capture the spirit of the place.




Though Sok’s stories from the Buddha’s life came to an abrupt close when a shout was heard – someone had fallen into the hole. 

How?  No idea.  As the woman from Georgia said dryly to my Hero, standing next to her, “It’s a big enough hole”.

Thankfully, she was ok, save for a grazed knee, but it brought our temple visit to a close and we made our way back downhill.




Sok wanted us to see the huge reclining Buddha, though, and to explain that this was Buddha deceased, not resting or sleeping.  However many times we’ve been told how to tell the difference, we still find it baffling!




Anyway, whilst others concentrated on the figure and the finer details, I’m ashamed to say my eye had been caught by one or two Suffolk Puffs.




The yellow tented ceiling was decorated with small pendants made from three Suffolk Puffs and they were dancing about in the breeze looking rather jolly.




There were other small fabric decorations catching the breeze too.  Very effective.




Though whilst I was taking pictures of those, another Buddha was watching silently on.




We made our way back to the bus and returned to the ship through the same landscape as we’d come.  As we did, I made a mental note to seek out one or two Cambodian projects to support by means of Kiva once we get home.




A quick turnaround then, for Trivia (not good today!) and the crew show which is always a must-see.




Not forgetting dinner, of course.


Last stop Sihanoukville




I’d woken at who knows what time in the middle of the night to hear what sounded like thunder outside.  A flash of lightning confirmed the storm outside so it was no surprise that, on opening the door this morning, there was a wet world outside.  But in these tropical parts, it doesn’t last long and by the time we’d had breakfast and got out act together, the day was looking altogether brighter.




For this, our last port of call, we’d chosen to explore the Ream National Park.  We hadn’t much idea of what to expect, having chosen it mainly because we didn’t fancy the beach based options and didn’t think the place offered enough to go it alone.  So, off we went at 8 this morning, driving half an hour or so to our destination.




We’ve travelled in Cambodia before, en route to Angkor Wat and overnighting in Phnom Penh, too.  So we ought to have been prepared for the simpler lifestyle compared with that in Vietnam.  After all, PolPot left quite a deficit to make up for with the brutality of the 1970s. 




But nevertheless, having just spent time in various parts of this region, we found it surprising that life here appeared to be quite so marginal.




In particular, that what is basically an agricultural economy appeared to have so little life left.  Perhaps it’s the time of the year, or maybe it’s this particular place – all I can say is that things here did not look at all rosy.




When we stopped at the National Park boat jetty, the scene which greeted us was similarly bleak.  Rubbish everywhere, poorly maintained buildings and a distinct lack of amenities.  In fact, the rubbish was one thing which concerned many of our group, because whereever we looked, there were plastic bags, bottles and general rubbish of all kinds just left to rot.  Or not.




Anyway, moving right along.  Here we were, at the jetty, about to board boats to ride along another river – we knew not what or where to.  Our programme had been sketchy and some said the boat would take an hour, others said longer.  And my hero observed upon learning that it would likely be at least an hour and a half, “that’s flying to Vienna then”.




But anything less like flying to Vienna is difficult to imagine.  We sat eight or ten to a boat, accompanied by a guide and a Park Ranger, plus the boatman of course.  Actually, the boats weren’t too uncomfortable, though the lack of a back rest for such a lengthy ride was tricky towards the end.




The River Prek Teuk Sap was fairly quiet with just the occasional fisherman to prompt the camera clicks.  Both sides were dense jungle – either palms or mangroves and though we’d been told there was a high likelihood of spotting wildlife here and there, once we were under way it was clear that this wasn’t going to be so.




The engine, which was just over my right shoulder, was as noisy as anything.  OK, so it wasn’t the regular lorry/tractor engine they normally stick on the end of a pole to power these boats, but even so, it was loud.  No chance of creeping up on anything, then!




So as we settled in for the ride, it was time for a Marks and Spencer butter mintoe!  This bag is well travelled and we’ve been rationing ourselves to make our supplies last, but here we were, nearly at the end of our adventure and thinking we could afford to be carefree with them.




Now and again, we’d pass a fisherman’s shelter by the side of the water.  Whether or not they live here full time, I don’t know.  No sign of life today, though.




Oh, just a minute!  The sound of another boat engine coming towards us got those cameras clicking again, especially when the little faces appeared.




A family outing maybe, or more likely, all hands on deck to set the fishing traps.  The women were all bundled up against the sun in the same way as the Vietnamese motor cycle riders, but all were cheerful and offered friendly waves and greetings as we passed by.




From time to time we’d pass a fisherman or two, prompting a reaction from here and there.  Fortunately, we were going slowly enough to have plenty of time to compose a shot and I imagine there were some great photographs being taken in front of me.




Once we’d realised that the poles in the water were fixings for fishing nets, it became a little clearer what was going on.  This fisherman was setting some new nets we think.




Others had a different modus operandi.  This chap is catching crabs, collecting them in a bucket and sorting through them in the water




This one is doing the same, cigarette in mouth, looking for all the world as comfortable as someone standing behind a counter or sitting at a desk.  The fact that he’s standing in chest deep water is no matter.  Not exactly great working conditions, is it?




Another small fishing base, the picture taken to remind me that though the cobalt blue and malachite green remain on my SE Asian palette, I also need to add orange.




At this point, my hero looked ahead and commented that we appeared to be sailing in an infinity pool.




Sure enough, the river appeared to come to an end just a little further up and what’s more there was someone standing in the water ahead.  This could be interesting!




The water was incredibly shallow which might have been the reason why the National Park speedboat buzzed past us, doing a bit of a recce and tracing a route to our destination – more of a circle than a straight line from this point.




Sok, our guide and the National Park Ranger got themselves on alert and before long, the ranger found himself with the long pole, easing the boat off a sandbank and into deeper water.




Thankfully, we made it to the jetty and all climbed out onto dry land.  For a while we feared another river walk!




From the jetty, it was over the rickety bridge to a small community of houses.




But thankfully, the bridge wasn’t quite as rickety as it first appeared!




It led to a small beach and as my hero had noted earlier, we were at the mouth of the estuary.




There was a cluster of houses here which turned out to be the Rangers’ homes and hopefully, their families were used to having complete strangers walking through their lives.




Because a bunch of camera-toting tourists knows no bounds, sorry to say.




Having said that, the people themselves didn’t appear to mind being the centre of attention at all.  Maybe it was part of the deal?  I don’t know.




This bunch of children had almost finished sweeping an area of earth and collected the leaves in a basket.  It was only when we stepped inside the building that we recognised why.




It was their school playground.  It being Saturday, perhaps they were there for our benefit?  But anyway, the teacher greeted us warmly to his classroom where he had 65 pupils aged between 6 and 15 to teach. 




It’s a Christian school and it’s funded by an organisation whose name I can’t recall, I’m sorry.




Time to walk a little further then, spotting things of interest.  Do you know what this fruit is?  (None of us did….I’ll post the answer at the bottom)




Sok pointed out that the fisherman had caught his family’s lunch for today, at least.




On we went then, along the river bank.  Smiling “hello”, “how are you?” and “oh, so cute!” as we did.




We had to run the gauntlet of one last posse of locals, though!  Do they look friendly?!




From there, it was into the jungle.  The rain last night had washed the path clean, thank goodness.  It’s sandy earth here and I think that had it been dry and dusty, it would have been all the more tricky.  We did our best to avoid the huge ants and other wildlife which was here before us and hoped that the insect repellent would work!




In a couple of places, there were steps of a kind to walk on.




Care was needed though – this was great ankle-turning territory.




Further on, though, it was a clear, well used pathway and would have been really easy walking had it not been for the heat.

Did I mention how hot/humid it was in there?

When we arrived in Manila, you may recall we were given small gifts, one of which was a clever, foldable disc which could be used as a fan.  It’s proved to be really useful throughout the trip and whenever the temperature rises, we all reach into our bags for them.  The clever – if slightly cruel – thing about the fan is the logo.

It’s more fun in the Philippines”.

Hopefully we keep the thing moving quick enough so as not to offend our hosts!




At this point there was a shout as someone spotted something leaping about in the treetops.  Was it a monkey?  A squirrel?  I don’t know.  Play Where’s Wally in the picture if you like and see if you can spot it – I’m sorry to say, I didn’t!




Suddenly, without any notice, our jungle path opened up into a building site.  What?  We’d reached the beach once again and a new apartment complex was being built here.




It was a wide stretch of clean, unspoiled beach and I found myself wondering if this beach was going to go the same way as White Beach on Boracay Island?  Hopefully not.  Hopefully, the National Park status of the area would ensure that the environment is given full consideration. 

But Sok kept mentioning investment from Russia and China and who knows where else?




And sadly, wherever we looked, there was already a problem.

The promise of a bottle of cold water and an ice cold flannel resolved more immediate worries however and after a short break in a beachside bar, we were off again to the last and final stop of the trip.


One last special day (4)

Returning from Bayon, we stopped to have a look around the Preah Kahn ruins, yet another remarkable place with outstanding features which set it apart from the other three sites we'd visited earlier in the day. As we left the car, it was raining hard but we didn't care - it was a refreshing way of cooling us down in the steamy afternoon heat.
Overgrown and a little more dilapidated than the other ruins, Preah Kahn was nevertheless a fascinating place, probably the site of a Buddhist university at some point.


We loved the loneliness of this site, probably because we were there in the late afternoon when most people had gone and in the peace and quiet, it was at its most atmospheric.

A few children scampered around, picking herbs here and there which Kinam told us are for the typical Khmer stir fry they'd be eating for dinner tonight.

I think I feel a log cabin quilt of some description coming on!



One last special day (3)

After lunch and a short siesta, we moved on to Angkor Thom and the central ruin, the Bayon, another atmospheric temple which I enjoyed but Mark found creepy.


54 towers and 216 (different) stone faces, well preserved and adorned with more intricate carvings.
More picturesque flashes of saffron, breathtaking glimpses through doorways and framed faces amongst the broken ruin.


We wandered around this intriguing place alone for most of the time, for although there were other people here, the architecture of the place meant that it was easy to escape the others.


One last special day (2)

On then, to Angkor Wat itself, star of the show - but in reality, only a small starring role. The best preserved of the whole set of buildings, the most crowded and possibly the least atmospheric, it was nevertheless breathtaking with so many finely preserved bas relief carvings still in place.


How's this for a repeat pattern? The bas relief along this, the Eastern gallery depicts the churning of the sea of milk, one of four galleries showing Hindu myths and Khmer history. All were patiently explained and features pointed out, for which we were very grateful - we loved seeing the small details in particular and were not only amazed at how finely the carvings had been done but also how well preserved they are.


Almost every square inch was carved with the most intricate patterns and motifs and many remain complete. The lack of colour highlights the work particularly well, we think.


So when there's a sudden burst of saffron, orange and hot pink, it quite takes the breath away - as here, in a small temple with a rather special buddha.

So many wonderful corners to explore, to delight and to try to record. Impossible, really.