The morning of our last day in Siem Reap dawned cloudy and very humid. We were somewhat happy about that because it had been so sunny the previous two days and we had been bathed in perspiration - dripping wet really. As we prepared to leave the skies suddenly opened up with the most incredible thunderstorm and heavy downpour. We all stood at the end of the balcony awestruck at the ferocity of the storm. It had been so many years since any of us had seen rain pouring down like that.
I turned away resigned to be stuck indoors all morning and started working on my journal at the internet desk. Anil and David came back a few minutes later laughing about a strange sight they had just seen on the road in front of the hotel. They noticed a small fish flopping in a puddle in the middle of the road. Just when they were wondering what would become of the little guy, a passing pedestrian stopped, picked him up, checked him over and then popped him into his pocket - who says there's no such thing as a free lunch.
For some time we discussed at great length how that fish came to be in the middle of the road. We all decided that he had probably jumped out of the Siem Reap river nearby (it was flooding it's banks in some spots) and then had flopped from puddle to puddle trying to get back to the river. The problem was, he was moving farther and farther away instead of closer and closer, now he was going to be in someone's frying pan by noon, poor fellow.
I was entirely wrong about the duration of the storm, it was over in less that a half hour and once we could see the clouds breaking up, we jumped in the van with our driver and headed out once again. This time we planned to drive about 37 km out of town to a temple site, Banteay Srei, that is quite unique. It was not discovered until early in the 1900's, but is one of the most popular temples because of the many, many detailed carvings of women. The temple is made of sandstone which allowed for deeper carving into the stone, so it has a grace and beauty all its own. I will be sure to post some photos that we took at this temple - we were really enthralled by it. After the Bantreay Srie temple, we went to a couple of smaller temples that Adia had seen - she had circled them in the guide book that she gave us.
We also discovered some fabulous WC's (toilets) that have been constructed by the oil company that manages the site. They are free to use by anyone who has a site pass, otherwise there is a small charge for their use. We quickly dubbed them - Five Star Toilets - and made sure we stopped at any one that we came across. Our driver would laugh at Jeong Ae and me when we would shout "Star" when we spotted one. He was a great sport, a very safe and considerate driver, and we began to discuss a plan of hiring him to drive us to Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville instead of using public transport. With four people it makes great economic sense and also provides us with more flexibility in getting around the cities once we arrive there.
After lunch, our last stop of the day was a return to Ta Prohm - my favorite. I had seen photos that my friend Cathy Moreau had taken when she visited the site several years ago and that has been my great motivating factor in getting to Cambodia. The temple is dedicated to the mother of the King, but was completley engulfed by the forest. The trees had grown so large there that they support much of the temple itself. Indeed, if the restoration had removed the trees, the little that is still standing would collapse and all would be lost.
I have not seen the movie "Tomb Raiders" but some of the footage for the film was shot at Ta Phrom, so most of the guides and the tourists alike refer to this temple as the "Tomb Raider Temple". Somehow that doesn't sit right with me, but...
I have included some of my favorite photos of Ta Phrom, please let me know if you would like to see all the ones that we took, I can send you a link to my Yahoo Photo Album of Ta Phrom and you can see them all. We took a lot of them as the light was fading and as a result they are very large in size and difficult to upload. They are pretty amazing so I would like to share them with you.
The sun was setting over the Angkor Temple complex and it was time for us to say a reluctant goodbye to one of the most wonderful man-made structures in the world. It has been an amazing three days that none of us will ever forget. The heat, humidity and torrential downpours did nothing to dampen the experience - in fact, fewer tourists visit during the rainy season than at other times of the year, so we were able to enjoy this wonder of the world in relative peace and quiet.
We had enjoyed the wonderful attention of our driver Prum Sophan so much that we asked him if he was interested in taking us around Cambodia - all the way to Phonm Pehn and Sihanoukville. We negotiated a very fair price - good for us and good for him. He told us that he had to join a taxi organization in order to pick up passengers at the airport - there are 43 members in the group - and then had to wait sometimes as long as three or four days to get an opportunity to drive people around Angkor. By having him spend several days with us travelling around the country, he was assured a steady income and as he owned his own vehicle, all the funds would be his.
With our onward travel plans made, we had a quiet dinner on our last night in Siem Reap and went to bed with visions of magical temples to drift off to sleep.