Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunset central

Today's peaceful sunset over Srah Srang at Angkor
Now popped over to see me and we took the opportunity to get out to Angkor to have a look at three sunset locations, now that Phnom Bakheng, the prime spot for sunsets over the Western Baray, is a virtual circus. I was pleased to hear Sokuntheary, the ticket-seller, offer me both a three consecutive day pass or a three days in a week pass when I arrived at the ticket counter, as I'd heard you had to ask. We headed for the quiet temple of Eastern Mebon and saw the buses lining up as we passed Pre Rup, which didn't augur well for that temple. Meanwhile, Eastern Mebon was empty but the high tree-line negated it as a sunset location so we quickly headed back to Pre Rup. Here the Japansese tourist buses had spilled out their contents and with such a small temple by comparison to Bakheng, every available vantage spot was taken well before sunset arrived and ruined any hope of watching the sunset in peace and tranquility. Pre Rup has become a mini-Phnom Bakheng and don't forget this is the low season, so it'll only get worse after November. I had one last option as the sky darkened. Srah Srang was close enough so we got the car driver to drop us at the eastern end of the royal pool and we settled down to watch the sunset in that peace and quiet I was looking for. And considering the inclement weather of recent weeks, it was a lovely sunset too as the sky took on a hue of blues and yellows. Recomendation; if you are looking for your own sunset location and don't mind the crowds, then Bakheng will suit you. If you want some peace then you'll likely be on your own at Srah Srang or even Phnom Krom, if you don't mind the drive out towards the lake and a tough climb up the hill. The latter isn't everyone's cup of tea.
The view from the top of Pre Rup
Now poses for a picture at the top level of Pre Rup
This was the scene at the top level of Pre Rup and there were virtually no more spaces to be had
Some lovely cloud formations at Srah Srang
With just a family for company, Srah Srang was completely devoid of anyone else

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Back-breaking banter

Now, in a rare day off, enjoying the sunset at Phnom Bakheng
Now gave me a call today to tell me she's finally off into the fields to plant rice for the whole of next week. It's been held up a bit but tomorrow her whole family and other families in their village will take it in turns to plant their staple foodstuff in their rice fields, a couple of kilometres from their homes near Srah Srang, in the middle of the Angkor temple complex near Siem Reap. First it will be Now's field then the next day, everyone chips in with a neighbour's field, and so on, about thirty people in all. She's actually looking forward to it - not the back-breaking work in the scorching overhead sun - but the comraderie and banter that everyone enjoys that makes their 10-hour day go by quicker. As she just told me, she'll be there in her wide-brimmed hat, her krama covering her face and her long trousers tucked into her socks to avoid the leeches getting a grip. The weather is a bit changeable at the moment, so it could be either rice planting in hard earth or wet soil if it rains during their planting session. She prefers the latter. But what she likes the most is the break from her usual daily routine of selling souvenirs inside the east gate of Banteay Kdei and the opportunity to enjoy the company of her family and her neighbours. I've been to her village a couple of times and I can back-up that they are a happy bunch, who all help each other when the need arises. One of the books she sells on her stall is The Khmers by Ian Mabbett and David Chandler and she recalled that when she read about the importance of rice planting to the Khmer people in the book, she felt very proud that someone should write about one of the tasks that she and her family do together. I never thought about it like that before and I'm so glad that she uses the books she sells to improve her English as well as her understanding of her her own history and culture, in which she takes great pride.

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