Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Road Trip to Bang Melea

I want to tell you all more about Zissou, aka Pupster, aka the reigning Furmonster of the day.  Since he likes to take dips in the lily pond out back at the hotel, he gets a bath almost daily.  This keeps his fur unbelievably soft.  Like picture the softest thing you have ever touched, than imagine that thing being fluffed to perfection.  Also, his favorite food is ham, though in a pinch he finds bacon appetizing as well.  He likes to sleep most of the day, but roams the grounds like a wild banshee at night, sliding around on the marble floors and chasing numerous lizards.  This is Zissou in a nutshell.  Here are some more pictures of him.

Our tuk tuk driver, Landa, scooped us up at 10am for a trip deep into the Cambodian countryside, to the forgotten temple of Bang Melea.  Apparently, lots of ghosts and demons roam the Cambodian countryside at night.  During our 2 hour tuk tuk drive out of the city, we kept seeing these scarecrow looking stuffed men outside of homes and businesses.  We asked our driver about this reoccurring sight, and he nonchalantly told us that they keep the demons away.  Sounds great.  Here we have been staying unprotected with not a straw man to speak of on our balcony.  While we sleep, demons have probably been breaking into our room, stealing socks, urinating in our shower, and playing my Sony PSP.  Bastards.

After our long and scenic ride to Bang Melea, the heat had been turned up a bit.  We sort of lamented our late push off time.  Landa had warned us that we should have left earlier.  He was right.  The temple has been consumed by nature and forever altered by gravity.  Without Unesco status and zero upkeep, the place is absolutely wild and a little mad.  You are free to climb about its piles of rubble or meander down its collapsed hallways.  If you have grand notions to play Indiana Jones, then this is the place to live out the fantasy.  I even got lost in a long ago abandoned wing and had to climb up the rubble to survey the perimeter for Kristin.  It felt pretty exciting to be alone with history.  The crowds are nonexistent this far from Siem Reap and the throngs of Angkor Wat worshipers.  The temple is huge, about the same size as Angkor Wat with a very similar layout.

We were escorted through the ruins by Chia and Sal, two enterprising youths that sort of forced their way into being our tour guides. We normally wave off these advances, but the place was so beat up and confusing, we had no idea where to go.  They navigated for us, and we gave them some cash.  Before we committed to acknowledging them as guides, we made sure they went to school in the morning.  It went a long way to alleviate our guilt associated with incentivizing kids to skip school to hustle tourists.

After baking in the temple for an hour, we stopped by a stall for some refreshment.  Lo and behold, we stumbled upon some ice cold beers.  The name of the beer?  Texas Beer.  It is strange how ubiquitous the "Texas" brand is while traveling.  We also saw a Texas BBQ in Ho Chi Minh and a Texas Chicken in Manado.  I do not notice this phenomenon with any other states.

We arrived back in Siem Reap at 3 in the afternoon.  We were starving, so we ate at a really great restaurant called 8th Street Bar and Brasserie.  Kristin had crumbled chicken stuffed with pesto and herbed cheese.  I had chicken with herbed gravy with bok choy and black sesame noodles.  I love when things are "herbed."  I must confess though, I have no idea what it means.

During lunch, while Busta Rhymes played over the speakers at our Khmer/French/Unknown restaurant, a man in the street jumped through a flaming hoop of knives.

In the evening we had a relaxing time with massages, ice cream, and shopping at the Angkor Night Market.  I do not know why, but the Angkor Night Market is much much better than any other night market in southeast Asia.  We finally ran into Meagan and Ryan, and they regaled us with tales of their day, which included eating bugs and firing fully automatic weapons. 

 Leaving Siem Reap 

 Stone Mason Shop 

 Our tuk tuk driver Landa piloting our adventure 

 Cambodian Plains 

 Man and Beast 

 This is a wedding facility 

 Kids out of school at 11

 Some country homes 

 Foe some reason, we see volleyball nets everywhere.  Cambodians love volleyball

 The old moat surrounding Bang Melea 

 You see these signs pretty frequently.  Lots of landmines here 

 The path to Bang Melea 

 A shaded pond 

 Bang Melea - a mess of fallen empire 

 An inner courtyard

 Kristin had sandals on, so I moved on without her, clambering over these stones with my camera and tripod 

 A collapsed hallway 

 Surprisingly intact 

 The jungle has slowly taken this place back 

 Reminds me of those After Man shows 

 Hey boo what you doing up there?  A movie was filmed here in 2004, and they built a few wooden walkways that remain 

 Self Timer O yea

 At this point we were lost

 A nice action scene 

 Some very old windows

 Our guides 

 They were such gentlemen 

 A natural swing 

 An old entrance 

 Some trees



 The Southern Entry 

 This kid came at me wielding a plant 

 The Moat 

 Texas Beer

 Country Road 

 This cow had a death wish 

 More country homes 

 Many of the houses are on stilts, probably due to flooding during the monsoons 

 Around the bend 

 Our commute back to Siem Reap

 We liked this house.  This would be a nice home in Cambodia.

 I just want you to get a feel for the different types of homes here

 The vast majority look like this 

 Hello there lady, what kind of snack do you have there?

 Ohhh, nevermind 

 Gas Station 

 A kid on a big bike 


 A colorful monk back in Siem Reap 

 A man jumping through a flaming hoop of knives 

 Chicken with sesame noodles 

 Crusted chicken stuffed with cheese and pesto 

 Very good 

 Angkor What 

 Some colorful nurses 

 A Tuk Tuk 

Street Merchant