Our second day of templing started at a more reasonable 8:30 AM and started with a long tuk-tuk drive out of town to the temple of Banteay Srei, a little over 30 km away. The drive was beautiful, lined with small Cambodian villages and lush rice fields. This was the first time I saw anyone in the age range of 40-60, as most folks in the city were younger. The Khmer Rouge regime killed a lot of people, mostly city folks, and the generations-old farmers were less likely to fall, as the Khmer Rouge saw them as the ‘model citizen’. Anywho, once we arrived we were greeted with a small, simple, yet impressive temple surrounded by many carvings and even a modest little moat. It was built out of an entirely different kind of stone than either Angkor complex and provided us with an interesting alternate comparison.
Our next stop was the Cambodian Landmine Museum. It is dedicated to the spread of knowledge about the terrors of mining and a testimony to the experiences of Aki Ra. That is not his original name; he was a 12 year old soldier in the Khmer Rouge and was in charge of laying mines for the army. When Vietnam invaded in the late 70’s he was conscripted into their army and put in charge of finding and disarming mines and took the name of Aki Ra, given to him by the Japanese. Over the years, he has disarmed tens of thousands of various mines and runs an orphanage for children disabled by mines. It’s still a huge problem, as there are still an estimated 5 million land mines still spread throughout Cambodia. It was a sobering experience. If you are interested in donating to the cause, check out http://www.cleanupsoap.com for a unique way to contribute. We can verify this is legit.
Next up: The pyramid-style temple of Pre Rup. A short but strenuous climb up provided me with the best view I’ve had here, as it’s not part of a large complex and is surrounded by farmland and jungle. It’s in generally good shape and was built out of the same stone that Banteay Srei was. Just down the road a few kilometers was Mebon Temple, an extremely similar small complex that we didn’t stay more than 20 minutes at; foreboding storm clouds and a few peals of thunder put an extra spring in our step.
Ta Som was next, and although the sky threatened to let loose at any second we went for a look. This temple was very similar to Banteay Kdei; a long hallway-esque series of buildings with many carvings, but was in a lot better shape. About ten minutes in, the rain started. I was in one of the central buildings, admiring the rain entering through a hole in the roof, when out of the corner of my eye I saw orange moving much too fast. Indi was wearing her orange shirt, and had just taken a bad step; her left ankle twisted outward and she crumpled to the ground, slamming her knee against another stone. A few other tourists and I ran over to help her up, but she was in a tremendous amount of pain. I ran to the temple entrance and tried to explain what happened to the Cambodian shopkeepers, and one gave me a small chuck of ice from a cooler. I ran back to Indi’s resting place, where a Spanish gentleman was trying to communicate. My Spanish is quite rusty, but after he helped secure the ice to Indi’s ankle via a scarf she’d purchased earlier, I figured out that he recommended keeping it elevated and not to bind it too tightly. He helped me get Indi back to the entrance, and Dara helped get us into the tuk-tuk and back to town.
Once in town, he took us to a clinic and we got an X-ray. It wasn’t broken, thankfully, but the doctor said that two ligaments were damaged. He went to get medicine and we were surprised when he returned with a small metal bowl where he was mashing up several ingredients. He looked up at us and smiled. “Chinese traditional medicine.” he said confidently. He worked at this paste until he was pleased with it’s consistency, then spread it on the area (“Will help reduce swelling,” he said) and then bandaged it. He gave us a spare bandage, additional goop, and some pain pills. It set us back $50, which considering included visit, X-Ray, and medicine was actually better than it would’ve been at home, WITH insurance. We met back up with Dara at the front of the clinic, where the rain was letting up. Dara took us to a small Cambodian restaurant in town and then back to the hotel.
All in all, it was an exciting day to say the least.