I am a little behind in the ole blogging, about two weeks at this point. I am going to try to catch up today.
Two Friday's ago we went to see the Roluos Group and Banteay Srei. They are both outside of the immediate Siem Reap/Angkor area. Cale and I briefly toyed around with the idea of biking out to the Roluos, which are about 13km outside of town. Thankfully, we got over that idea and decided to hire a tuk-tuk for the day. Clem is friends with a driver from the hostel Green Gecko recommends to its volunteers (Siem Reap Hostel), so we gave him a call and he picked us up in the morning and we headed out.
The Roluos is the site of the first major capital of the Angkorian period and the temples there are older than the ones we had been seeing in Angkor. The first one we saw was Preah Ko. There were quite a few interesting elements to the ruins of Preah Ko that we hadn't seen at the Angkor sites.
Right away I noticed these decorative landings at the end of walkways or stairs.
Cale conjured up the mental image of a tongue unrolling for the gaping mouth of the temple doorway and cascading down the steps to end in this landing.
The lions of the Roluos Group were also different than the ones we had seen earlier. They were rounder and looked more furry than the others. They were slightly more cartoony too. They seemed more cuddly and less aggressive than the ones on Angkor Wat.
Finally we had the opportunity to see a dramatic display of restored and unrestored temple features.
The right side of the structure is being restored, whereas the left side hasn't had as much work done yet.
After Preah Ko we stopped at Bakong. In addition to being facinating ancient ruins, Bakong also houses an active Buddhist monestary within the fortress walls and moat.
Strangely we found a bit of graffiti on the temple that looked almost identical to the loetek branding Cale and friends used to use in high school.
We dropped in briefly on Lolei, but it wasn't too exciting and appeared to be entirely under construction at the time.
Next we headed north to Banteay Srei. It is almost 40km out of town, so there was no way we were going to bike there.
The thing that is impossible to convey in photographs of this temple is that it is tiny. It has all the features of other Angkorian temples, but at half the size. It is like wandering around a child-sized playground or dollhouse of Angkorian temples. The part of this site that took my breath away was the detailing in the carvings that had been preserved.
At that point, it was my favourite temple by far. However, we hadn't been to Banteay Chmmar yet.
Before we had left that morning, Clem had asked us to take some pictures of our tuk-tuk driver, Sophara. She is building a web site for him. I had tried to convince him to go to Angkor Wat and the South Gate of Angkor Thom before we headed north to Banteay Srei in the hopes of getting him in front of those landmarks with some good light. However, he insisted on taking us to all the temples first. On the return from Banteay Srei, he stopped at Banteay Samre so we could see that one as well. Cale and I were walking around inside the temple and stepped out into a courtyard. I was shocked to see how quickly we were losing the light. It was fast approaching 4pm. If we didn't hurry, there would be no light left to take pictures of Sophara. We took off for the main Angkor site and stopped at picturesque sites along the way to take pictures. Unfortunately, the light was not cooperating (and around Angkor Wat, neither were the crowds).
Sophara wanted a passenger in the pictures, so Cale is in some of the shots. I had the hardest time getting Sophara to smile for the pictures. He is such a happy guy and smiles beautifully when he is talking to you, but is so serious in the pictures.
I will link to the web site when Clem is done building it. In the mean time, if you are in Siem Reap and are looking for a great tuk-tuk driver stop by the Siem Reap Hostel and ask for Sophara.