CAMBODIA:

RIVER FESTIVAL, ANGKOR WAT, OVERLAND to THAILAND

 

OCTOBER 1998

 

Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday

 

 

Festival of the Reversing Current

 

The next stop was Phnomh Penh, Cambodia, for the 3-day Festival of the Reversing Current.

Phnomh Penh is located at the junction of the Mekhong and Tonle Sap rivers. The Tonle Sap drains Lake Tonle Sap, the largest lake in Asia.

During the 4 months of the rainy season, the Mekhong rises many meters, causing the Tonle Sap to run "backwards".

So much water flows back upstream into Lake Tonle Sap that it more than doubles in size!

 

 

 

Once the river reverses,

the King declares the festival

to begin at the next full moon.

 

 

 

 

Long canoes race down the river

powered by up to 80 paddlers.

 

 

 

Phnomh Penh is a surprisingly civilized city,

perhaps due to past French influence? Probably not....

The food is a tasty spicy combination of

Thai and Vietnamese styles.

 

They even have Pizza at Mekhong riverfront cafes

.

 

 

On the second day,

we visited the nearby "shooting range".

It is operated by some Russian mafia-types,

and allows tourists to shoot

military-class automatic weapons!

 

 

The 50-caliber machine gun was out of order,

but both the M-60 and Uzi were popular!

They would NOT let use shoot the RPG.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each night during the festival colorful barges are pulled along the riverfront.

Giant lights display Cambodian designs.

 

After the barges passed,

there was a fireworks show over the Mekhong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SIEM RIAP, ANGKOR WAT

 

 

Flying to Siem Reap, we spent three days around Angkor Wat. This remains my favorite archeological site in the world!

There are not many trips I repeat two years in a row! Although I came here just the previous year, I was back!

 

 

 

 

Apsaras are a favorite carving

on the temple walls.

 

 

 

 

For me, THE BAYON is the most memorable of the Angkor temples.

The hundred-or-so huge Buddha faces in the towers smile down at you wherever you turn.

It was almost a full moon, so we thought we would stay after dark to enjoy the quiet night.

Some monks came by and chatted with us.

Later, when it was quite dark, we were startled by two men with automatic rifles and red scarves on their head.

OH NO! - the Khmer Rouge still controlled the temple grounds at night!

They waved towards the steps with thier guns, saying "YOU GO....NOW..."

....... we promptly scurried away, never looking back!

 

 

This beautiful 5-star hotel was now open.

it had been closed the previous year.

At $300 per night, we had a drink in the bar and returned to our $20 rooms!

 

 

 

 

 

The elegant ruins at Banteay Srei are now open to visitors.

They are about an hour drive to the Northeast of Siem Riap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banteay Srei is famous for the most intricate and best-preserved carvings of all the Khmer sites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This site along the road

from Siem Reap to Banteay Srei is infamous.

Two tourists from Austin were ambushed and shot here, one killed, by bandits three years earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

Back at Angkor Wat, we were lucky to see Khmer dancing performed in front of the main temple.

This was an encouraging sign of recovery for Cambodian culture.

Those with artistic or other skills were sent for "re-education" not many years before by the Khmer Rouge, and never returned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bought this card in the Siem Riap market.....

 

 

 

 

 

We departed Siem Riap north by road to the Thai border at Poipet.

This route was considered unsafe until the recent surrender

of Khmer Rouge forces to government troops.

The extremely bad road took 8 hours to cover 100 miles.

Although we saw no military roadblocks, at many impassable spots you must pay the locals to "re-build" the road for you!

 

 

 

 

Or perhaps a small payment will replace some missing planks in the bridge!

 

Cambodian Pots

 

 

 

 

 

Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday