Ngin and Nicola’s Temple Hunting Saturday Morning Adventure
An essential Large Little Red Fox latte while Loklak snapped at a French lady then into Panya’s tuktuk for the ride to Phnom Bok.
Panya had the unnecessary ability to find every pothole on the admittedly disintegrating road to Pradark. At Phnom Bok we were greeted with an after party dance party. A wall of speakers sent a reverberating thud up the mountain as we set off through the forest in search of temples.
It’s hot work chasing temples in the woods so Loklak, who remembered the trail from his walk with Emma, a posh dog – charged off to the lake on the other side and was splashing amongst the lotus leaves by the time we arrived.
Loklak checking out the temple trail
The road runs along a raised bank beside the lake, which suggests it was an Angkorian reservoir. Half way through April and about as dry as it gets, it had shrunk to a quarter of its rainy season area. Manus suggested kayaking when it is full.
Manus framed by Phnom Bok and it’s lake
It wasn’t very difficult, there was a sign but Manus was very proud to have seen it and to be fair Buntha and I had passed by many times oblivious to the little temple that lay about fifty meters from the road
We crossed the empty but still green moat to a central mound and three laterite towers with a looted lintel over the doorway.
The temple was built in the 13th century by a Brahmin priest and intriguingly lies at the corner of two Angkorian reservoirs and a sluice to control the water between them.
Apparently the moat wasn’t completely empty. Loklak had found a muddy wallow and ran out the same colour as a wet water buffalo then rolled in the sand and became a fantastical demon from an Angkorian legend.
Angkorian demon (left) and Oxcart (below)
We walked into the village of Phum Samre near Banteay Samre.
A small boy sat on an oxcart and asked for a hopeful dollar, a sugar palm juice collector had two full pots suspended from a pole over his shoulder and wet jeans so low you could almost see his linga.
Phum Samre Market
Sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves from the little market and sugar palm juice from the man with the wet jeans, Manus knew him. They’d been in a movie together. I’m waiting for it to make the multiplex in Phnom Penh.
Past the village the houses were bigger, the taller trees and pineapples grew in the filtered sunlight.
Loklak was getting hot and with a loud sigh punctuating his panting collapsed in each thicket of shade we passed.
Chinese New Year Flower
We turned left instead of right to look for the temple Mr Heng our taxi driver had told me about. In front of us lay baking brown rice paddy’s on what felt like the hottest day of the year. A welcome relief when we entered the gloom under the tall trees near Wat Pradark and a spooky trail between burial mounds strewn with forlorn streamers.
A boy monk told us where the temple actually was but first the pagoda pool for another Loklak wallow watched by a frog on a lotus leaf.
A lady wrapped in a wet kroma pointed and in the hundred degree heat we came upon the archaeological excavation of Prasat Kamnap, stepped trenches showed the extent of the structure but gave no secrets away such as why was it buried*
*I later found out that a dig had unearthed Sanskrit inscribed stele from what had been an Angkorian monastery, once the secrets had been gleaned in accordance with archaeological practise they were reburied.
We stopped at a stall for Loklak to slurp water from Manus’s cupped hands but that didn’t last long so Loklak beyond caring got carted like a sack of rice until we left the hot red earth road.
We followed a path under tall sugar palm trees between paddy fields until we came on a woman sluicing herself under a pump. Manus asked if he could sluice Loklak instead and ladled water over the hot dog
Ripping my scalp on a projecting thorn we made it through for Loklak with a last gasp to get to the muddy waters of the shrinking baray where he sat with an expression of ‘no more’ across his face.
A beer beside the baray
Our final obstacle was a belt of thick vegetation around the West Baray where Panya might be waiting, and our lunch of road kill chicken, rice and most currently appealing cold Cambodia beer.
Something was not quite right? A tough countryside dog gasping his way through a Saturday morning stroll, while the only concern of the admittedly sweat soaked barang was a cold beer. Manus of course was oblivious to the exercise and played games on his phone.
He went to find our lunch while Loklak and I sat amongst the post Khmer New Year debris on the banks of the baray and watched the buffalo bathe. Or at least I did, Loklak had summoned up enough energy to steal a fish head from a small boy then growled when the boy tried to get it back. He ran screaming to his daddy and I looked the other way.
Indochine Exploration would love to take you on a hiking or cycling temple discovery adventure along the paths described in this blog