We visited several smaller temples today which were all amazing! Each one impressed us…we took our time climbing our way through the various ruins and stopping to touch the old stone and take in every moment. One of our favorites was the Banteay Srei Temple (Fortress of the Women) from the 10th century…with its elaborate details imbedded in the red limestone walls. The buildings were much smaller than other temples forcing us to duck down just to walk through the doorways. The carvings were so intricate and told Hindu stories using mythological symbolism. The history here is almost unreal to be able to walk through…reading books and looking at pictures is one thing, but really walking through these temples and seeing the ancient carvings is surreal.
In between temples, we stopped for a fresh coconut cut by one of the local vendors before getting in the car and driving for a bit to the next temple area. As we drove through small towns, we enjoyed staring out the window watching the countryside pass by and the many little bamboo huts. At one point, we saw a little fruit stand where a women was selling milk fruit…round fruit which were purple and green on the outside and white with seeds on the inside. They were all hanging from strings, and since we had never tried milk fruit before, we bought a bunch to taste. We also couldn’t resist buying a super sweet extra cute tiny pineapple before continuing on our way to the next temple.
A little further down the road, we saw locals making palm sugar…stirring the hot liquid slowly in the huge silver pots on the ground until it became super thick. We pulled over to get a better look at the process. The liquid comes from the sugar palm tree, its sap is tapped and gathered by the local people who then boil it down until it looks like a thick caramel. Then it is poured into a moulding and sold for cooking…it is their version of brown sugar. Giff and I knew Palm sugar well as we had cooked with it with almost every course in Thailand, it is a staple in Thai cuisine. Palm Sugar is actually healthy…it has many vitamins, minerals and even protein, calcium and iron-who knew something so sweet could have health benefits! For lunch we stopped on the side of road where multiple vendors had their plastic tables set out on the dirt parking lot. We found a table and ordered a couple of things for lunch. They also cut up our milk fruit and pineapple for us…the milk fruit had a very sweet white flesh.
After lunch, we started our afternoon exploring more temples, one of which was Prasat Ta Sam, dedicated to the Kings ancestors. It was a small temple in the woods, and we recognized the architecture right away with the large smiling faces carved into the top of the temple. As we continued walking through the old entrance, what really stood out the most were the trees that had actually grown into the walls. The wall and tree have been intertwined for so many years…one probably could not stand without the other.
The last temple of the day was Ta Prohm (the temple where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed) which had huge thick tree trunks devouring the ancient temple walls…the roots of the trees were covering much of the temple. The trees weren’t your everyday large trees…these things were ginormous…when we took pictures next to them we looked miniature in size. We walked through the ruins taking pictures and noting the hidden carvings behind tree trunks.
Back on the tuk-tuk heading to the village of Siem Reap, we saw a typical motorcycle driving by us with more coconuts loaded onto it than one would think possible…it even had the machete stuck in one for cutting them open. You don’t exactly see motorcycles like this in the US!
Today is Christmas for us so we are wondering what we will be eating for our Christmas dinner in Cambodia! We found a place on a busy street of Siem Reap and ordered a few things. After just a few bites we knew it was not so good food…we have been eating enough Asian cuisine now to determine the great from the mediocre. We quickly paid our bill and then went searching for something else. We found a cute small winery restaurant with a table available outside on the sidewalk. We ordered a few different small plates including a tartar and a pasta made with snake, as well as a filet of white fish and a glass of wine…
After Christmas dinner, we walked around a bit engulfed in the buzz of the small town. We ran into a place called Dr. Fish…there was a huge aquarium filled with tiny little fish. Because we are crazy…we agreed to give it a try. We sat on the ledge of the aquarium, beer in hand and feet in the water…100’s of little fish came swarming over to our feet and started eating the dead skin off for us. It tickled like crazy!!! There were other people sitting on the ledge as well with their feet hanging in the water and we were all laughing as we let fish eat off of us…seriously who does that? It was certainly an experience we will not forget…probably the strangest thing we’ve ever participated in on Christmas day so far.
After our food and fish experience, we grabbed a tuk-tuk and went back to our hotel for a massage (of course) and bed.