Our second day in Siem Reap was just as exciting as our first. We got to ride in an original “Tomb Raider style” military jeep which took us to Phnom Kulen–the mountain is considered the birthplace of the Khmer empire and a sacred place for the Khmer people. Here we got to discover ancient stone carvings in a riverbed and visit several hidden pagodas, including Cambodia’s largest reclining Buddha. It required a light trek on our part which wouldn’t have been so taxing if not for the heat. I guess you can say we experienced the real Siam Reap–with its rough roads, flying dust and rising temperatures (it was 42 degrees Celsius that day). Don’t get me wrong, it was all very fun in the beginning, until the heat finally got to us. We also experienced a bit of bad luck for this trip. The military jeeps–we had two at our disposal–kept breaking down, until the tour group finally called us a van and later on a car. We lost precious time as they attempted to fix the broken vehicles, so we weren’t able to do all the things in the itinerary in one day. It didn’t really bother us though, because it gave us more time to chat (that’s what girls do) and we were able to visit the hidden temple on our last day so all is good.
All ready to go in our M151 Mutt Jeep.
These jeeps are made to last–sad they decided to breakdown during our tour.
We sighted an ancient temple along the way.
Most of the landscape was like this. The drought turned Siam Reap’s lush plains into a desert.
Packed lunch. Love how this lunch box had a compartment for every little thing. The food was so yummy!
We had lunch by the River of a Thousand Lingas. The stone carvings you see on the river bed represent countless lingams (phallic symbol of Hindu God Shiva) which are sacred to Cambodians.
Some of these lingams date back to the 9th century. The lingas are symbol of God Shiva’s essence and were built to purify the water of the river and make it fertile to then irrigate the rice fields.
The long stretch of this river is filled with these ancient carvings.
Buddha chilling by the river.
The trio takes a break.
A short jeep ride away is Preah Ang Tho, a 16th century Buddhist monastery notable for the giant reclining Buddha carved into the top of a 20-m boulder.
Admiring its elaborate design.
Happy kids watch our shoes for us (we had to remove them to go up to see the reclining Buddha).
A giant linggam.
Just a wooden staircase away is the 17-m long reclining Buddha, where monks and believers bow down, burn incense and leave fruit.
The reclining Buddha.
Our tour guide told us that because Buddha’s arm is down, he is dead in this pose.
A man getting a Buddhist life consultation.
Climbing steps is not easy. After a short walk we get to the waterfalls. It felt great to cool down.
These falls were a welcome respite from the heat.
And just across the river was this rundown temple.
Snacks and fruits on our way back.
We figured we stop at this temple before sundown. Beautiful relic.