Day 2 was another early morning, leaving the hotel at 5am, but this time by tuk tuk! Oh, were we happy to not have to hop back on those bicycles. We highly recommend that you split up your days with tuk tuks in the middle so you have time to rest your legs!
Pre Rup Temple
The temples for this day are located much farther out, so we really needed the tuk tuk. We arrived at Pre Rup Temple where we planned to watch the sunrise 30 minutes early and it was still so dark we could hardly see each other! Instead of climbing up in the dark we talked for a while with our tuk tuk driver. He was born in 1979, right after the Khmer Rouge had lost power, but his parents had been sent from Phnom Penh to the fields to work and 2 of his 3 siblings had gone missing during that time. At least when his parents returned to the city their house and belongings were still there. It’s crazy to imagine that anyone over 30 who has lived their whole life in Cambodia experienced the terror of the Khmer Rouge.
Once the sky lightened up around 6am we headed up the temple to see the sunrise.
Another benefit of getting up early is that there is a chance that you will be the only ones there! At Pre Rup we had the temple all to our selves for at least 30 minutes.
Banteay Samre Temple
After Pre Rup Temple we got back on the tuk tuk and headed to Banteay Samre Temple, about 15 minutes away.
It was still nice and cool in the morning (about 7:30 am) as we explored the corridors of Banteay Samre, and we were the only tourists there! This was one of my favorite temples, since it was such a peaceful visit.
Banteay Samre is beautiful and very well preserved and looks more like a little city than a temple. Not many tourists make it out here since it is father than most, but highly recommended.
Banteay Srey Temple
The next stop was Banteay Srey Temple … this is where you will find hordes of tourists if you show up after 8am!
One explanation for this temple being called Citadel of the Women is that the small size and intricate carvings indicate that it was constructed by women. Some say the carvings are too fine and detailed to have been carved by men’s hands.
By the time we reached Banteay Srey the large tour groups had already arrived, so we had to wait our turn to get a close look and the three dimensional carvings.
Some of the temples contain inscriptions in the stone, helping to explain the purposes the temples served.
Most of Banteay Srey is roped off, so you need a good zoom lens to see the details.
Land Mine Museum
Afterwords, we stopped off at the Land Mine Museum which is on the way back towards the main temple area.
There are still many landmine victims in Cambodia every year, especially in the rural areas that have not been de-mined. Curious children who pick up the mines to play with them are often victims. Landmines are intended to maim, not kill, resulting often in the loss of a limb. In Cambodia the loss of an arm or leg can mean the end of gaining any meaningful employment and many disabled people resort to begging, or possibly playing in a band for donations.
The U.S. refused to sign the Ottawa Treaty without an exception for the landmines separating north and south Korea, which are “keeping the peace.”
Ta Som Temple
Back near the main temple area we stopped off at Ta Som Temple. This is another temple that has been left to the forces of mother nature and a better place to photograph trees devouring temples without the large crowds.
Around the corner from Ta Som is Neak Pean.
This used to be a pool of water, filtering into the inner man-made lake.
Preah Khan Temple
Our last temple of the day was Preah Khan Temple. This is also a good place to get lunch since there are many make-shift restaurants across the road.
Preah Khan city was one of the largest sites, with many corridors and rooms.
We were always trying to guess what these rectangular objects in some of the rooms were used for. One guess is that this one was for metal work. There are metal rods inside some of the statues for support, so they must have had facilities for molding metal. But before we get completely off base we better read the books that we bought on the temples!
Right before George took this photo he took a step too far backwards and fell over. I heard a thud and ran over and offered to take the camera and help him up. Thinking he had twisted his ankle, George said, “Wait. I gotta get one more shot before I get up.” And it turned out to be a nice photo ;). Luckily he didn’t get a twisted or sprained ankle, and walked away just fine. It would have been a real bummer if he had sprained his ankle … last temple of the day but we still had not visited the mother of all temples, Angkor Wat.
Day 2 accomplished with ease and it would have been impossible to see so many temples without the tuk tuk!