The day after visiting Angkor Thom and Wat, our guide drove us further from Siem Reap to three more temple sites. We left some of the crowds behind, as bikes and tuk-tuks didn’t venture that far out. Banteay Srei was our first stop. While the section below looks like a ruin, it originally had a wooden roof, which has rotted away since the 10th century.
The carving here is beautiful and intricate; mostly in red sandstone.
Many of the statues have been replaced with replicas, to cut down on theft of artifacts. Apparently, some of the replicas have also been stolen.
We drove further out to Preah Khan, where we saw another grim reminder of Cambodia’s continuing struggles. We’d read and been told not to walk off of any well established paths—preferably ones that showed recent traffic—to avoid triggering any landmines.
Our path was mostly on rubble, however; Preah Khan has been stabilized, but not restored, and visitors are welcome to clamber throughout the ruins. We followed our guide’s instructions, and felt quite safe, despite some of the heights involved.
Trees and strangler fig vines have taken over much of the temple, though to some extent, they are now stabilizing it. Some of the vines are impressive—like this free-standing swing we sat on for a picture.
We drove back towards Siem Reap, and stopped at Preah Ko, which we had to ourselves not because it was distant, but because we arrived in the afternoon heat, when sensible people had taken refuge indoors.
These two were playing a variation of a game we’ve seen all over the world. We call it “The Shoe Game,” in which the players (generally boys) each kick a shoe into the air. Beyond that, and although we watched several of these games transpire, we’re not sure of the rules or object.
Nearby the ruins at Preah Ko was a school of trades where children learned crafts such as stone carving, leather tooling, and weaving. These girls could carry on a conversation and pass their shuttle back and forth without even looking at it. And they were friendly and beautiful, too. It’s hard to say from such a brief meeting, but they looked as though they enjoyed their work.
While the weaving was done exclusively by girls, the stone carving was done exclusively by boys. We asked several questions, including what happened if they made a mistake. Their answer was simply, “We don’t.”