FEBRUARY 22, 2016 (MONDAY)
We started our day even earlier than the previous 2 days spent in Angkor Archaeological Park. We were going to Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean, which are at least 30km away from the popular area of Angkor Park. Mr. Kim fetched us promptly as usual. We were thinking if we would bring a long scarf or jacket since the tuktuk ride would definitely be cold. We decided not to since the rest of the day would be hot. We sort of regretted that decision because it was really cold. I don’t know how I managed to do it but I was able to sleep despite the cold and bumpy ride.
After about an hour of traveling, we arrived at BANTEAY SREI before 5:30AM. It was still dark so we stayed in our tuktuk. When the sky was starting to light up, we got off the tuktuk and went inside. There was only one person in the entrance area, sweeping the ground. We walked into an open area then encountered a fork road. We did not know which to take so we went back to the entrance and asked the guy for correct directions. I was a bit jumpy while walking because it was not yet that bright. T.T
Eventually we saw the outermost structure of Banteay Srei. We passed by the ticket checking area since there was no one around. We were the only tourists there, and we were able to keep the temple to ourselves for about an hour. When the sun started to illuminate the temple and ground, I was able to witness what other travelers say about the place — the structures seem to have some color of pink (even if originally they don’t).
I read that Banteay Srei stands for “Temple/Citadel of Women”, and that the carvings of the temple was done by women. Indeed, women might have done the carvings because this was the only temple we visited that had flowers and very detailed icons/drawings.
After an hour of being the lone tourists there, Kim and I went back to the entrance and we saw a few tourists had already arrived too. I checked if the sun was already up — it was but not yet that high to be able to see it above the trees…
Kim told me that she absolutely loved this temple, and that this was probably her favorite among all the temples we visited. The place also reminded her of one of the areas in Diablo…
We revisited the other spots we saw earlier to admire the intricate carvings. I also saw beautiful lotuses growing in a murky pond near the innermost structure.
When more tourists started pouring in, we decided to leave and have breakfast first before proceeding to Kbal Spean. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant where Mr. Kim brought us but it was a total rip-off. Not blaming him though as he might not have any idea — we noticed locals eating there and they do not look that well-off. The menu handed to us had prices in USD. For just one order of noodles, we were charged USD 8 already. The other food items were of the same price or even more expensive. Ridiculous! We just ate quickly so that we can already leave the place.
After almost an hour of travel, we reached KBAL SPEAN. In the parking area, there were lots of vans so we thought that there might be lots of tourists already. It was already 9AM so some might have chosen this as their first destination instead of Banteay Srei.
Guard checked our ticket and then we entered the area. We were not sure what to expect because the area looked like a forest so we walked a bit… After a few steps, we saw a sign that indicated “1500m”. We told each other it was not that bad since walking around acad oval in UP would be longer (2200m).
How was our walk? Uhh, it became a HIKE! If you plan to go here, wear your most comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes.
We walked and walked and walked but the ground was a bit uneven…
We also climbed rocks and went up long flights of stairs…
Good thing that the area was quiet, peaceful, and scenic…
After sweating buckets, we finally saw a person who was selling drinks then another person who seemed like an employee or guide there. Apparently, we were the only tourists there contrary to what we initially thought. A few more steps from where we saw the two locals, we finally saw the carvings! I was surprised to see that there was no waterfalls though so I thought I incorrectly remembered the travel stories I read about this place… When I asked the guide(?) why there was no water, he replied that it was because of the dry season. Here are the pictures of Kbal Spean when we visited…
…versus the pictures I saw online
A few hundred meters from the stone carvings (without water), we found a big pond although there were no stone carvings at that part anymore.
We decided to go back after making sure that we saw everything. A few tourists arrived just as we were about to leave. We had another perfect timing here, similar to Banteay Srei, because while walking on our way back to the parking area, we passed by a lot of tourists. Some of them asked if Kbal Spean was still far, a few asked if the hike was worth it — my answer was yes. Even without the water, the carvings were still grand and mesmerizing to look at.
My most memorable encounter on our way back was with the monks. The monk below in the picture passed by me but the other monk behind him stopped to have a small chat with me. He asked, “How do you find this place?”. I told him that I loved the place because it was peaceful and unique. Unique in the sense that among all the places we visited in Angkor Park, this was the only one that was inside a forest. The rock carvings were also cool to because it makes you think what kind of tools did they use back then to be able to put those details there. The monk also asked what country we would go next but I told him that we were not backpackers and we will fly back to MNL the next night.
I bid my farewell to the cheerful monks then I saw Kim talking to a tourist. Turns out he was a Thai citizen and Kim told him that I would be going to BKK the next month. He said that he noticed an interesting trait Thai and Filipinos share — we always smile whenever someone talks to us, even if it is a stranger (of course with the exception of shady people).
We continued our hike after our conversations with them, and we still loved our trip going back because we saw the surroundings from a different perspective (mostly climbing up before, now mostly going down stairs and rocks).
When we got back to our tuktuk, we told Mr. Kim to take us back to the town proper so that we could have our lunch. We fell asleep along the way and I was surprised to learn that the travel time was about 2 hours. I showed a picture of an eatery to Mr. Kim. I was not particular in eating in that eatery but more of going to the place since there were lots of eateries there that sell dishes at USD 1.50 only. The stretch of eateries can be found in SIVATHA BOULEVARD. A blogger recommended Chae Ngek Restaurant but it was closed when we were there. Good thing Mr. Kim knows someone who owns an eatery there. We loved the fried spring rolls and grilled squid; we did not like the flat noodles (too saucy plus it tasted like pork & beans) and pad thai (did not resemble the taste of authentic pad thai).
We were supposed to go to the Roluos group of temples (Bakong, Lolei, and Preah Ko) after lunch but when we got back from Kbal Spean, we told Mr. Kim that we would cancel it. After having our lunch, Mr. Kim asked where we would be going next and Kim answered, “Back home”. But before we headed home, Kim requested Mr. Kim to stop if he sees a vendor selling unripe mangoes. We were able to find one then we were off to go back home… or so we thought.
Kim and I were chatting the whole trip, and when I finished discussing something to her, I was puzzled why we were not yet at home. I called this out to Kim and she said that we might be passing through another exit of Angkor Park, probably a shortcut going home. We continued chatting and at one point, I instinctively looked at a sign and saw “Preah Ko”. My eyes got wide and I thought to myself if I was dreaming since Mr. Kim confirmed our cancellation to Roluos. When we passed by another sign and it read “Lolei”, I already nudged Kim and told her we were in the area of Roluos and I was not sure why. Mr. Kim eventually stopped in front of a sign that read “Bakong” and he told us that Bakong is just straight ahead. We told him we were not sure why he drove us all the way here when we just wanted to go home… And that was when I realized that he misheard Kim’s “back home” as “Bakong”… T.T He apologized on this error but we told him that it was okay. So finally, we were really going home after that.
We swam again in the pool to cool off and took a short nap to re-energize ourselves. Kim found out that there are exotic snacks in Siem Reap and she found BUGS CAFE. Since it was the only dining place she requested and I saw that most dishes do not resemble insects and reptiles, I agreed to eat here.
We saw the owner going around tables, recommending dishes and explaining how they cook the food. He did the same when we were already settled in our seats. He recommended the Small Discovery Platter so that we could sample different dishes. We ordered that then Kim saw crocodile meat. We were supposed to order that but it was not available. We settled for Snake Soup after getting assurance that we won’t see the actual snake in the soup.
We freaked out with the insects in the Small Discovery Platter because you could really see the actual insect or its actual shape (in the case of the tarantula tempura). I was already crying inside when I thought about eating all of them, but since the owner assured us that it would not taste yucky, I told myself to just get over this dining experience.
I ate the silkworm first because we had eaten it a few days ago (in Marum). Still tasted good so yay, including the crickets mixed in this particular dish.
I decided to eat the water bug on the stick next — its shell was quite hard and when I was able to get a small piece to bite, ugh it was quite difficult to chew and had a really weird taste.
Surprisingly, the grasshopper tasted like danggit na pusit, which is my favorite so I definitely loved this.
Our next problem was how to eat the spider because it was a whole spider. I took my spoon and fork, then chopped the legs and then its body. With this, we did not get to see a whole spider anymore so it was bearable to eat. The spider tasted good too! What kind of flavoring do they use here??
The bigger problem was eating the Tarantula Donut or what Kim and I called tarantula tempura… Even if the tarantula was fully covered in tempura batter, it was still a whole tarantula and the thought of eating tarantula… So I decided to do the same as the one I did with the small spider — split the body in half then chopped each leg. After a bite, Kim and I were both shocked why it was delicious. No icky yucky weird taste. Much, much better than the water bug.
The last dishes in the platter involved ants. It was the “safest” there but I did not want to see the ants because it would make me feel itchy + I was imagining the ants coming back to life and biting my throat. UGH. We took a bite of the Mediterranean Feuilletés and it tasted good. No weird taste from the ants. I think the extra pesto at the side also helped overcome our fear of eating the bread with ants. We spread this on the bread to convince us to eat it. The wild spring rolls tasted, well… like ordinary spring rolls so I think that is a positive comment?
As for the Snake Soup, it tasted like beef noodle soup with an aftertaste, as Kim puts it. The snake meat was not tough. It had a unique taste which I could not describe but this is more of a positive comment rather than a negative one.
In fairness to what we ate, we felt full after eating here in Bugs Cafe. We decided to have fried ice cream as dessert so we walked to Pub Street from here. I was just disappointed that the staff there let a newbie prepare our fried ice cream. Kim’s ice cream looked okay with a few rolls crumbling a bit but still intact. Mine was a disaster!!! He left the liquid for too long so when he was rolling it, everything crumbled. What made me feel even more devastated was the passion fruit they used was too sour. My fried ice cream was totally inedible that I had to throw it away. Good thing, Kim shared hers with me. T.T It was really disappointing because during our first visit here, we both had an excellent experience.
We walked to LEMONGRASS GARDEN MASSAGE & BEAUTY SPA afterwards. This time, I already booked a reservation online. We were attended to promptly, and we were given free tea before the massage. We both chose Cosmic Connection (lemongrass oil) — no regrets because we were able to have a full body massage. We both ended up sleeping because it was really relaxing, and the massage helped alleviate fatigue and some muscle pain.
Mr. Kim fetched us here after to bring us back to our home. Already the last night in Siem Reap… Time really flies so fast!
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