Around the Lake in 99 Hours

I could write this as an account of what activity preceded which pill but that would be boring, instead;

Lina’s (driving) sister’s husband, she was sleeping, served us a sardine omelet in Thma Koul so we shot round the Battambang bypass and missed sushi in Gecko.

Sampov Meas

No one’s heard of Pursat and it’s not my pronunciation. A big city on the Pursat River, in Pursat Province but obviously no clues and we stayed in the Pursat Riverside Hotel, where we swam with the Khmer children pissing in the Pursat Riverside Hotel Olympic sized pool.

I walked along the riverfront to an island with a pagoda on top that was supposed to look like a ship. I walked back. My back hurt so bad that we couldn’t explore the town so Lina bought me a Japanese BBQ opposite the hotel.

Kampong Luong

Tonle Sap at Kampong Chnang

Next the last but one capitol of Cambodia. When the water ran out in Angkor the remnants of the empire relocated to Oudong on the Siem Reap River 40km from Phnom Penh. The spires of its stupas point rocket like above the two hills on which they’re built. Angkorian and pre-Angkorian ruins where thousands of Sunday pilgrims have come to pray for something.

A stupa on an older Angkorian construction

A monkey greeted us at the first landing, many more to go. Why am I exhausted? The flat lands of the two great Khmer Rivers stretched into the distance. And plastic, fields of burning plastic but don’t look and in the marginally reduced temperature of what is supposed to be winter, it seemed a green and what would be a mysterious place if there were no people.

The view South from my hotel room

A pumped-up Khmer pimp served mediocre overpriced food for dinner. Frenchmen for whom it was beneath them to speak to the customer. John Black ate a raw burger, and I had antique mussels, so old they weren’t poisonous anymore.

Koh Dach looking upstream the Mekong

‘No quads today,’ Piseth told me when Heang found his shop though I was severely tempted to buy a new one in which case tomorrow. So, what to do now? Heang looked at his photo chart that he show’s tourists the places where they can go and I’ve been, at least the ones I want to.

Let’s go back to Koh Dach, the island in the middle of the Mekong that Buntha and I cycle round when we’re in Phnom Penh. Art a guide I know was taking tourists to the silk village, so we turned back to find out what happens at the end of the island. I had an idea I knew from a decade ago, mango groves of dappled light where once there had been a tourist resort. Now abandoned to leaf littered tracks with steps down to a river spit in the Mekong. A Khmer Resort when the water level is low.

Above Street 240 birdsong rings as I step into the pool for my pre-exhaustion 50 lengths forwards looking through the tall trees surrounding the Royal Gardens and backwards to the skyscrapers burgeoning like mushrooms south of the city. This is a lovely hotel. 

Angkorian Buddha and Khmer King adorned with a Long-tailed Macaque below

Phnom Santeuk green above a sea of agrarian brown. Monkeys wait to be fed so the monkey food seller can take our money. Peaceful and sleepy. Angkorian deities rest in their alcoves protecting them from the monkeys. A monk strangely practices a guitar and not Tiktok, another a traditional Khmer instrument. What’s with the tourist police taking my photo but this time my Khmer response had improved to the point ‘haet-ai chong tort-rup nyom?’ He probably hadn’t an idea of what I was saying (why do you want to take my photo) but it sent him away.

Kampong Thom at dusk reflecting in the Steung Saen

Moxodone is a nasty powerful anti-inflammatory drug that made me feel sick the next day and seemed to add to the general disintegration of my back, but we got a boat from the hotel up the Steung Saen River. The boatman raised the propellor shaft overfishing nets as we rode over them. They completely blocked the river and prevented any fish over a thimble in size getting past. Four giant pipes sucked water out of the river to irrigate the monoculture of casava and rubber to add to the general environmental degradation. Despite that I saw pied kingfishers and a raptor. We did a hang by the center of Kampong Thom to see the lights as dusk fell.

A flying palace at Sambor Prei Kuk

Two and a half hours back to Siem Reap and 99 around The Tonle Sap Lake.

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