Neak Pean’s Children of the Lake

In Cambodia, Sights by Nick2 Comments

King Jayavarman VII really loved his mom and dad—he commissioned a temple each in their honor, which is far more heartfelt than a Hallmark greeting card.

The only similarity being, both greeting cards and Khmer temples were probably made with slave labor.

Preah Khan is daddy’s temple, and the first major stop heading north from Angkor Thom.

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Preah Khan has been left unrestored for the most part. That being said, heaps of rubble and plant overgrowth don’t take anything away from the structures still standing.

The grounds are sprawling, making it easy to get turned around. Like many other temples at Angkor Wat, Preah Khan is aligned to face north, south, east and west. Once you get to the central chamber, be sure to remember which direction you entered from.

Otherwise you might wind up on the wrong road, and then you have to walk back. And your girlfriend/husband/dog has to hear you bitch the whole way.

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And while it’s fun to get lost once in a while, there were storm clouds rolling in.

As a matter of fact, I’d been commenting on the lack of rain since we got to Cambodia. Well, here it is, asshole. You want to talk about the weather? Here’s some weather.

Stupa envy

Stupa envy

That meant seeking shelter in the gaping maw of an overpriced tourist restaurant across the road. Haggling ensues.

The menu says meals are about $8 each. That’s insane, and I tell the owner as much.

“OK OK, 5$ and free drink!”

Nice try, but you can do better.

“OK! Three dollars!”

The hell? Just give it to me for free. Is the drink still free?

“No, only for $5.”

Right, so the drink isn’t free. It costs $2.

At that moment, the sky split open like your head the morning after St. Patrick’s Day. King Jay’s ghost pissed merrily to and fro, turning the dusty red earth outside into brownie batter.

You really appreciate mountain bikes in times like these.

For three bucks, the portions were huge. And the food was good—steaming, overflowing mounds of fried rice. I felt a little guilty, but then I remembered the people next to us paid the asking price for the exact same shit.

Then I felt great.

On to the next one—Neak Pean.

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Neak Pean sits a few miles east of Preah Khan, right in the middle of Jayataka Baray on an artificial island. The baray is partially filled with water during the rainy season, as you can see in the picture above.

Do note that the boardwalk isn’t part of the original structure; rather, it was constructed to access the Ferris wheel and water slides (not pictured, because I made that up).

Neak Pean was one of several “hospitals” built by King Jayavarman VII. I say hospital very loosely, because it just means people came here to get better. There was no surgeon, no ER, no cafeteria, no nosocomial infections.

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Instead, visitors came to cleanse themselves in the temple’s waters—four pools, representing water, earth, fire and wind, surrounding a larger basin.

Sounds better than drug-resistant staphylococcus.

Remember the swamp water I showed you a couple pictures up? There were little Khmer kids swimming in that shit.

But that’s normal for Southeast Asia. The weird part was that they spoke almost perfect English.

“Come swim with us! The water feels so good! Want to join us?”

The paranoid among you recognize this as the perfect setup for undead children to drag you to a watery grave. The more cynical pick up on what’s really going on—a scam.

What happens is, your stupid ass strips down and jumps in the pond with them. They promise to watch all your cool tourist shit, like your camera and money and passport.

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Don’t worry, my friend Lance will watch your wallet. He’s the one with the tear drop tattoo.

And while you’re frolicking in the water with a bunch of 6-year-old boys (pervert), their pal runs along and snatches your gear.

Moral of the story?

Don’t swim with Cambodian ghost children in a swamp.

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