We again agree to an early start, but then lollygag in the restaurant until a little after 7. It’s nice to have a small enough group that we can do that.
Choeun is eager to get us through as many temples as he can today – our last day – so we start off for the most distant of those on today’s itinerary, Bantealy Srei.
Our driver plunges into the morning rush hour – a few cars and trucks mixed in with lots and lots of scooters.
It is rather chaotic.
We pull over briefly at the side of the street outside a shop where our driver buys water for the day. While he is buying the water, the police pull up. After paying a small fine for the parking ticket, we are on our way.
The traffic thins out as we leave town.
Along with modes of transportation not usually seen in Minnesota, there are road signs that bring to mind a reality that is hard for me to imagine – grim reminders of how this peaceful-looking country has suffered and continues to suffer.
Choeun tells us that Banteay Srei is only about forty kilometers from Siem Reap, but that it will take an hour to get there. As soon as we turn off the main road the reason for the longer travel time becomes immediately obvious – the paved road is a mess, with an uneven (or absent) surface. Evidently this road was paved just a few years ago, but a large number of trucks use it for hauling sand. Choeun gives the trucks credit for tearing the road apart. The fact that the road itself seems to consist of nothing but a thin layer of bituminous over sandy clay is likely to have contributed to the road’s fast deterioration.
When we aren’t being too thoroughly shaken up to enjoy it, the scenery is very interesting.
At first we travel through open fields dotted with a lot of small, poor-looking homes and a few lovely, large homes.
Then we enter a wooded area where homes tend to cluster together near the edge of the road.
These villages seem to be little more than a few homes grouped together near a stand selling baskets or other handicrafts. I seldom see any sign of a school, temple, or store. Not that there isn’t retail activity occurring. We regularly pass stands with glass bottles – the local gas stations, selling bottles of petrol for the ubiquitous scooters.
We don’t stop at any of the villages now, because Choeun is eager for us to get to the temple before most of the other tourists arrive.
Soon we are there.