Our return trip from Preah Vihear included a stop at Ta Mok's town house in Anlong Veng and many random stops along the route that took us on rural roads on the outskirts of Kulen Prum Tep Wildlife Sanctuary and Phnom Koulen National Park. Back in Siem Reap, a dinner with a traditional Khmer dance show symbolically concluded our brief, yet extremely rewarding adventure in Cambodia. Oh wait, a mad dash to get cash for the payment at the guesthouse the next morning and a tuk-tuk sprint to the airport was the real ending to it.
We left Preah Vihear in the early afternoon. The last scheduled stop of our road trip was Ta Mok's house in Anlong Ven. Ta Mok, also known as "Brother Number Five" or "the Butcher", was a figure high up in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy. He oversaw many of the massacres of the regime that was responsible for one of the biggest genocidal atrocities in recent human history. While the extremist communist regime of Khmer Rouge was overthrown by their ideological relatives from Vietnam, they continued controlling some parts of the Cambodian territory, including the region around Anlong Veng, through the 1980's and 1990's. Ta Mok's house was built on the shore of a lake he himself had created. The dead trees sticking out of the lake are perhaps symbolic of the destruction the regime had brought to the country. The house features murals of Angkor that are contrasting with cages displayed outside in which prisoners of the regime were kept. As many other places in Cambodia, I found the living Cambodia right next to the road even more interesting than its, in this case unfortunate, history.
|Smoke rolling over the highway||Street stand||Opening a coconut||Experience prevails||Shy girl and her mother||Tongue sticking pose for a picture|
|Scooters||Chicken for sale||Store owner and her daughter||Bananas||Last second garment adjustment||Competing for the road|
|Cages at Ta Mok's house||Lake at Ta Mok's house||Truck||Traffic Anlong Veng||Khmer man|
|Khmer women||Khmer woman||Work site||Half loaded scooter||Half loaded scooter|
|Scooter traffic||Collecting the dried produce|
Continuing farther south of Anlong Veng, the scenery changes for a bit and gives way to an endless forest through Kulen Prum Tep Wildlife Sanctuary. Later, some extremely poor settlements were seen before the landscape became more agricultural closer toward Siem Reap. Everywhere we stopped, we found smiling people willing to let us take a look into their daily lives. Their poverty and yet their genuine, at least at first sight, happiness stood in contrast. Perhaps, it was not contrast but in harmony. They were all surrounded by their families, carrying little kids on their bikes and scooters, living off the land, and there must be a lot of satisfaction to that. After decades of a civil war and atrocities, the peace, stability of the last ten or fifteen years can only add to their optimism for a brighter future.
|Primitive huts||Hwy 67 sign||Less primitive huts||Two-wheel tractor||Family at work||Grandma and a baby|
|Grandma and a baby||Locals||More locals on scooters||Starting the tractor||Cart load of people||Tractor under repair|
|Transmission||Let us go||Cow||Moo||Moo||Wrapping sugar snacks|
|Sugar snack seller||Moto-tow||Bicyclists||Fisherman||Gas station|
It was the last evening in Cambodia and we wanted to do something special for dinner. We read in our guide about restaurants that include traditional dance shows and we asked the Cashew Nut Guesthouse owner for a recommendation. Being helpful, as always, he made a reservation for us at Annadya, an off-the-main street restaurant featuring local Khmer cuisine. Based on the reference from the owner, we were offered premium seating right next to the stage. The dinner, that included amok, a curry steamed in banana leaves, papaya salad, and select local desert items, was perhaps the best we had on the whole trip. The dance with motives of courtship was a treat for the eyes and only complemented the atmosphere.
On the way back to the guesthouse, we stopped at a local market to shop for souvenirs. Irina bought an oil painting of a floating village for next-to-nothing in US terms. Back at the guesthouse, we had a room with only a fan this time. The humidity and the fatigue of a long day that started at sunrise with a trip to Preah Vihear, finally got to us and we retired early.
We had a leisurely breakfast at the guesthouse that included some of the local tropical fruits. We did not feel like leaving, but it was time to say good bye and head off to the airport. We asked for the bill, and went upstairs to our room to finish packing. This is where we realized we were short on cash. The entrance fees, the souvenirs, the taxis, the eating out, it all added up and we were about $10 short. The local staff at the reception recommended we could still make it to an ATM. So the tuk-tuk that was to take us to the airport drove us to a nearest ATM instead. It was closed for maintenence. The driver weaved through traffic to another bank. This one was working. We were saved. We would not have to work off our stay or worse... We payed, gave a generous tip, and the tuk tuk driver took us to the airport with still enough time to spare. We were on our way to Thailand.
|Cocktails||Amok and papaya salad||Amok||Entrance||Dancer||Trio|
|Dance||Dancer||Dancers with coconut bowls||Folk dance with fish baskets|
|Courting||Desert||Local fruit||Traffic on Sivatha Road||Driving and calling|
|The Cashew Nut guesthouse||Cargo traffic||Pick-up tr-moped||Mattresses||Our airport tuk-tuk||Terminal hall|
|Bangkok Air plane||Irina and Bangkok Air plane|