This weekend allows for only a one-day trip and I am planning to ride with Maraile to visit Angkor Borei and Phnom Da (Phnum Dai) in Takeo (Takaev) Province. The place is said to be most beautiful and unique during the rainy season, when most of the area is submerged in water. On my previous visits (by motorbike via Phnom Chisor; by boat from Takeo town) the place was entirely dry. In strong contrast, it is definitely rainy season now and there have been extensive rain in the past weeks and even flooding in some other areas. I add some pictures from a more recent trip to Angkor Borei and Phnom Da via Phnom Chisor (Phnom Chissor, Phnom Chi Sou) below this report in the same post (by bike to Phnom Chisor in 2003, and in July 2005)
We take the motorbike to reach Takeo town and head to the riverside to find a boat. We don’t have to look for long to find one and to agree with the driver on the price (US$ 25 for the round trip). Two Khmer passengers join the ride on the fast boat to Angkor Borei.
Last time we made the same boat ride on one of the ancient water highways. Back then the supposed highway was nothing more than a chain of narrow and shallow waters through an area of dry fields, in most places too shallow for bigger boats to maneuver. This time around the whole place is flooded and besides a few trees spread over the wide landscape the place appears to be just an enormous lake. We enjoy a fast and reasonably comfortable right to Angkor Borei, which lasts for about 35 minutes.
The railings of a bridge, presumably over a river that now merged with the limitless lake that surrounds it.
This is when we reach Angkor Borei.
Last time we took a moto to make the few kilometers from Angkor Borei to Phnom Da. This time we go all the way by boat.
The hill in the background is Phnom Da, with the ancient temple on top of it.
We meet a number of locals from a close by village.
Some of the views from the top of the mountain.
It looks as if we got lucky to make it here without getting wet. It is obvious that strong rain will start soon.
We find cover from the rain in the temple, together with the villagers.
The rain stops as suddenly as it started. What strikes me about rain in Cambodia is that it often is a very local phenomenon; it rains heavily in one place and not at all in a place right next to it. You can see the rain coming and going and both happens fast most of the time and is often accompanied by strong wind.
After some time we climb down the stairs and walk back to the boat. The driver is visibly about going to Takeo right now. The reason for this is not obvious to me and becomes only clear once we move with the boat away from the hill and surrounding trees towards the open sea that is the lake.
The ride from Takeo to this place in the small boat has not been particularly smooth or comfortable. However, now there are waves of considerable size, and they become bigger while we move away from the shore. The small boat moves dramatically up and down and despite the strong engine we go only slow, decelerating while riding up a wave and then crashing down into the wave valley behind it. One time the boat comes down particularly hard and the board on which we are sitting breaks.
Visibly growing with the waves are also the concerns of the boat driver who even offers that we return to Angkor Borei and spend the night in his house. Spontaneously we do not like the idea and convince, rather: persuade, the driver to keep going. However, the experience of being out there alone in a small boat with the big waves on a lake that seems boundless is really intimidating at some points. Later we wonder if maybe the boat driver is not a good swimmer, which is not unusual in Cambodia. One way or the other, capsizing the boat in the middle of the lake, with trees only every other kilometer, is not a pleasing prospect for anyone.
I have no idea how this man manages to stand upright in the boat.
I know these waves don’t look big in these pictures at all, but they are big enough I tell you.
Slowly but steadily we get closer to the Takeo riverside and finally reaching it, speeding up on the final stretch as the waves get smaller while we approach the land. I am somewhat relieved to have solid ground under my feet. Also the driver, who is entirely wet and freezing, is visibly grateful to have made it and glad to accept a generous tip. We walk to the only restaurant we find at the riverfront. It is built on stilts in the water right at the riverside. We have a late lunch, sitting outside on a veranda, in a good position to observe what is happening on the lake and on the street.
Men unloading live pigs from fast boat.
Later we ride back to Phnom Penh.
Rather than writing a separate post, I add below some pictures from a more recent visit to Phnom Da and Angkor Borei, by Motorbike via Phnom Chisor.
Views from Phnom Chisor.
One can recognize Phnom Da from here.
Monk with dog and MP3 player.