(Note: This was written during the trip and edited upon my return)
Woke up bright and early at 4.30am today, because Trevor had set the alarm clock to the wrong time. We were supposed to get up by 5.30am in order to set off by 6am but instead of setting the alarm at the local time, he actually made sure that we woke up at 5.30am Singapore time. As you can probably surmise by now, Cambodia is behind Singapore by an hour. Went back to sleep crankily for another hour before being roused, again, reluctantly.
To get to the waterfall and the river, we had to trek through a forested area which still had landmines buried. It was quite a chilling thought. The trek was arduous and tiring, full of uneven ground, rocks and tree roots. The gradient was unpredictable too, sometimes uphill and sometimes down slope. Oddly enough, the greens in Cambodia are rooted not in soil but in fine sand, which made the ground rather slippery. It was not uncommon for one of us to slide down a bit further than we had intended. I could literally feel the strain in both ankles, and was rather worried about injuring my feet just a month before the marathon. EFB was moaning about his knees giving way.
It took a good 40 minutes before we reached the waterfall. It was nothing grand or fabulous, just rather quaint and charming to see this mini waterfall in the middle of the forest. The place is memorable for another reason: I took a tumble while attempting to take the perfect photo. It was embarrassing – My foot gave way on the slippery rocks and I stumbled but tried desperately not to fall in case I bang my camera and kill it. Another thought that flashed across my mind was that I did not intend to get wet. Unfortunately, I did. Thankfully, I landed rather softly on my bottom and immediately, Trevor and EFB rushed to pick me up and I escaped a little wet but relatively unscathed except for a slightly bruised ego.
After the waterfall, we trudged on ahead for another 25 minutes before arriving at the river from where the waterfall flows. Apparently, the kings of old had worshipped the “lingas” – a phallus shaped object – in order to have fertility (of both the lands and the people, I believe) as well as good luck. The river of a thousand lingas, as from the name suggests, is a river that was dedicated to this art. On the riverbeds and in the stones that frame the river are carvings that depict either lingas or deities.
Seen in carvings, the lingas are not really that obscene and are rather interesting, indeed. But when you go off into the Old Market and start peering closely at the figurines that were being sold in virtually every stall, you might see some rather pornographic err poses. EFB (who else would you have expected) uncovered a few that were rather suggestive. Let’s just say that those were pornographic and plain gross. And what do you know, The Blue Pumpkin, a cafe that we often frequent because it was the only one with air conditioning, actually has a pastry that goes by the name of chocolate lingas roll. And in Phnom Penh, we spotted an ad on the back of a tuk-tuk that says “Lingas restaurant and bar”.
What can I say, it’s practically part of the country’s culture.
After a hearty meal of local fare, where we witnessed some chubby little chaps running around like tiny madcaps, it was time to move on again. We made our way to Bantaey Kdai and Sra Srang, by which time we were rather templed out already.
At Sra Srang, we were besieged by women and children who wanted us to part with our money in return for drinks, coconuts and trinkets. When a young lass toddled up to EFB and offered to sell him two cans of Coke for just US$1, he was thrilled by the low price and a deal was promptly sealed.
We stood there for a while, amused by a group of cheeky boys who were jumping off the shore into the water, stark naked. Their tan was so dark, they could roll around in mud and nobody would be able to see them. It was hilarious, watching them jump into the water, climb up and then jump off again. I started to wonder about the different kind of childhood that kids back home had and wished they could enjoy the same kind of outdoor activities that children here had.
Before we left, we were inundated by sales pitches again: “Sir, you want to buy Coke? Three for one dollar sir!”
EFB walked off huffily, indignant at the swift drop in value of his Coke.