November 17, 2016

2016 Asia - Siem Reap (Day 8)

My sister and I landed in Siem Reap airport and our driver, Keo, was already waiting due to a slight flight delay. I chose Keo specifically since he was the only driver, from a dozen that I've spoken to, who knew anything about fishing in the Siem Reap area. While he's not a fishing guide by any stretch of imagination, at least he knows a few fishing spots where we can explore, and names of some local fishes that we can target.

The first order of the day was to purchase our Angkor Archaeological Park pass. It was a chaos at the ticket office with several thousand people waiting to take a photo and obtain a printed pass, but it was relatively quick and painless considering the crowds.

With out passes in hand, Keo pointed the car south for 45 minutes. Our first stop was Bakong, a 9th century AD temple mountain made of sandstone, that was the first of its kind constructed during the Khmer empire. These temple mountains represents Mount Meru, the home of the gods in Hinduism. The temple is a stepped pyramid with strong Indian temple architecture influences.

Stone elephants protected the corners of each level.

Stone lions flanked the central stairways.

A statue that was long lost and only the foot remains.

A short distance away, we visited Preah Ko. This was the first temple constructed in the ancient Khmer capital Hariharalaya, and this temple predates Bakong. It was a much smaller structure that had two rows of three brick towers.

Stone lion guarded the entrance to the tower.

While much of the carving had been lost or stolen, the remaining carving gave an indication how well decorated this temple was in the past.

The last temple for this morning was Lolei. Together with Bakong and Preah Ko, these three are known as the Roluos group because they are situated in the modern day town of Roluos. Unfortunately, Lolei was under restoration and the entire complex was concealed by bamboo platforms and canvass sheets. My sister and I stepped into the Buddhist temple, Wat Lolei, beside the ancient run and found an amazing interior!

We took a break for lunch at a nearby restaurant that was conveniently near the Roluos River. The restaurant selection was obviously by design. LOL

The food was decent, but it was still much too touristy for our liking.

Desserts that were delicious.

We sat a at a table that overlooked the river, and it was a torture watching small Striped Snakehead hunting small fish along the margins. Unfortunately, the restaurant staff said I could not fish on the property. As soon as lunch was finished, Keo and I went to fish another section of the river while my sister took a nap at the hammocks that the restaurant provided.

Using worms, it took no time to start landing some fish. Unfortunately, the most plentiful species was also one that I had caught previously.

Malayan Leaffish

Finally, after catching a dozen of Malayam Leaffish, I was able to find a new species.

Bonylip Barb (Osteochilus vittatus) - Species #687

Occasionally, a Striped Snakehead would surface. However, they didn't want worms. Keo did catch a really cool freshwater Puffer that I could not catch. I started to walk around to look for Striped Snakehead only to find none at our location. It is important to note that Striped Snakehead can be found very shallow. They are extrememly wary of people and the simple act of walking along the shoreline can cause them to retreat into deeper water or into the vegetation.

While looking for Snakehead, I saw a little fish swimming over the tops of the weeds. It eagerly took a flake of worm on the tanago hook and I was surprised to find one of my target species so quickly.

Croaking Gourami (Trichopsis vittata) - Species #688

The Croaking Gourami looked like it had a bad experience with a Snakehead.

We only had an hour to fish and the session was quickly over. Striped Snakehead will have to wait another day. However, the sheer number of them that I saw gave me some confidence that I'll find one soon enough.

Originally, our itinerary would take us further south to the shore of the massive Tonle Sap Lake, where my sister and I can visit the floating villages and watch sunset on the lake. I also had a couple of hours of fishing included in this plan. However, it was incredible hot and muggy and the sky was quite cloudy, so we decided to change our plans.

Keo recommended a visit to Beng Mealea, an unrestored Hindu temple built with the same architectural style as Angkor Wat. While some of the vegetation has been cleared away, the complex was still deeply gripped by tropical trees.

Few of the original structures remain standing. The large amount of collapsed stone block covered by moss created a serene but desolate impression of this complex.

Panorama of Beng Mealea

We spent almost 2 hours at this complex and soon we were losing light for good photography. On the way back to the hotel, we passed by many street side vendors. We asked Keo to stop at a couple of them.

We saw many stalls that sold coconut rice with black soy beans roasted inside bamboo.

You would pull the bamboo back in strips until the rice is revealed. Delicious! It's slightly sweet and not at all savory. We got 3 for $2 USD.

There were also stalls that sold grilled frogs. These can only be found in the country side. The frogs were cleaned and the abdominal cavity was stuffed with spices including a lot of lemongrass. They were $1 USD for a pair of frogs.

Two frogs each were not enough. We could have eaten the whole stall worth of frogs!

With our stomachs partially filled, my sister and I took a stroll along the main street. Happily, we found another food stall that sold sausages, pig ears, pig faces, pork jerky and duck.

My sister and I love ducks.

Our room was phenomenal for $20/night. The internet was so dependent that I actually was able to work on an assignment online. We had another long day tomorrow so we didn't stay up too late.

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