November 18, 2016

2016 Asia - Siem Reap (Day 9)

We woke up at 5:30am, took a shower, had breakfast and met Keo at 6:30am. We wanted to beat the crowds this morning as we planned to visit the famous Banteay Srei, which was located about 45min from our hotel

Along the way, we made a quick stop at Prae Roup. We didn't plan to visit this temple at all, but since it was on the way, we took a few quick photos. While we were walking around, I saw some tiny thumb size frogs on the wet lawn. I quickly caught one, but despite added efforts, I couldn't catch any more of them. My one frog will just had to work its magic later.

We arrived at Banteay Srei to find just a few cars and a lone tour bus. Great! My sister needed to use the bathroom which was conveniently situated by a swampy area. Peering into the water, I saw many Threespot Gourami. I asked the guards at the gate if it was possible to fish the area and they gave me the OK. So I planned to return later to try to catch these fish.

Banteay Srei is a 10th century temple known for its many intricate and well preserved carvings. It is the only major temple not built by the Khmer monarchy and its size is relative small.

The French archeologist who discovered the temple tried to sell off four devastas but was caught, thus ensuring the protection of this temple from any further losses.

The temple had three main towers.

Every exposed surfaces of the towers were meticulously decorated with Hindu themes. The hard sandstone used in its construction helped to preserve the carving to this day.

Looking through the doorway of the mandapa.

After an hour, the bus tour crowded began to arrive. My sister and I beat a quick retreat and we headed to our next destination, Kbal Spean at Phnom Koluen National Park. It took another 40min of driving in a northeast direction until we reached the park.

To reach the Kbal Spean, we must hike 1.5km in the beautiful forest of Phnom Koluen Mountain. There were a number of wildlife that could be found in the National Park including birds, reptiles and some small mammals. We didn't have to worry about large mammals like Asian Elephant or Tiger as they were not found in the park according to the sign. We saw a few bird species, some beautiful butterflies and a few lizards, all of which were too quick to photograph.

The trail was not necessarily smooth. One section required us to hike up a rocky gully. It wasn't an issue at all for my sister and I, but I wonder how some of the older visitors managed. Perhaps their tour guide knows another route.

Along the way, we saw a large rock perched on a pedestal. It may look precarious, but looks can be deceiving as the rock was well anchored by roots. Some of these roots actually penetrated through the rock!

The trails were much more manicured closer to the ultimate attraction.

Kbal Spean, otherwise known as The River of a Thousand Lingas, is an Angkorian site. It is believed that the phallic-looking lingas were carved into the bed of this tributary of the Siem Reap River would bless the water flowing into the Angkor. Other Hindu carvings can also be found along the river bank.

There were small species of fish that were present. But out of respect, I would not fish at a holy site like this. We did crossed the river at the beginning of the hike and wondered if it was possible to fish there. I guess we would never know.

My sister and I thoroughly enjoyed our hike, although the "1000 Lingas" was a bit of an exaggeration. We met Keo again at the car and returned to Banteay Srei for lunch. After lunch, my sister and I split up for an hour. While she shopped for some souvenirs, I spent the time at the aforementioned swampy area to try for Threespot Gourami.

Despite the sheer number of these Gourami, none of them, neither adult or juvenile, wanted to bite. I've tried both bread and flake of worm, and even tried rice at one point. While looking around, I spotted a sneaky little Striped Snakehead hiding under the lily pad. Keo said Striped Snakehead rarely bite during midday, and the other taxi and tuk-tuk drivers were doubtful my short UL rod would be useful to catch the Snakehead.

I love proving people wrong. I had been carrying the little frog in my pocket since I caught it this morning. Unfortunately, since the fabric was rather dry, the frog had expired. However, it was still fresh enough to be enticing, and I hooked into onto a #6 octopus hook. I wanted to keep the frog on the surface so the line only had the smallest splitshot pinched on, which made the entire rig a little difficult to cast in the breeze. Still, a few casts later, I was able to adjust to the weight and placed the frog in a likely spot at the edge of the lily patch.

As if the fish was expecting the frog, I saw my line twitched only a couple of seconds after the frog had sank a few inches below the surface. The line then quickly veered to the left and I tightened the slack into immediately headshakes. My braided line cut through the weeds effectively despite the valiant effort from the Snakehead to get me buried as deeply as possible. Unfortunately for the fish, even with my UL rod, it was a little small to put up too much of a struggle. To be fair, the Snakehead was about 11" long, so it wasn't completely overpowered by the gear at all. Finally, I caught my top Cambodian target!

Striped Snakehead (Channa striata) - Species #689

All the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers finally shut up about the inadequate nature of my fishing gear, and Keo said I was very good at fishing, haha! That's right boys, live and learn! Keo wanted the fish to take home to his family, so I gave it to him.

The little frog was lost during the fight, so I tried a small rubber frog for a while and had no other hits. I also did not see any other Snakehead in the area. I tried for Threespot Gourami a little longer and finally ran out of time.

We hopped into the car again and drove south to East Mebon. This 10th century temple was constructed on an island in the center of East Baray reservoir. The reservoir had long been dried. The snadtone was brilliantly red in the midday sun and contrasted strikingly against the blue sky.

Much of the stucco that decorated the surfaces had been lost, and some of the statues were damaged.

Initially, I thought nature had not been kind to the temple as there were many holes on the surfaces of the structure. I thought these were made by insects. Further reading suggested that these holes were in fact man-made. They served as anchoring points for the stucco that decorated the surfaces.

We departed the open atmosphere of East Mebon for the much welcomed shade at Ta Som. Ta Som is a small 12th century temple. We especially like the cross-shaped gopura that was decorated by four faces.

The central structure was enclosed by three laterite walls.

Some of the carvings were preserved. I love this shot peering through the carved doorway into another set of carving behind.

Next, we visited Neak Pean. Neak Pean was a Buddhist temple constructed on an island in the Preah Khan Baray. The huge reservoir is a protected swampland now. I saw many species of fish, but unfortunately there were signs to indicate that fishing is not permitted. It was especially cool to see six Striped Snakehead hunting cooperatively in the shallows. I did not know they hunt cooperatively!

Neak Pean

This temple designed for medicinal purposes, as bathing in the pools were thought to balance the elements and cure diseases. Thus, some believe this temple represented the mythical Himalayan lake Anavatapta. However, on this day, the central pool was stained green by algae bloom. It was rather unappealing. I'm sure once upon a time when this temple was maintained, the water must appear to have magical properties.

Our last stop of the day was Preah Khan, a large 12th century temple. As opposed to temple mountains, this temple was flat in design. Like Beng Mealea, it was left largely unrestored. Unfortunately for us, we were only able to take a couple of quick photos before the sky opened up and it rained with monsoon-like volume for 30 minutes!

We took shelter with some local ladies and kids who were selling souvenirs. They were very kind to invite us under their shelter. Everywhere was wet and muddy after the rain had stopped. My sister didn't want to explore further in the mud so we decided to return to the car.

As an indication of just how wet and muddy it was, my sister spotted a 12" Philippine Catfish "crawling" across the muddy avenue that lead to the temple. These catfish are also known as Walking Catfish for their ability to crawl over ground from one waterbody to another. The fish was at least 100 metres from the closest water source. I decided to grab it and donated it to Keo, since he already had the Striped Snakehead I caught earlier.

On the way to the hotel, we passed by the South Gate of Angkor Thom. While consulting Keo a few months ago, I was told that fishing was not allowed within the entire Angkor Archeological Park. But on this day, Keo said we could actually fish the moat around Angkor Thom. Since our temple tour was cut short by the rain, we had an hour left before dusk. My sister said she had no problem resting in the car while Keo and I tried the moat for a bit.

As soon as we arrived, I saw a small Striped Snakehead in the weeds. It came to inspect the small wiggling worm but ultimately decided not to take the chance after looking directly and intently at me. We caught many Malayan Leaffish until I finally caught a new species with the tanago hook.

Three-lined Rasbora (Rasbora trilineata) - Species #690

We quickly ran out of day light and Keo delivered us back to the hotel. I'm sure we had dinner that night, but honestly can't remember where we ate and what we had. But we were in bed early as we had a very early start the next morning.

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