Kbal Spean and Banteay Samre

Tuk-tuk won the toss against private car. Today we went over 50km out of Siem Reap but the price difference won out against speed and comfort. We just left an hour before originally planned to make up for the slower speed.

Kbal Spean is a riverbed with many Hindu carvings. All very poignant, meaningful and pretty but we were really heading there for the waterfall. After what seems 8h of tuk-tuk we stretched our legs with a shortish (1.5km), mostly uphill, hike to the river. The kids did pretty well - soon we got into a pattern of 100m walking / 100m carrying (there are signposts every 100m so flabby tourists don't loose hope).

As expected, the wonderful carvings didn't woo any of us enough to stop for more than a few minutes. Philistines us. Sweaty and hot Philistines - the carvings area had a no swimming sign so we headed straight to the waterfall. When we got there we had it all to ourselves for a few minutes, enough to snap a few photos, before a few other visitors started trickling in. It never got too crowded though. Had a great time splashing around, looking at the butterflies, and Lucas was brave enough to follow daddy under the waterfall for a natural shower. Shame there wasn't another waterfall at the beginning for the way back.

Our driver took us to a tourist-trap restaurant (commissions I suppose) which we quickly abandoned for more humble fare next to Banteay Samre, a temple about 15km back towards Siem Reap. It is quite a lovely temple, small but very pretty. Apparently historians believe it was designed by women due to the elaborate carvings. Even out here there were crowds, nothing compared to Angkor Wat but enough to make photography a chore. Spent some time chilling round the back of the temple (where the sun hit it properly), the kids playing with the girls who try to sell you postcards (we refuse to buy anything off children).

Ta Prohm was also on the list for today but it was getting late. Temples open at sunrise (5:30) and close at sunset (17:30-18:30). We'll have to ave it for tomorrow.

Dinner was amazing, the best so far in Cambodia. According to Lonely Planet (so take with a large pinch of salt) the great Gordon Ramsay learnt a trick or two when he came here. All I know is that the salads were great and the aubergine with pork was to die for. Not much more expensive than our usual khmer/western restaurants with plastic chars and dodgy toilets, except sadly for the wine which was priced out of our league.

Lesson learnt today: no matter how far you go out from Siem Reap you can't beat the crowds - the only way is to get the timing right.

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