Introducing Wat Ek Phnom
Wat Ek Phnom (Aek Phnum; admission US$2) an atmospheric, partly collapsed, 11th-century temple situated 11km north of Battambang, measures 52m by 49m and is surrounded by the remains of a laterite wall and an ancient baray (reservoir). A lintel showing the Churning of the Ocean of Milk can be seen above the east entrance to the central temple, whose upper flanks hold some fine bas-reliefs. Construction of the giant Buddha statue next door has been stopped by the government because, they say, it mars the site’s timeless beauty. This is a very popular picnic and pilgrimage destination for Khmers at festival times.
On the way from Battambang by bicycle or moto, it’s possible to make a number of interesting stops. About 1.2km north of Battambang’s ferry landing is a 1960s Pepsi bottling plant, its logo faded but otherwise hardly changed since production ceased abruptly in 1975. You can still see the remains of the old production line and, in a warehouse out back, thousands of dusty empties – bearing Pepsi’s old script logo – whose contents quenched someone’s thirst back when Nixon was in the White House.
Drive 700m further and turn left (west) and after 200m you’ll get to a signless house behind which is the Slaket crocodile farm. It’s open all day, including mealtimes – the crocs are always happy to have tourists for lunch.
Return to the main road and drive another 3.5km, past several wats, to the village of Pheam Ek, whose speciality is making rice paper for spring rolls. All along the road, in family workshops, you’ll see rice paste being steamed and then placed on a bamboo frame for drying in the sun. The income earned is meagre – 100 rice sheets sell for just 2500r. The coconuts grown in this area are said to be especially sweet. Wat Ek Phnom is 5.5km further on.
The nonprofit Cambodian Education Center in Pheam Ek, which provides free English instruction to local kids, is always looking for volunteer teachers. For details contact Racky Thy (017 829450; email@example.com).
Last updated: Mar 2, 2009
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