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Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Getting up the lady giant

On the northern side of the Tonle Sap, opposite Kompong Chhnang, lies a small mountain range that perhaps resembles a reclining woman. There is a myth related to Phnom Kong Ray that tells how the female giant took the form of a human woman and married a man. I have received this story several times orally in bits and pieces. La has promised me a written translation. I'll share it with you when I get it. Please be patient.

When I arrived in Cambodia it was summer. We climbed a couple of mountains, or perhaps hills, on our side of the river. They asked if I would like to climb Phnom Kong Ray. I said I would. But they told me I had to wait until the rainy season. The mountain is a long way from the river in the dry season and difficult to reach. In the rainy season the river floods and it is possible to take a boat to the foot of the mountain or perhaps even a little of the way up it.

I had heard no more about this plan until last Saturday morning. I got a call from La. 'Do you want to climb Phnom Kong Ray tomorrow?'

'Well, I'd like to but I'm going to Phnom Penh tomorrow. Sorry.'

Later I thought about it and decided I shouldn't miss the opportunity. I rang La back and said I'd come. If you were hoping for some communication from me last weekend this is why you didn't get it. I have put off my Phnom Penh trip for a few days.

La picked me up on a motorcycle at 7 am. I had already prepared my lunch. The boat was waiting for us at Kompong Oz. Somehow I expected we would go down to the river but now the river is flooded and comes to us. There is no way of getting a boat into Kompong Oz in summer.

In typical Cambodian style the boat is very crowded. I found myself inside the small cabin which made it difficult to take photos. The first one here was taken close to the summer limit of the river. The stilts on these houses are maybe seven to ten metres high. On my flickr pages you can see some photos of houses just a little further along from here and there is very little water under them.

It didn't take us long to cross to where the other side of the river usually is. It took another half hour or 45 minutes to reach the mountain. We weren't the only ones there. There seemed to be some sort of celebration going on, perhaps for the end of P'chumbin.

Some of the gang needed to stop for breakfast and then we headed up the mountain. It wasn't a really difficult climb although it did get a little steep towards the end. It may be hard to see this in the second picture but that's why the group's all bunched together, the ones in the lead have slowed down. The pic does give a good representation of some of the terrain.

There are two peaks and we only went to the lower one. I would have been happy to go on but no one else was interested. We stopped there. I guess they thought that was a satisfactory achievement. Most people ate their lunch early. Cambodians usually eat lunch much earlier than I do. And before we started back down the Cambodians did the other thing that Cambodians usually do. They left their litter on the mountain top.

Going back was easier. But before we reached bottom I could hear it—the usual overloud speakers. Even here I could not escape them. At the bottom I sat with some of the monks and ate my lunch. There were about half a dozen kids dancing in front of the speakers. It really seemed overkill.

We hung around for a while and then set off for home. There were quite a few boats there. I guess they had all come from Kompong Chhnang. A few had come from Kompong Oz with our group. I asked if I could sit outside the cabin so I could get a few shots on the way back. They put me on an open boat instead. This wasn't such a good idea after all. There was a bit of chop on the water and as we motored into it there was quite a bit of spray. I got soaked. Fortunately I was able to protect my camera with a plastic bag and I did manage to get one or two shots in the calmer parts. The last one here is one of them. You can see the two peaks of the mountain and I'm sure you can recognize it's a lady giant. The island between us and the mountain range is not an island. It's the top of a tree. They're everywhere in this temporary lake.

More pictures from this trip can be found on my flickr pages. Enjoy.

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