The next morning I had a proper cup of coffee for the first time in a
couple of days. Then I met Bunny, who was to be my driver for the
day. "Male Rabbit, not like female" he offered, by way of
clarification. We loaded up onto his scooter and set off to drive
through the countryside around Battambang. We stopped at various sights
through the day. A rice paddy, verdant green with flock of white egrets
taking wing. A relatively modern Wat, beautiful and elaborate. Clinging
to the surprisingly speedy scooter with my knees, I took bunches of
random pictures. Passing cyclists and mopeds, a tractor covered in
monks. Cattle. Oxcarts. Farms. Markets. Villages. Weddings. Our
journey took us down highway 57 for a short stretch. Highway is a
relative term, as it is a dirt road, filled with potholes and quite
dusty. Bunny stopped at a roadside stall and advised me to buy a dust
mask. A wise 25-cent purchase, in retrospect.
We arrived at Wat Phnom Sapeau, a hilltop temple that sits way up high
on a prominent limestone outcrop. At the base a troop of monkeys were
goofing around on the rocks.
There are several active Wats here. And a few caves. With their
unerring penchant for the perverse, the Khmer Rouge used this site as a
killing field, appropriating the temples as prisons and interrogation
centers. Victims were bludgeoned and pushed through a hole in the roof
of one of the caves to fall to their death, ammunition being scarce.
Now the cave houses a reclining Buddha, and a few memorials filled with
the bones of the dead. Bats rustle and chirp in the nooks and crannies
of the ceiling. Occasional breezes rustle through the prayer flags.
Also up top, commanding a sweeping view of the countryside below, are a
few artillery pieces. Leftovers from the 1994 battle against the Pailin
faction of the Khmer Rouge.
Copyright Estate of Anthony Vail Sloan 2009