We had a very wonderful day visiting Pre Rup, Banteay Srie, East Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Peon & Preah Khan under a very experienced and knowledgeable guide, Mr Touch Chanthy. Touch shared with us the many interesting stories from Hindu epic Ramayana, the khmer culture, and the history of Cambodia. He even told us the type of rock they were built on, their year of completion and persons who built them.
At Pre Rup, a mountain style temple, we came to know that the bone of the dead after cremation has to be washed. (it is still a practice till to date)
At Banteay Srei, which was not built by a king, we saw how it was ornamented with exquisitely elaborate carvings on pink sandstone. Here Touch patiently narrated the stories on almost each and every Gopura centered around Shiva and Uma.
At East Mebon, we had a good photo shoot with the guardian elephant.
We saw how Ta Som and Preah Khan are home to many big trees whose roots cover the temples, just like Ta Prohm. However, unlike Ta Prohm, both temples had undergone and is undergoing extensive restoration by the World Monuments Funds with many trees been trimmed and cut. So go visit the temples fast before all trees are cut. Touch showed us how the many Buddha images on the wall were converted to Hindu deities. The apsara dancers carved on the roof lintels in the Hall of Dancers were vivid, gorgeous and impressive!
We are very amazed with Neak Pean - we had to take a walk across a very serene and beautiful body of water, Jayatataka Baray. Neak Pean is a Buddhist shrine set within a sacred pond and surrounded by four gargoyles, representing wind, earth, water and wind. Touch told us how Neak Pean operated somewhat like present day hospital to heal devotees. Each devotee would go to the respective gargoyles depending on the element they belong. BTW, to this day Cambodians are still using the 4 elements. At the base of Neak Pean there are coiled serpents, but we can only see the serpent head and tail as the pond is now filled with water. Interestingly, serpent has been used throughout the world to this day as a symbol of medicine!
The tour is very reasonably priced. The driver is careful and patient.
I would highly recommend their tour to all who come to Siem Reap! It is a must visit tour.