Angkor Wat, part 2

A strange thing happens as we leave our guest house in Siem Reap.

A woman (kiwi, I think) rushes up and says ‘Excuse me, are you Al Franken?’

We’re only vaguely aware of who Al Franken is. The name is familiar in connection with the rogue’s gallery of outed Men Behaving Badly.

I noticed this woman staring intently the evening before. Turns out she thought I might have been Al Franken, escaping to the other side of the world to get away from bad publicity.

(I doubt a senator – even an ex-senator – would stay in a US$12.00 guest house. More like the Four Seasons. On the taxpayer’s dime, of course.)

Al Franken looks like this.

Siem Reap

I don’t know whether to be flattered or insulted.

When I was younger, people would ask if I was Bruce Cockburn. Bruce Cockburn looked like this at the time.

Burn, Baby, Burn

From introspective poet to sleazebag politician. That’s progress.

But I digress. We spend the next two days ambling around Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat.

Siem Reap
Bayon temple, Angkor Thom

It features lots of these Apocalypse Now– style stone faces.


Among other things, Bayon is known for its extensive bas-reliefs. They even include rabbits, thus proving how enlightened they were.

Bouncing bunnies

Another view of Bayon.


This is Bapuon, another building in the Angkor Thom complex.

Oh no, not another ^%$^ staircase.

An arched corridor at the top.

Corridors of (long-gone) power

In the neighbourhood is Angkor Wat itself.

Entrance to Angkor Wat

As everywhere in Angkor, the stone carving is superb.

Bas-relief of tale from the Ramayana
Private dancers

Last stop of the day is Ta Prohm. Angelina Jolie filmed a Tomb Raider movie here.  I’m sure the original builder (King Jayavarman VII, in 1186 A.D.) is well pleased.

Ta Prohm temple

Me and a really big tree.

They say ‘Good Things Come in Trees’.

Site or Insight of the Day – Siem Reap

While cycling back from Angkor, we pass the office of APOPO and slam on the brakes for a visit.

Siem Reap
The rat people

This is an organization that trains rats to detect mines. I recently saw an article somewhere about using rats to detect mines (probably in The Economist), so coming across this office is pure serendipity.

The rats are very good at it. And they’re too light to set the mine off. We get a demonstration.

Siem Reap
This is Adrian. (The rat, not the handler, whose name I forget.)

Adrian is put through his paces.

Siem Reap

Two handlers slowly guide Adrian on a line between them as he goes back and forth. He hits pay dirt with a small TNT-scented object and is rewarded with a piece of banana.

These are giant pouched rats (from Africa) – a different animal from the mangy urban vermin variety – so they have more of a cuteness factor.

We leave a donation and head back to town.