One afternoon, I road the 20 km to Wat Han Chey, a temple overlooking the Mekong with a bizarre fruit theme. The Frenchman who owned my guesthouse didn’t recommend it. “It kind of strange place,” he said “All this giant fruits, animals eating fruits. Sort of … kitschy.”
I actually couldn’t remember what “kitschy” meant (so much for my writer’s vocabulary), but he had gotten my attention at the mention of life-sized fruit. I knew that Wat Han Chey had been built in either the 7th or 8th century during the Chenla Empire, which actually predates the much more famous ruins at Angkor Wat by about 500 years. Could it be that the ancients revered fruit, and might the durian be among them?
About Kampong Cham
Kampong Cham is a province about three hours northeast of Phnomh Penh. It’s the one other province in Cambodia (in addition to Kampot) really well known for durian. Which is of course the main reason I was there.
Besides durian, the best thing about Kampong Cham is that most of the major sites can be seen by bicycle.
Ancient, crumbling wats, giant Buddhas, sweeping views of the Mekong and fields of white cows dot the flat, narrow country roads flanked on either side by traditional wooden houses high on stilts.
There are few Western tourists in this quiet corner of Cambodia, and most people were excited or slightly bemused by my passing.
When I got to the top of the hill overlooking the Mekong, I learned the meaning of kitschy. And I loved it. Wat Han Chey is a hodgepodge of very old, crumbled pagodas, ornately painted temples, and a bewildering spread of garish, life-sized statues of fruit. I don’t know when the fruit statues were installed, or why (maybe the designer was hungry?). It was a funny, fruit themed outing with a great view, a great ride, and a great very well deserved durian dinner.
In addition, I now have one more durian statue picture to add to my collection.