Published: May 21st 2007May 21st 2007
Kratie - Siem Reap
Jason & Kirstyn O
Another long day riding a bus (getting used to it now) to get to Siem Reap - the home of the World Heritage Listed Angkor Wat temples. We were picked up off the bus (in a secure compound to limit the no. of drivers there) by a Remorque (motorbike with trailer with seats on back) whose driver, Arong, told us we were his first job in two weeks. They only get a job every 2-3 weeks as there are so many of them trying to find work. He owns his motorbike and hires the trailer from a company. On most jobs he earns about 30-40 USD.....is hard for us to imagine as that is easily equivalent (or less than) what we would earn in one hour or spend in our daily budget!
Arong was to be our driver for the next few days taking us to the temples of Angkor. On our way out the first day he was unfortunately pulled over by police for not using his indicator. I think this tends to happen only when they have paying costumers on board as the police know that they can pay a large
fine as they have just made money (or are in the process). Poor Arong had to borrow five dollars (a lot of money for him) off us to pay his fine. He was very sad for the rest of the day! It is very hard here to not give all your money to the many people who are struggling to make ends meet.
The temples at Angkor were absolutely amazing! They were built over many centuries (9th-12th) by successive Kings who all tried to outdo each other! The result was truly amazing with the pinnacle being Angkor Wat, the bohemoth of temples and the largest religious building in the world. What the other temples lacked in size was made up for by character. Some filled childhood dreams of exploring ancient ruins overrun by jungle, with narrow secret corridors and spectacular architecture. Others contained amazing and intricate carvings in stone or interesting stone sculptures. Words don't do the place justice so we'll leave it at that and a heap of pictures!
Our second day, after early sunrise at Ankgor Wat, was exploring further a field to the amazing carvings of Bantey Srei (they say women did it as the
Pra Thom temple
The whole site has been taken over by the jungle with huge trees growing all over and destroying the temples
carvings are too fine for a man - Kirstyn kept reminding me!). We then came back to the main area of temples and basically visited those temples which we had not seen previously. We were pretty tired and some what "templed out" so we called it an early day.
The last day we spent on hired bicycles, very very hot and humid but was a nice way to revisit some of the main sites as well as one not seen already. Took it pretty easy and spent most of our time chilling out reading books in the cool of the temples.
While in awe of the glorious temples there is a negative side to Ankgor. It was hard not to be overwhelmed with immense sadness for the people here, thousands of children are everywhere trying to sell the same postcards, bracelets, books and t-shirts all trying to eek out an existence. On the other hand, thousands of "rich"tourists pay $20 a day just to visit the temples. It was hard to get a photo with out a thousand tourists climbing all over the sites or posing for a cheesy photo (bunny ears a big hit). Many fly in
If you look closely you will see many faces..
and out of Siem Reap and that is their only experience of Cambodia. Many treat the people like shit, not even giving a thought as to their plight. We found the place at times very depressing and a sense of guilt for being so fortunate. Anyway we might go slit our wrists now! No, we really are having fun!
We did however have some wonderful moments with the people, especially the children. It's amazing what happens when you treat them like real people or play with them like real children. Kirstyn had two gorgeous little postcard touts enthralled with our straw flicking! It brings home to us the fact that children are still children the world over and enjoy getting attention and learning and seeing new things. For the children here however is also reminds us that so much of their time is spent begging or trying to sell to tourists to survive. Most of them are forced to do this over going to school. I guess one can only hope that as Cambodia continues to rebuild after years of civil war, these children's children may have a brighter future.
One thing is for sure....they all speak absolutely
The temples provided some nice little nooks where we could have much needed breaks from the heat!
amazing English, complete with cable TV American accents. When you stop to chat to them they will all ask the same question: "Where are you from?" and with our answer "Australia" they will begin to tell us:
"Capital city Canberra."
"G, day mate"
"Population 22 million minus two." (the minus two is us!)
We tried a couple of times to trick them by telling them we were from Iceland (thanks for the tip Bear). Most of them answer "Capital city Dublin" thinking we meant Ireland until we found a little girl who new the correct answer "Capital city Reykjavik"!!! Jason and I didn't even know the capital city of Iceland....had to google it later to check! Such clever kids.
Most of the children can also speak a little Korean, Japanese, Russian, French and Spanish. Hopefully these are skills that will help them find work in the future, especially around Siem Reap as tourism is such a booming industry.
Our Angkor experience culminated in one of the most bizarre experiences of SE Asia. There is an average temple (by Angkor standards) on top of a hill where at sunset there must be at least several thousand
The many faces of Jayavaraman VII
people all over it or on their way up or down. There is a view over Angkor Wat which is quite good, however most people didn't even seem to be looking, they were there because their tour bus said to go there! Its weird to be in one of the least developed countries surrounded by large camera touting Asian tourists!
Our last day in Siem Reap was a rest day before we headed across to Phnom Phen. We did manage to catch up with this site for one thing and had a lovely massage by the "Seeing Hands Centre." The name says it all - blind people are trained to make a living through massage. Nice way to end the day followed by a cool Angkor Beer (the national beverage).
There are more photos below