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Published: March 22nd 2007
I failed to mention in my previous blog that during our stay in Phnom Penh, Celia and her partner Allen graciously offered to treat the 3 of us to a much nicer hotel than normal. This splurge was a wonderful break especially for poor Celia who got quite ill for a few days and needed a place to rejuvenate. So at this nice hotel there was a concierge man who was willing to make travel arrangements for us including our bus ticket to Siem Reap. We were aware of various bus scams but naively assumed the nice man at the nice hotel wouldn't possibly try to rip us off. We paid an extra $5US (double the amount of the regular bus) to get a VIP bus that was supposed to include a bathroom, just in case Celia had to be sick. When we arrived at the bus station we soon realized our bus was not VIP and everyone on it had paid $5 instead of $10 like us. When we asked if there was another bus because we had paid for one with a bathroom they let out a rude but definitely a good hoot 'n holler at the thought
of a toilet in a bus. So what did we do? We probably should have just admitted defeat and hopped on the bus, but I'm way too stubborn for that and wanted to make the “nice man”at the hotel squirm a little. So we went back and politely but firmly demanded an explanation. This once confident man got into a bit of a tizzy and quickly put us on the phone with his boss. He tried to say the extra $5 was for the ride they gave us to the bus station....so a 6 hour ride to Siem Reap costs the same as a 3 minute one to the bus station??? Unfortunately the boss quickly pointed out that the only way we were getting to Siem Reap that day was to hire one of his private drivers which he would give to us for a discount price of only $15 on top of our refunded bus tickets. Scammed twice in one day!!!
I had already been feeling a bit uncomfortable in the expensive hotel because everyone thought we had more money than we really do, but as wonderful as the private car was, it really topped it off. With
every poor village we passed through and every bathroom break where we climbed out of the car to face the locals, I felt more and more guilty, like I was flaunting my wealth or something. In fact, throughout most of Cambodia I found it difficult to shake the guilt I felt that I had money to travel with and they barely had money for food. It's a very tough concept to manage.
We finally arrived in Siem Reap and learned it was the most Westernized and un-Cambodian like city in the country. Anyone who visits this city and thinks they've seen Cambodia is sorely mistaken. However, this is what many people do because they have an airport so hundreds of tour groups (mostly Chinese and Japanese) flock in to see Angkor Wat while staying in their fancy hotels and eating in fancy restaurants.
Angkor Wat is the main temple and the national pride of Cambodia. However, there are more than 40 sites with accessible temples, some as many as 30km away. “Angkor” means city, and “Wat” of course means temple, so it is the city of temples. And a city is is, this place is massive and takes
a loooong time to cover. The series of temples were built over a period of 4 centuries and were lost in the jungle until it was re-discovered around 150 years ago. It is a truly fascinating, mystifying and beautiful place; an archeologist's heaven.
At first the temples were like nothing we had ever seen, definitely the oldest place I had ever visited. But after two days of temple after temple and fighting off Asian tour groups just to get the pictures we wanted, we had had enough. Our two day visit included hiring a tuk tuk to take us out to the temples and subsequently ferry us from one site to the next. Day 1 we took in the sunrise and day 2 the sunset, both spectacular but again a little ruined by the crowds. Since some of the temples are still intact, others have been pieced back together and some are piles of rubble waiting to be put together, there is a variety in what you see. At one point we even ran into an archaeological team arguing over which piece went where. History in the making!
The unfortunate thing about the temples is that it has
The infamous Tomb Raider tree
Since Tomb Raider was filmed here there are pictures of Angelina Jolie in many of the stores and restaurants.
become completely commercialized. At every single stop there are endless vendors selling everything under the sun. The adults stay by the stalls and the children run out and pounce on you with trays of souvenirs. They really are quite good at what they do. Some put on pouts and with big puppy dog eyes say "please miss", while others ask what country you are from and subsequently recite facts they've memorized about your country. Oh the number of times I was told that my capital is Ottawa and my prime minister Stephen Harper...I even had a few shorts words with them in French. It's quite comical conversing with the little bargainers. One minute they'll be offering you 10 bracelets for $1US and after you refuse a couple of times all of the sudden they're holding out 30 for $1US. By the way I'm a sucker and now have straw bracelets for each and every one of you when I get home. At least I got the 30! At one point April was sitting alone in our tuk tuk (the perfect target) and she had 6 kids surrounding her. One fanning her, one playing the flute, one flipping through packs of
Ok I did loose my cool at one point due to the crowds
This pictures doen't really do it justice but we literally could not move in this temple due to the number of tour groups. They were all standing in line to get the same picture taken one at a time.
postcards and another modeling bracelets.
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