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Published: June 11th 2017
Another fantastic day! We were up at 3:45 am to meet the group at 4:30 am to get out to Angkor Wat for the sunrise. It was lightly drizzling when we left and unfortunately there really wasn't much of a sunrise because of the heavy cloud cover. However, it was still quite magical to see the towers of Angkor Wat emerge from the darkness. There were big crowds waiting for the sunrise and we had to hold our ground against other overeager photo-taking tourists. Sovann calls these pushy tourists "VIP's" which stands for "very impolite people". VIPs refer to Korean, Japanese, and Chinese tourists.
We bought two watercolours from a vendor artist at Angkor Wat. There were lots of people selling stuff, taking advantage of the big sunrise crowds. There are numerous children selling to tourists, which is unfortunate because they are being used as sales people rather than being sent to school. We decided before we left that we would not buy from children because it just supports their exploitation. Sovann also strongly encourages us not to buy from these kids. Susan had a particularly persistent little girl following her around for quite some time.
From Angkor Wat
we drove to another of the Angkor temples, Ta Prohm. The movie "Tomb Raider" was filmed here so that has added to its popularity. You really get the sense of being right in the jungle at Ta Prohm. Here there are enormous tree roots which are all entwined in the temple ruins. Very impressive and cool looking. Unlike most of the other Angkor temples, it hasn't been extensively restored and the jungle is an integral part of it. We went to Ta Prohm right after the sunrise at Angkor Wat to avoid the VIPs who swarm all over place later in the day.
We then drove back to the hotel for breakfast (and I booked a massage for the afternoon), and headed back out at 9:30. We visited one more temple, Bakong temple, which is the oldest of the Angkor temples, built in around 881. Incredible to think it is over 1200 years old.
It is a very nice, small temple, kind of a mini Angkor Wat in some ways. It has a large moat, and you'll see by the photos is bears some resemblance to Angkor Wat. We climbed up the steep stairs, and enjoyed the view
from the top.
Bakong temple concluded our visit to the Angkor temple complex. It has been a wonderful, really interesting, experience.
Following Bakong, all of the group decided to do the optional activity of a boat trip down the Tonle Sap river to the floating village of Kompong Phluk. This was very enjoyable. The boat ride down the river was very peaceful. The village is accessible via a road during the dry season, but it floods during the rainy season (when the Tonle Sap lake greatly increases in size). The villagers have lived here for centuries, and I think mainly subsist on fishing. The houses are all on stilts, and even the police station and primary and secondary schools are on stilts and are accessible only by boat during the rainy season. The villagers are all very friendly and the children in particular all smile and wave to the tourist boats.
We stopped for a cold drink at a floating village restaurant (but didn't eat there because of Sovann's concerns about a possible lack of cleanliness), and had an interesting discussion with Sovann about the difficulties in Cambodia. Corruption is a huge problem, including in the government,
Taken from a different location - see the vegetation on the moat.
which doesn't seem to do much to help the people. In order for parents to educate their children, they have to pay the teacher extra money. Police are also notoriously corrupt. As we drive though little villages, there are mostly very modest houses, but occasionally they'll be a very nice one. Sovann says a teacher or police officer probably owns these houses (because of all the extra money they make in bribes). It is a sad situation and Cambodia has to get corruption under control if the situation will improve for the ordinary people. Education is a particular concern as after the Khmer Rouge genocide (1975-1979), no educated people were left in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge killed all intellectuals, teachers, doctors, etc. So in 1979 there were no teachers left, and a lack of education is still an issue today, mainly because of the costs involved in sending children to school.
After the floating village, we had lunch at the Stueng Trorcheak restaurant (I had Siem Reap soup with fish - excellent, and a watermelon shake; Susan had a vermicelli salad with chicken and watermelon juice). Plus I had coffee (a small very strong, sweet coffee - very yummy).
Vendor selling his art
We bought two pictures.
We got back to the hotel just before 4, and I had a 60 minute Khmer massage, which was just fantastic. Susan is at a cooking class right now. We are going to a "circus" tonight. It does not involve animals. It sounds more like a Cirque du Soleil-like show. Then a late group dinner.
I will add the photos to this entry later, as I need to get ready (we meet at 7:30). It sounds like it will be a fun evening, and tomorrow we are off to our homestay at Sambor Prei Kuk. We don't leave until 9 am so will be able to sleep in a bit. After today's early start that will be nice. Off to shower now!
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