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Published: August 8th 2007
Angkor Wat - Looks nice doesn't it?
...but here's a list of the things you can't see in the photo:
1 - Shit loads of mozzies swarming my ankles (why my ankles are the tastiest bit I cannot explain).
2 - Directly to my left are about 100 other tourists.
3 - One of said tourists sitting, speaking loudly on her mobile to Hose in Madrid, flicking ash from her cigarette at fish in the pond.
4 - Directly to my right are about 100 other tourists.
5 - One of said tourists is an obnoxious man who forced two poor blokes to move when he planted his ass down right infront of them knowingly blocking their view.
We didn't stay for sunrise. Its not really the special atmosphere some would have you believe.
Siem Reap - Battambang
It had to happen sooner or later. Bob has developed blog block. And so, the pressure is on for the silent half of Occasionally Bob to think of appropriate witticisms and observations on the second half of our Cambodian adventure.
Truth be told, I know I can't live up to the same standards. I have not put finger to keyboard for blog purposes since I talked about black polo necks (yes, interesting subject matter, I know) sometime last year whilst still in the relatively blissful cold of France (although I still managed to get sunburn).
Suffice to say I have had to abandon my polo neck attire for the time being as temperatures have been a tad unsuitable and testing my pasty blue/white Scottish skin to the limits for quite some time now. Doesn’t mean I’ve managed to part with my beloveds though. I am still (some may say stupidly) carting round 3 black polo necks in the vain hope of a cold spell. All the more stupid when you find out that it leaves me with only 2 hot weather options since a slightly mad Vietnamese landlady managed to lose my best t-shirt
Banteay Srei - A craving for carving
Banteay Srei is famous for its carvings which are about as intricate and beautifully preserved as any in the Angkor archaeological park.
In this example I believe that two monkey princes are fighting. One of them has been shot through the heart and lies in his monkey princess wifes arms. The moral of this story is that drugs and carving just don't mix.
in what was obviously a tardis of a washing machine. Still I’m not bitter.
We arrived in Siem Reap and disembarked the bus into a waiting scrum of tuk tuk drivers. I kid you not when I say there was an official of some sort literally beating them back with a stick. Despite the rather large numbers of tourists it would seem that supply outweighs demand and competition in the tuk tuk/moto industry seems cut throat.
Being the stubborn blighters we are, we decided to ignore them all and start walking. This didn’t put most of them off - they simply jumped onto their bikes and followed us down the road telling us that we couldn’t possibly walk into town as it was too hot and too far. One candid chap even told us he didn’t even want our business today, he just wanted to be the 'chosen one' to take us around the Angkor Wat archaeological park the next day.
We later discovered at least a couple of the reasons that there are so many tuk tuk drivers. The bloke who was taking us around the different sites for our 3 days of temple exploring told
Banteay Srei - Carved Doorway
Its not just monkeys in the carvings around here...
us that he used to earn $40 a month as a hotel receptionist but that he can now earn that in 2 or 3 days as a driver. His tuk tuk and motorbike cost him the princely sum of $800 dollars (Occasionally Bob may branch out into the tuk tuk export business shortly) so I guess it does seem like a good money maker in comparison.
Plus it has a benefit package to rival that of the western corporate world. Not only does much of the day consist of sleeping in the back of the tuk tuk (Sylv - this may be your dream job) or chatting to your friends while you are waiting for the tourists to do their thing, but most of the restaurants at the temples have hammocks set up for the drivers to use in return for them getting their passengers to eat at that particular establishment. Naturally the restaurant also gives the driver a free feed into the bargain.
After failing to tempt us with the offer of seeing ‘poor people’ at the floating village (not sure what was in that one for him), he tried to entice us to see some ‘free’
Banteay Srei - Telling Stories
All the carvings are supposed to tell stories from Hindu hsitory. The thing I don't understand is why they didn't just ignore the frilly bits and carve it like it actually was. Demons and elephants is all very well, but surely a sketch of the local newsagents would have been more use to historians.
Thats the problem with history - nobody thought about historians.
traditional dancing where he was also on commission. The perk for him there was an evening meal and being paid $2 per person, the downside for us was that we would have to pay $12 each for a buffet meal. We declined. That said, he was a nice chap and so if you do see driver 5896 (his ‘patch’ is outside the central market opposite the Blue Pumpkin) we can recommend him as his hard sell was far from hard sell and he always turned up for us early and took us wherever we wanted to go without quibble. He even offered to share his mango with us at no extra cost and had an uncanny knack of knowing when we would need to stop at a bathroom (which were immaculate - yippeee) Can’t remember his name unfortunately - he’d gone for something less stick in the mind, as opposed to Mr Jesus (who had "Jesus Loves You" in bold letters on his vehicle) or Mr Hotty…
I say dull, but it turned out to be anything but due to a rather spectacular and extended downpour the night before we left essentially reducing the roads to a sludgy sticky
Banteay Samre - A Wee Gem
We went to the more distant Banteay Srei and Banteay Samre before the main events around Siem Reap. While Srei is the one you're supposed to see due to its amazing carvings, I have to say that I preferred Samre. Lovely little temple. Not too many tourists either.
clay mud. Numerous buses and lorries got stuck or slid sideways as we slowly trundled along until eventually the road became impassable and someone wisely called for reinforcements. A couple of hours later a huge vehicle which looked like an extreme sports version of a snowplough ambled along and scraped the top sticky layer of mud off the surface of the road and hey presto we were on the move again. Until everyone got stuck about half a mile down the road… I think you can guess the rest.
Continuing our tuk tuk related adventures in Battambang (having resisted the temptation throughout the rest of Asia we somewhat gorged ourselves in Cambodia), we went out to see the surrounding countryside and the sites they had to offer. Despite the protestations and downright lies told by the motorbike drivers trying to persuade us to take a moto instead: “Tuk tuk is no good”, “You take moto, you see country road and poor people”, “Poor people will wave at you and say “Hello” and “Bye-bye”, “In Tuk tuk you not see poor people”, “Tuk tuk go by highway. Cannot go on back roads”, “Tuk tuk driver want to rip you off”,
Banteay Srei - You've Been Framed
Most of the temples are infested with little kids trying to sell you postcards or guidebooks. Everybody gotta make a dime, right? Here's a kid taking a rest after a hard mornings selling.
“Tuk tuk driver not speak English” it turned out to be a good choice as not only could we chat as we went, it worked out much cheaper and meant that Robbie could indulge in an extra banana pancake and fruit shake or too with the saved riel. Happy campers all round.
Speaking of banana pancakes and fruit shakes, if anyone is aware of any rehab programmes which can help addicts I would be much obliged if you could contact us with details. If they have a special Fanta module which can be added to the package all the better. Our trip is in danger of being cut short due to lack of funds as Robbie is eating and drinking them at an alarming rate and becomes aggressive and moody if he doesn’t get his daily fix…
And so, our time in Cambodia is all too quickly finished. It is a fantastic country with lovely people - even the dodgy folk we met had a bit of character about them. One of my particular favourite traits which seems prevalent is the 'I don't know the answer/don't like the question so I'll just ignore it and pretend it didn't
The Rolous Group - Bakong
The Rolous group of temples lie 17km to the west of Siem Reap near the town of... yup, you guessed it - Rolous.
Of all the temples we saw in Cambodia, Bakong was set in the nicest grounds and ranks as one of our top four.
happen and it might go away.' I suspect the novelty would wear off if it happened too frequently but it made quite a refreshing change to the 'I don't know the answer/don't like the question so I'll just make up nonsense in reply' attitude that we experienced in Vietnam and China.
Look out for the next thrilling installment when Occasionally Bob meets Susiemaroon in Thailand...
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