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Published: March 13th 2008
Siem Reap-First Photo
Early morning cleaners having a rest in the park. I loved the place as soon as I arrived.
#9- CAMBODIA-Part 1
SIEM REAP, ANGKOR WAT AND TEMPLES
Arrived at night after flying 5 hours from northern end of Chinese empire to the southern end of the Chinese empire. It felt so good not to be wearing a coat, even late at night in open Tuk-tuk (motorcycle with open carriage at back). The first day, very tired, I just took it easy; wandering around the local town (Siem Reap near Angkor Wat and the temples,) walking, getting lost, eating, visiting ‘modern’ temples and markets, getting info etc. l liked the place and the positive attitude of the Cambodian people straight away.
The next day it was down to serious business and a $40 three day pass to all the temple complexes. It’s amazing how many people are on the streets at 5AM in the morning in the dark, and how warm it is. The sunrise over Angkor Wat was quite eerie and my third attempt over the years to get here was successful at last!
The place is quite big because of the inner walls and moat. The temple itself is not that big, but a real labyrinth of corridors, terraces, balconies, courtyards and rooms and
Bridge near Hotel
A quiet break in the traffic. Motor Cycles rule in this city.
it seems every wall and column has intricate carvings. You could spend hours or days there, but I had a lot more to see. Eventually walked back at my tuk-tuk in the daylight to realize the driver had parked under an Australian gum tree!!
Over the tree days’ saw many big and small temples; crowded and deserted; climbed many steep steps and just sat down studying the fine details in an out of the way carving in some corner. The temples with the huge trees just added another dimension to it all; hundreds of years of advanced culture being eaten by hundreds of years of tropical nature-fantastic!!
It was however, time to move on.
INTERESTING “BOAT” TRIP
After three days of temples, it was time to move onto the next place I wanted to see. There is a boat trip across part of the main lake and up a river to a town called Battambang. This lake, called ‘Tonle Sap’ is actually a depression which collects water coming down from the Himalayas thru the Mekong River to the sea. Evidentially, the water cannot escape fast enough so it backs up into this depression, which is actually an inland sea.
My first Hotel
Mom's Guesthouse-very laid back atmosphere.
Because of this water supply, fish and food is available all year round, which is why the Angkor Empire was such a success for 5 centuries. Crossing the lake you can loose sight of the shoreline. The lake rises and falls a few meters each year. There are some villages on stilts and some float on bamboo rafts. It was a day’s journey and a good time to sit back, relax and take a few photos of the river life; or so I thought….
It was the dry season and as we moved on in the mid-afternoon the boat seemed to be getting stuck in the mud more and more. Eventually we were unloaded from the boat and moved to our next mode of transport to finish the journey. Forty of us where put in to the back of two ‘pick-up’ trucks. We were mostly western tourists from North America, England, France Germany and Italy. Most were a lot younger than me and it reminded me of the ‘good old days’ (28 years ago!), when I last back-packed in South-East Asia.
We were ‘jam-packed’ in the back with a Cambodian on top of our packs, holding them down. It was
An easy day before Angkor Wat.
in the middle of nowhere with the odd bamboo house visible in the distance. The ‘road’ was really a track, which disappeared sometimes. It was pot-hold and we went thru several dried (mostly) steep creek beds. The constantly being lurched forwards, backwards and sideways, meant that you had to hold on very tightly with both hands for dear life.
At first many were very upset about this and complained a lot. I actually heard that this could happen, so was sort half of expecting it. I and a couple of others started making jokes about it to make into a bit of fun. The two Cambodians on the truck were laughing and joking all the time. In the end most people were laughing and having a good time and only one person feel off. The Cambodian holding our packs down fell off when we were moving fairly slowly. He got back up on the truck, still laughing! They really amaze me.
I really wanted to take some photos of the beautiful countryside, but that required at least one free hand; a bit dangerous, under the circumstances. If I fell off, I wasn’t sure that my sense of humor
would be as ‘resilient’ as the Cambodians. On the ride we were also constantly being whip-lashed by branches and had to duck low branches, but only for two hours.
The next day, I and many of my fellow travelers were slightly sun burnt, stiff, battered and bruised and generally exhausted. I did not seem to suffer any worse than ‘the youngsters’ and in the end we were all glad we had done it. So I was now hoping to have a quieter day today exploring.
Battambang is a quiet little town by a river and very pleasant to just wander around and explore. Latter I took another tuk-tuk to a famous place outside of town. The road was very dusty and pot-holed, so it was another bone-shattering ride, but worth it.
A short climb up a hill leads to a ‘modern’ temple complex, with a couple of guns used in one of the many civil wars. There were also ‘Killing Caves’ used by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to murder many of his fellow countrymen. People were thrown from the tops of the caves into lower holes. Most families were affected in some way during this
Less than century old
The Cambodian people are so kind, happy and full of life, that it is hard to believe that they could produce someone like Pol Pot. I my two weeks there I did not see one negative impulse from any Cambodian person. My guide in the cave, himself, lost his parents at 4 years old. He became a street kid and worked washing dishes in a restaurant at four years of age!! At fourteen he ran off to the Thai boarder and learnt English from Australian volunteers. (He would often start to talk ‘Strine and use the occasional Aussie slang phrase, such as 'good on yar mate!' or 'no worries')
BAMBOO RAILROAD AND COOKING CLASSES.
In the afternoon I went to see another place I heard about called the ‘Bamboo Railway’. It is actually just flat carts on an old railway line between local villages. The carts are powered by outboard motors like on a boat. It’s a bit of a gimmick, really but fun and a little surreal to experience. This trip is also very rough, so I don’t seem to be having a relaxing time in the first half of this holiday, but it’s
enjoyable, just the same.
Cambodian food is very tasty with spices and coconut milk used a lot. It is a bit like a cross between Thai and Chinese cooking. A restaurant here gives cooking classes in the morning so I managed to cook three dishes and eat them too, before rushing off in the afternoon on a bus to my next destination.
Maybe now I could have a bit of a rest and relax before the second half of my holiday. The destination now was the capital Phnom Pehn and latter to beaches on the South Coast, before heading back to Siem Reap and ‘home’ to Korea.
Final Part 2 to be continued in the next blog soon.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE REAL WORLD……..
I have been back in Korea about two weeks now and feel a lot more relaxed and positive then before I left. Those bloody warm cloths are back on, but not as many as before. It actually snowed two days after I came back, but it’s not as cold now; more like an AUSTRALIAN winter (around 10-15-degrees).
Now the yearly yellow dust storms from the Gobi Dessert in China have started. These
last about 6 weeks I believe. It is very smoggy here, but no ill effects so far. If we get more snow soon, maybe I will be lucky and see yellow snow, like they had one year.
It is still brown and grey here, but some crops have been planted and many tree buds are very swollen, so spring can’t be too far away. It will be good to see some green again.
At one school I have lost 17 students, but gained 11 new. At the other school I have lost 8 and gained 3 new students. This means that at the smaller school I have three classes, each with three students!! There are more staff then students here.
The new students are all fairly good, keen to learn and well behaved like the others. It should be a pleasure to teach in these final six months. I am determined to be positive, even if it kills me.
Bye for now
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