It's the End of World as We Know It

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April 15th 2016
Published: May 27th 2016
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Almost Became a VegetarianAlmost Became a VegetarianAlmost Became a Vegetarian

OMG seeing live chickens hanging upside down on the way to the market was life altering.
Who knew Cambodia in April would be this wonderful?

If you can stand the heat that is, because holy smokes it is blast furnace hot here.

Not that I wasn't warned by countless guide books and internet sites, travel in April was highly not recommended. Therefore, I go. That's me, always going against the grain.

Since I already acclimatized in Borneo, I questioned just how much hotter could Cambodia be? Well. Day one and you'd think I had landed on the surface of the sun.

The daily highs reach an upwards of 44 degrees but the heat index registers 48 or more. Everything in the countryside is dead or in the process of dying. And what hasn't been charred by the sun, has been set on fire by the local farmers. A smokey haze blots out the sky. I watch the locals fan themselves frantically, their clothing soaked through, so I know it's not just me, this cold climate Canadian.

Several of my new Khmer acquaintances state that this year has been the driest, dry season ever remembered in history. That can't be good. But whatever side you are on the climate change spectrum, no doubt
Flavourful InsectsFlavourful InsectsFlavourful Insects

These snacks were actually pretty good. I tried them all, my favourite, a tarantula.
we are seeing first hand what sever drought and flood cycles are doing to our world.

It makes me wonder if we have passed some kind of tipping point. Very well might be The End of the World as We Know It.

Meanwhile, the happy people of Cambodia just get on with it.

I'm here during the Khmer New Year and everyone is in PAR-TAY mode. I can't believe me luck! During their four day holiday, Khmers from all around the country pilgrimage to Angkor. Bright decorations line the streets and on each house's threshold, a glittery star and sprigs of decorations. Crowds cram the downtown core near the night market and pub streets. "Happy New Year!" "Happy New Year!" They yell up in my personal face space and gently apply liberal amounts of talc to both my cheeks. Then someone comes in from behind with a super-soaker and the powder instantly forms a cement crust on your every crevice.

Apparently, this is a good luck gesture and will wash away any bad juju, the receiver, me, will have luck for the oncoming year. I seriously don't mind, this is good clean fun and every Khmer
The face that can sail a thousand shipsThe face that can sail a thousand shipsThe face that can sail a thousand ships

Such beautiful carvings in the stone at Angkor Thom
I pass is covered in talc, smiling from head to toe. I feel honored for being included.

I'm staying in a little guesthouse on the fringes of the city. The family that run it are all pretty chill except for grandma who yells at random furniture and cares for the baby like an overprotective octopus. The rooms are clean and my bed comfy. There's even a hot water shower, not really necessary, but comes in handy to get this talc goop out of my hair. Downstairs, the common area is a dark lounge, stifling hot with overstuffed rattan furniture and fans humming relentlessly, countless Gappers flit in and out, identified only by their glowing blue screens when they do some serious Insta or SnapChat. I've been told that for a dollar I can go across the back lane and swim in the neighbours pool. So that is where I'll be.

Siem Reap was incredibly easy to navigate and I spent most of my time wandering around, dodging tuk tuks, and enjoying the ambiance of the bustle. There is so much to do in this city. I went for an ATV tour outside of Siem Reap with the promise
Fun and games in CambodiaFun and games in CambodiaFun and games in Cambodia

Everyone gets a face full of powder during the New Year
of interaction with some local villagers, disappointedly though, all we did was scream by them in a cloud of dust as they gawked at us. Then there was my land mine phobia, completely unwarranted. I then attended a circus show on the fringes of the city and from what I could gather, a French expat with some prior Cirque de Soleil expertise started her non-profit charity to teach street kids acrobatics. The audience is ushered under a big top tent and for over an hour ours minds blown by the entertainment. I highly recommend going to this. Plus they had towers of air conditioners, served cold drinks and popcorn, and each audience member was given a paper fan and seat cushion. Luxury! I'm also not opposed to going to ultra-touristy cultural shows, especially if a buffet dinner is included. So I went to the Apsara to see Khmer traditional dancing and the beautiful costumes, me and about 1000 other Chinese tourists who provided me a whole other level of entertainment. It was gold.

But the real reason I'm here in Cambodia is to see the temples of Angkor. It's been on my bucket list since I was a teenager.
Angelina Jolie WatAngelina Jolie WatAngelina Jolie Wat

The lovely trees taking over the temple in one of the most photographed Wats.

My second reason is to visit my old friend, who opened up a bakery and café, and under that guise, began to take in exploited street girls to empower them with hospitality skills and English so they could break free from their abusers. All of the profits go directly to helping these girls have better lives. So if you happen to be in Siem Reap, please patronage Blossom Café, or in Phenom Penh, Bloom Café. Orkun. Thank you.

Since I was feeling pretty lucky with my trip so far, I was chuffed to meet the members of my upcoming tour group.

The first couple really shouldn't have left the caravan park back in Oz. The wife is a fowl-mouthed hag that spent the first five hours talking non-stop about herself even though everyone lost interest four and 3/4 hours ago. Her claim to fame is that her daughter hooked up with the lead singer of Foster the People (he being the Foster I assume) and she goes into soered detail about how he abuses her. But despite this little indiscretion she fully encourages her daughter to stay with him. WTF? The husband looks like Bon Scott if
Happy Khmer New Year!Happy Khmer New Year!Happy Khmer New Year!

So much fun getting caught up into the celebrations.
Bon Scott were an Ostrich, and mumbles a form of Australian I cannot understand. I just smile and nod. Smile and nod.

The second couple should be on a fancy yacht in the Mediterranean trying to impress people. Within four seconds of the husband opening his mouth I pegged him as a con man, and a shoddy one at that. Every evasive story he spewed to our group confirms my suspicions. He wants to be called Aki, but I refer to him as 'the Terrorist'. His little woman is a Filipino lady I've named Imelda Marcos only because she brought one suitcase full of just shoes. Her other six suitcases and hat boxes quickly become a nuisance for the rest of us told to bring only a 30L backpack. She is super nice though and seems to be well aware her husband is an asshole but willing to tolerate it.

Thankfully, the rest of the group are normal and thrilled to be in Cambodia. They all have read their trip notes and are fully aware this trip is budget with ample free time. I hang out mostly with Ant, a lovely girl from the UK that is a
Cambodia prideCambodia prideCambodia pride

Such lovely gentle people who work hard and just want a better life
fairly new traveller and startled by just about everything, especially the stuff that touches her. I find myself snickering and getting irritated at the same time. We are also joined by adorable German girls on their gap year who wear matching bohemian patchwork dresses and hiking boots, they share sandwiches that they made up from the free breakfast buffet and go out clubbing every night into the wee hours, then puke and moan all day because of the heat. I also bond quickly with an Australian woman my age I'll call 'the General' because she has a mutual hate-on for the Terrorist, especially after all his misogynous slurs and obnoxious disregard for Cambodians. Her son is an 18 year old on his gap year about to embark on a solo motorcycle trip so she is seeing him off. He is polite and courteous and looks mortified each time the Hag or Terrorist open their mouths.

Our group leader, I'll call Saul, seems sick of his job, or maybe just the obnoxious tourists. Anyways, he is pretty much no-nonsense and this immediately clashes with the Hag and her Ostrich. Then the demands from the Terrorist and Imelda start to flow in. I watch Saul navigate carefully as he attempts to handle them. He never cracks, his posture and cadence all business-like. He shuts the couples down before they have a chance to get the upper hand. I cheer for him in my head. I've already made up my mind to not let this group and their crazy dynamics ruin my experience in Cambodia. I will be civilized and friendly. Thankfully, I can charm a snake blindfolded. Smiles everyone, smiles.

The following morning, we are all up at 4 am to get our day passes for Angkor.

The Terrorist is already pacing and complaining that he must wait in line with the rest of us peasants. Upon arrival at the causeway entrance, there are thousands of tourists queuing up around the moat with the anticipation of a music festival, snapping selfies, and waiting for the sun to come up. Saul has instructed us to stay put but the General is apparently not a morning person and has a desperation for a coffee not unlike that of a heroin junkie. Her son goes off in a frantic bid for one and she lies down on the rocks and pulls her

The most peaceful thing about Angkor wat was the lotus flowers in the moat.
hoodie over her face, goes back to sleep. The Terrorist gets wind of the coffee search and announces that, he too needs a Starbucks and then drags Imelda off on a quest. Um, there isn't a Starbucks here bud...oh never mind. The Hag gripes that no one took her coffee order, and she and the Ostrich disappear into the crowds.

Angkor is just as lovely as I thought it would be.

The freshness of the new day only slightly altered by the haze from the burning fields making the sky an eerie grey.

I already know my pictures are not going to be spectacular and I'm okay with that. I sit peacefully on the rocks and take in how the temple gets painted in a glowing kaleidoscope as the sun rises, focusing on a few lotus flowers in the middle of an almost empty moat with decorative garbage floating around them. Saul suddenly reappears and is pissed off that half our crew is missing. I shrug. When everyone finally returns, he shoves us all into Tuk Tuks and sneaks us in at the East gate. For quite some time, we have Angkor Wat all to ourselves. Saul
Flower marketsFlower marketsFlower markets

With all the new year celebrations, the flower markets were bustling
apparently has connections. He has also changed into his official Angkor tour guide shirt in the colour creamsicle, and gets down to business with an official tour guide spiel. The Ostrich wanders off, and the Hag is picking her toes and yawning.

Situated between the Tonle Sap lake and the Kulen Mountains in Cambodia, Angkor contains the ruins of several capitals of the Khmer Empire which flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. The hundreds of temples surviving today once boasted a population of one million people making it the largest preindustrial city in the world. After the fall of the Khmer empire, Angkor was abandoned and reclaimed by the jungle for centuries. Situated amid dense rainforest and rice paddies, many of the temples at Angkor have now been restored and welcome over two million tourists each year.

I think most of them are here today.

According to Saul, Angkor Wat means "City Temple” and is the most magnificent and largest of all the Angkor temples. The structure occupies an enormous site of nearly 200 hectares with a huge rectangular reservoir surrounds the temple which rises up like a mountain through a series of three rectangular
Angkor carvingsAngkor carvingsAngkor carvings

So amazing these beautiful stone carvings
terraces to the central shrine and tower at a height of 213 meters. This arrangement represents Mount Meru, the home of the gods in Hinduism. Built under the reign of King Suryavarman II in the first half of the 12 century, Angkor Wat is the pinnacle of Khmer architecture. The famous bas-reliefs encircling the temple on the first level depict Hindu epics including the mythical “Churning of the Ocean of Milk”, a legend in which Hindu deities stir vast oceans in order to extract the nectar of immortal life. These reliefs, including thousands of female dancers, are carved into the wall of the third enclosure of the temple. I love these beautiful, fun carvings and take tons of pictures of them.

By the late 13th century, Angkor Wat gradually moved from Hindu to Buddhist. Unlike other temples at Angkor which were abandoned after the fall of the Khmer empire in the 15th century, Angkor Wat remained a Buddhist shrine. We get to enjoy a good part of it before a sea of tourists bares down on us from the west. Monks in saffron robes float around, accepting ahms and chant praying over the devoted. Today is like super bowl
Travel though another dimensionTravel though another dimensionTravel though another dimension

Such a classic Cambodian scene.
Sunday for them.

There's a nervous energy as we queue to climb the stairs of the shrine, I'm getting a bit perturbed as no one respects one's personal space, but that's my shit. Albeit crumbling, you can see the entire complex from up here. The views are stunning! The crowds are super thick now and we are jostled by souvenir salesmen every step we take. I'm told that there aren't as many children begging for money as there used to be, they cracked down on them to appease the tourists. Saul casually mentions that over two BILLION dollars are collected from tourists here, yet the people of Cambodia only see less than twenty million of it. It isn't lost on me that Cambodia is still very much under control by an elite group of one percenters, and that the Khmer Rouge are still very much in power.

Did I mention today is the hottest day on record? It's 48 degrees and I make it my mission to see that everyone in the group is drinking enough water.

We move along to the south gate, and dodge Tuk Tuks and traffic to cross the causeway flanked by 54
Gas StationGas StationGas Station

Was amused and amazed by the gas stations in Cambodia. Bottles of petrol for sale on the side of the road.
gods and 54 demons depicting parts of the popular Hindu legend “The Churning of the Ocean of Milk”. It is extremely cool. Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Khmer empire and means 'Great City" It was built in part as a reaction to the surprise sacking of Angkor by the Chams. King Jayavarman VII decided that his empire would never again be vulnerable. Beyond the eight meter high walls is a massive moat that would have stopped all determined invaders. The city wall has a sanctuary tower at each corner and five entry gates, each gate features a tower topped by four huge faces, similar to those at the Bayon temple.

The Bayon temple features a sea of over 200 massive stone faces looking in all direction. The curious smiling faces, thought by many to be a portrait of king Jayavarman VII himself or a combination of him and Buddha, are an instantly recognizable image of Angkor. Built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII as part of a massive expansion of his capital Angkor Thom, the Bayon is built at the exact center of the royal city. The Bayon is the only state temple at
Why there are no singing birds in the treeWhy there are no singing birds in the treeWhy there are no singing birds in the tree

I suspect everyone of them has been deepfried
Angkor built primarily as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine dedicated to the Buddha. Following Jayavarman’s death, it was modified by later Hindu and Theravada Buddhist kings in accordance with their own religious beliefs.

The Bayon temple rises through three levels to a height of around 43 meters. The outer gallery on the first level depicts scenes from everyday life and historical events, while the inner gallery on the next higher level depicts mythical figures and stories. Some of the figures depicted are Siva, Vishnu, and Brahma. The third level is where you will encounter many of the famous faces. And tourists, gah.

Referred to as Angelina Jolie Wat, Ta Prohm is undoubtedly the most photogenic ruin at Angkor, with trees growing out of the ruins. Here you feel like an early explorer. Built from 1186, Ta Prohm was a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII. It is one of the few temples in Angkor where an inscription provides information about the temple’s inhabitants. The temple was home to more than 12,500 people, including 18 high priests, while an additional 80,000 khmers, living in the surrounding villages, were required to maintain the temple. The inscription also notes
Most famous picture of Angkor WatMost famous picture of Angkor WatMost famous picture of Angkor Wat

So cool how the trees are trying to consume the temple. I couldn't stop taking pictures.
that the temple contained gold, pearls and silks. After the fall of the Khmer empire in the 15th century, the temple was abandoned and swallowed up by the jungle.

I've noticed that some of our group are beginning to show signs of heat stress, but none are willing to take a break. They want to see every fucking Wat! So I alert Saul, who would rather get the day over with, but I put on my "respect my authoritay" voice and he begrungingly goes about finding us a restaurant with air con where we can get a meal and rehydrate. After our lunch of frogs legs and mango smoothies, we foray on to three more temples before even the young ones poop out.

Please note: Angkor is definitely NOT do-able in one day!

We head back to Siem Reap in our Tuk Tuks as the sun starts to cast orange shadows. I do a Jesus pose into my dollar pool.

Never have I felt so satisfied with seeing a UNESCO heritage site in all my life!! The Angkor site really lived up to what I expected and was extra fun with all the New Year celebrations
Sketchy stairsSketchy stairsSketchy stairs

Climbing to the top of the shrine to get a birds eye view of angkor
going on, I felt like I had been at Coachella!

For our last night in Siem Reap, we decide to head downtown to get some dinner and drinks. The atmosphere is mental. Everyone is partying and crowding the streets. We get assaulted with talc in our Tuk Tuks. We find a place that makes a delicious fish Amok and dig in. Saul hasn't let his guard down yet. Surely, he can't always be this serious! So we leave him with the asshole couples, who apparently get him really drunk and pour him into a Tuk Tuk hours later.

He is so hung over the following day he's lost his ability to speak English, and we have to see ourselves to the bus station and help him get on the right bus. He curls up in a seat and doesn't wake for hours. When he finally jolts awake, looking around all confused, we tease him relentlessly, and this breaks the ice. Saul lets out his first genuine smile and we are thrilled. He's been broken! Suddenly he is a wealth of information, and as we travel across Cambodia he tells us all about it, including his own heartbreaking stories
The long corridor The long corridor The long corridor

Pictures were difficult, of the millions of people, one would walk through the shot
of his family during the Khmer Rouge regime. We are on a public bus weaving towards the city of Kampong Cham. I'm listening to R.E.M. on my iPod. It is so oddly perfect.

Its The End of the World As We Know It - R.E.M.

That's great it starts with an earthquake, the birds and snakes, an aeroplane, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn
World serves its own needs, don't miss-serve your own needs
Feed it up a knock, speed, grunt, no, strength
The ladder starts to clatter with a fear of height, down, height
Wire in a fire, represent the seven games
And a government for hire and a combat site
Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry with the
Furies breathing down your neck
Team by team, reporters baffled, trumped, tethered, cropped
Look at that low plane, fine, then Uh-oh, overflow, population, common group.
But it'll do, save yourself, serve yourself
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed
Rapture and the reverent in the right, right.
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light
Feeling pretty psyched

It's the end of the world
The beautiful facesThe beautiful facesThe beautiful faces

Everyone covered in talc and having fun in cambodia
as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Six o'clock, TV hour, don't get caught in foreign tower
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn
Lock him in uniform, book burning, bloodletting
Every motive escalate, automotive incinerate
Light a candle, light a motive, step down, step down
Watch your heel crush, crush, uh-oh
This means no fear, cavalier, renegade and steering clear
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline

It's the end of the world as we know it (I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it (I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It's time I had some time alone)
I feel fine (I feel fine) It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as
Dancing girlsDancing girlsDancing girls

Loved all the carvings with their fun dancing depictations
we know it, and I feel fine (It's time I had some time alone)

The other night I dreamt a nice continental drift divide
Mountains sit in a line,
Leonard Bernstein Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce, and Lester Bangs
Birthday party, cheesecake, jellybean, boom
You symbiotic, patriotic, slam but neck, right?

It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It's time I had
Riding DirtyRiding DirtyRiding Dirty

ATVing all the dry rice fields on the outskirts of Siem Riep super fun!
some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It's time I had some time alone)
(It's time I had some time alone)

Additional photos below
Photos: 31, Displayed: 31


Angkor WatAngkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Too many pictures of the gigantic site. I really enjoyed wandering through against the large crowds.

28th May 2016
Flavourful Insects

You should go on Survivor, Andrea. Pretend you are from'd excel at it!
29th May 2016
Flavourful Insects

Ha! I don't know about that. I'd have the eating challenges beat.
28th May 2016
The face that can sail a thousand ships

One can smile
Fabulous blog of the Foibles of Group Travel, Andrea. Your group reminded me of 3 dogs I saw in Siem Reap tugging at a rag and getting nowhere while the dedicated went about their business of having a good time. Gotta say we travel to have a good time and those with agendas we prefer to leave behind. Wow did you pack a lot of highlights in your days...and nights. The hottest day of the year...kinda appropriate don't you think?
29th May 2016
The face that can sail a thousand ships

Here for a good time, not a long time
Yes, it was a whirlwind trip. I wished I had time to slow down and dance a bit. Maybe next trip. Cheers!
28th May 2016

Really quite amused with the hag and the terrorist. Love this entry. Coming back to Cambodia this August, and your blog really got me so excited to see this magical place again.
29th May 2016

That sounds like a odd children's book, the Hag and the Terrorist. I sure did love Cambodia, have a wonderful trip this summer, and of course blog!
28th May 2016
Hidden Buddha

What a trooper!
Massive crowds, scorching heat, fried insects and the tour group from hell--yikes! I don't have the stamina for any of those, much less all of them at once! Thank goodness it was balanced by the beauty of Angkor Wat, the gentle, smiling locals, and the fun celebrations. I hope you get a better group for the next leg of your journey!
29th May 2016
Hidden Buddha

That's me, the super trooper. I love all the experiences, good and evil, when travelling. I think its what makes it so worth it. Cambodia was incredible. Thanks for reading!
30th May 2016
The face that can sail a thousand ships

Angkor - will go back there one day
I went to Cambodia many years ago. I liked it and I'd like to go back and see it all again. But I am also afraid that I might not like it now. I am afraid that it might have changed a lot and not necessarily for the better. Well, I am happy that you went there and got to see it. It is a fantastic place. /Ake Ps It is a damned pity that REM has quit playing together. I liked them and saw at least three concerts wit them./A
30th May 2016
The face that can sail a thousand ships

Oh yes I think you would be disappointed Ake. It is a circus there. I only wish I'd seen some places earlier in my life before tourism ruined them. Still worth it though. So spectacular!
2nd June 2016

You can charm a snake blindfolded
You are generally very lucky with the groups of people you have been paired with on your adventures. You would not have hand picked most of these people but you are a trooper and will not let their poor attitudes rub off on you. Glad you kept everyone hydrated. Glad you enjoyed Angkor. Always love, love, love your story telling.
5th June 2016

Yes, generally lucky, one rotten apple once in a while can't hurt right? Wow Angkor was wonderful. I loved Cambodia.
24th October 2017

I'll visit the most value land in the world. But i'm not sure about how much they cost you for visiting inside the temple. My papa has told that for 5 years ago they cost him 800 baht per one day. But nowadays, I think its not this price, right?

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