Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Angkor Wat

And finally - Angkor Wat.

We did the sunrise thing (after one false start...), and it was nice, but, dare I say it, kind of overrated. I mean overrrated cos the place is already so amazing and breathtaking, the sunrise thing seemed like a tourist gimmick.

You should know by now that Angkor Wat is full of tourists. Whaddya gonna do. I mean, there was even a tethered hot air balloon in my view looking out from the Angkor Wat temple! With that in sight, and so many people around you, it was hard to try and imagine what it must have been like centuries ago. I'd like to imagine it was kind of... magical. Ah, perhaps I am romanticising it. But you look at the architecture of the temples and there's no denying it was just so... GRAND.

It was also a shame too that some temples had scaffolding and green tarps in certain places, due to the reconstruction work. But I guess that's a good thing, though.

Visiting the temples involved climbing a lot of precarious rock stairs. Tip: visit Ta Prohm (aka the "Tomb Raider" temple) first!! Just book it over there. Otherwise, when you get there at 10 in the morning, like I did, it will be full of Korean tourists, who are the Japanese tourists of the 21st century. Not that there's anything wrong with them, they're fine, but I couldn't even get a photo of the temple without a Korean in my frame.

Then we got temple fatigue. So we decided to go to one of the "outlying" temples. Only 49km away, we thought. So we stupidly told our tuk-tuk driver to take us there. Tip: don't go by tuk-tuk! Riding through clay countryside roads with potholes the size of buffaloes was a stupid thing to do. Poor driver. And we got coated in dust.

And then we arrived at the "outlying temple" (Kbal Spean) at 3:10pm, it was closed! It closes at 3pm! Ha ha. What dolts we were for not doing our research. Duh. Slap ourselves on our foreheads, turn around and make that arduous 2 hour (2 hour!) tuk-tuk journey back. Then it starts to rain. (Poor driver!) Then a coconut tree falls in the middle of the road. True. But the villagers came out and sawed it apart and the road was cleared in no time!

OK, one last Angkor Wat story. I met this precocious little kid at one of the temples (Banteay Srei) hanging around. And this is what we said:

Kid: Candy?
Me: Candy? (look around, point at me)
Kid: Candy!
Me: Sorry, I don't have any candy.
Kid: Pen?
Me: Pen? No, sorry, don't have that either.

Kid thinks. Face lights up, points outside.

Kid: Ice cream?
Me: (worn down by intense cuteness) OK. Ice cream.

I realize something.

Me: But just you!

Later, he tries to bring a couple other kids with him, but I'm adamant about only getting one ice cream. That's right, I'm the cheap aunt. Only one ice cream. Share it with all your siblings.

--> Siem Reap

Took the boat back to Siem Reap, up the Tonle Sap. Water levels were too low on the river, so a bus took us part of the way, and then we hopped on a boat where the river turns into a lake.

The entire Tonle Sap Lake is brown. Like milk tea.

The boat was kind of fun, but apparently it was more fun for me cos I am short and not a large, full-grown man for whom the seats were kinda cramped. Oh well. Lucky me! :) The boat ride was wonderful and mind-numbing at the same time. It's like 4 hours of no-thinking on the water. Bliss. Got sunburned on one arm. (The arm sticking out the side of the boat).


We saw floating villages - fishermen were out casting nets, kids were playing in the water... I took pictures. Then I felt bad, cos these people now live with tourists driving through their villages, gawking. That's what I was doing - gawking and taking pictures.


Phnom Penh

Did I spell that right?

Took the bus to Phnom Penh the very next morning. It was an ok ride, about 6 hours through countryside. Lots and lots of wooden houses on stilts, water buffaloes in the field, coconut trees, mud. I really loved it - can't explain why! (I shouldn't be telling you this, but I kept thinking about landmines - we didn't see any, of course - and half expecting some water buffalo in the distance to suddenly go "boompf" and go flying into the air. Nope, didn't happen.)

In Phnom Penh my uncle met up with some missionaries. We stayed at the guest room of a school the missionaries run. They were super nice and took us around town. We visited a Korean church - service in Khmer (oops, that was in Siem Reap not PP), Central Market - ate some bugs, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - super depressing and scary. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is housed in the actual S-21 prison used by the Khmer Rouge. The actual building. The actual cells. The actual wooden beams where they strung people up. It was pretty wrenching, as you can imagine.

Cambodians <3 hammocks

Markets in Cambodia are these amazing, filthy, colourful places. There are the "tourist sections" with the clothes and trinkets, and the "locals section" where they sell meat and vegetables. Swarms and swarms of flies surround the food... they must have stomachs of steel, these Cambodians.


Bug degustation menu:
1. Cricket - crunchy, with a hint of bug aroma. Light and delish.
2. Silkworm larva - al dente on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. Totally gross.
3. Ginormous spider - surprisingly sweet! Perhaps coated with... something sweet.

Actually I only ate a spider leg cos I was pathetic and all bugged-out by then. I gave the woman at the stall US$1 for the bugs I sampled and she proceeded to doggy bag more bugs for me! I was like: noooo!

Cambodia, summarized

This is a very belated post. I didn't post while I was in Cambodia cos i didn't bring my laptop and even though the hotel had decent Dell PCs, the internet connection was the speed of mud. Which there was a lot of, in Cambodia - mud.

So anyway, I spent a week in Cambodia - yes, birthplace of Maddox Jolie-Pitt, to put it in context.

Arrived first in Siem Reap, it had stormed just a while before we landed (we had to circle to wait out the storm), which made everything nice and wet and made the dust nice and muddy.

Here are some pictures.

The obligatory baby on a motorcyle photo.