Hello One and All,
Yesterday Eric and I left Siem Reap, the town we’ve spent the last few days at in Cambodia. Siem Reap is the town nearest to the famous Angkor Wat ruins.
We spent almost 4 days there and thoroughly enjoyed it. The people seem to be a lot nicer here and there isn’t as much heavy peddling (although there is still a lot of it at the touristy places like the Market and the Temples). However, it was very refreshing to just tell a Tuk-Tuk Driver “No, Thank You” and have them lay off. Imagine.
We have been staying at the Two Dragons Guesthouse. A lovely little western run hotel with a great in-house restaurant. The proprieter name is Gordon Sharpless, and he started his life in Cambodia as a photographer. I realized on the bus back that the postcards I had bought at the local gift shop were by him! They picked us up for free from the Bus (that we took from Pnomh Penh-the capitol of Cambodia) and brought us to the hotel. We’ve had a Double room (2 double beds) for $15 a night (not including breakfast)! Things seem to be a little more expensive in Cambodia. They actively accept American dollars (everywhere)-and food especially is closer to western prices than Thailand.
We spent our first 2 days here exploring the temple ruins. We rented bikes ($1/day) and rode ourselves out to the temples- about a 20 minute ride. Here are some pictures from our first day of exploring.
Much of Angkor Wat was under rennovation so we didn’t end up spending a majority of our temple exploration there. We were pretty beat after just a few hours of trekking, and rode back to town for an early dinner. We found our haven at the Blue Pumpkin.
Straight out of San Francisco, this place was chocked full of tourists on their Macs. Although not the true Cambodian experience, it was nice to have a Lemon Ice and a Salad in an air conditioned spot. Eric vowed to come back on our last day to get some work done with their wifi.
The next day we spent a full day exploring the other ruins. The ruins of Angkor, are actually comprised of 13 sites all within a few kilometres of each other (some are farther away that we didn’t visit). Each site could be considered it’s own city, and each temple had a different purpose-usually they were different residences for the Kings at different times. Our book notes that one reason why the Angkorian people eventually fell is because their funds were stretched from construction costs! Each temple has wall after wall of intricately carved bas relief, which are endlessly fascinating. One of the biggest areas to explore is Angkor Thom.
Near Bayon we also climbed around the Terrace of the Elephants, which celebrates the 3 headed elephants in the Ramayana.
What I was really looking forward to was exploring the more overgrown sites (think Jungle Book scenes). We came across some parts of the temples that were being taken back by the flora. I like the juxtaposition of man made stones with organic trees intertwining.
It was wonderful to ride around to the different Angkor ruins on our bikes. There were many people peddling water and tuk-tuk rides in between each place which we could easily avoid by bike. Some of them were pretty aggressive which was a nuisance (is there any more rude than the phrase “Buy something Lady”?).
At one point though, at the end of the day, we were coming out of the Preah Khan ruins and this little toddler, no more than 1 1/2 years old, came up to us with a big bag of banana chips. Obviously her Mom and older sister had told her to come over and try and get us to buy them. It was adorable though because she kept looking back at her Mom and sister to make sure she was doing it right. Then she realized what she was holding and started to open the bag to eat them herself!! It was hilarious; her sister rushed over to stop her from doing it, but both she and her Mom were laughing the whole time. She was so adorable and it made us realize that the whole reason why any one of these sellers is so pushy, is because they’ve got a brood of children, just like this one, back at home that they are trying to feed. This is their way of making money, and they have immediate concerns of hunger. It’s hard to deal with constant begging for buying food, water and tuk-tuk’s but it’s better to keep a positive mindframe about it, and remember the whole reason why anyone wants to do well is to provide for their family. Not that we’re going to buy every banana and bottle of water that they offer, but we’ll try hard not to angry about the incessant nature of it. It just is.
We felt like we got a moment to relax and catch up in Siem Reap, and really saw the place that is the seat of Siam. You can see from the architecture of these ruins, how each group in Southeast Asian culture spiraled out from these origins. Visiting these sites was a great way to see the roots of these cultures and notice the differences in each place.
We’re moving on from Cambodia to Vietnam, and will be spending about 2 weeks there traveling up the coast. Look forward to lying on the beach, eating Vietnamese food and being a little less in transit!