Angkor What?

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Hotel 89

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Sunday, July 4, 2010

We got up and had a quick breako before heading out with the same tuk tuk driver as yesterday. We had already decided that today would be the last day of temple bashing as we covered so much yesterday (about 1.5 days of the suggested itinery) that we would be able to cover everything else we wanted to today. We started by getting the driver to take us to Banteay Srei about 35km away. It was indeed a beautiful temple and we are so glad we visited it as some of the older ruins from the day before got so same'ish. We got chatting to a monk there, who it turned out we would bump into a few more times in Siam Reap. He was very chatty and let us have a picture of him and Lady E, which was nice (we later saw other nice people ask him for a snap and he refused).

We then visited the Siem Reap landmine museum which was on the way back. It was a great place and seemed a good location for us to drop off our donations. Basically the guy who owns this museum had his parents killed by the Khmer Rouge and was forced to join their army as a child soldier who would walk in front of the troops. Essentially his job was to find land mines, most of the other boys he worked with got blown up. He was so good at spotting them that the Khmer Rouge then had him working with land mines planting them. When the Khmer Rouge showed their 'hand' he realised he must help to overthrow them and joined the invading Vietnamese army again laying land mines and clearing minefields so the troops could pass through. He was clearly very scarred as a consequence of his time with the Khmer Rouge and in particular the damage that had been caused by the mines he had laid. As soon as Cambodia was liberated from the Pol Pot era he began removing land mines from all over Cambodia. He had removed around 50,000, not like you see a British Soldier doing it with lots of protection etc, just walking around with a stick. He liked to work alone and kept a selection of the land mines he disarmed or safely blew up. The museum has a 'childrens village' attached to it (a phrase we adopted from another 'orphanage' we had planned to visit). All the funds he raised he used to bring up victims of land mines as normal as possible, being able to give them an education and food etc. You could see the kids out playing but photo's are strictly prohibited, so I took a photo of a photo to give you a flavour.

There are some really interesting videos on You Tube of some of the 'childrens villages' and they are no doubt always a good home for a few quid if you can afford it. Anyway if you want a few stats Cambodia is still amongst the most landmined countries in the world, mines here were dropped from planes (i.e. no maps of where they landed) to try and prevent the VC using the Ho Chi Minh trail, the Cambodia regimes have also used them and the Vietnamese again used them. Still today there are somewhere in the region of 800 victims per year that are maimed or killed by landmines. Cambodia is also a relatively small country with about 14 Million people. The stats are scary, there are about 10 countries who refuse to stop producing land mines, including the likes of the USA, Russia, China & India. Whilst the mines can cost about $1 - $3 to make and lay, aid agencies are paying between $300 - $1,000 to remove them. Its all very thought provoking and I know war is a terrible thing and people will do anything to protect themselves and their countries but the consequences are just terrible. Anyway I'm on a rant again!!!

We then had another long drive through the countryside which was fantastic, we just love the rural thing and getting out of the cities. Like Laos, some parts of the countryside look very poor, but like Laos very happy as well. Lots of great sights, of kids, of skinny cows and of people working the paddies.

We then got back to the main Angkor area and continued our 'temple bashing' losing more passion for temples with each visit. We have lots and lots of pictures but we were in need of a chill and our first beer in a few days.

We ended our temple trip with sunset from one of the temples on top of the hill opposite Angkor Wat. We bumped into the monk again and as the sun started to drift towards the horizon, the thunder, lightening and carnage of the monsoon arrived again. We were one of the first down but the steps were trecherously steep and Erica could hardly get down when they were dry. It would be fair to say we got absolutely drenched while the Cambodians got out their pak a macs and took cover, we just walked and loved it, although we were absolutely soaked we just giggled and giggled. It was very much like the feeling of when you were kids and the first rain after a prolounged summer stint, the smell and excitement. The driver ran over to meet us at the bottom with umbrellas which was lovely and well worth a tip (yes a tip!!).

When the rain ended we had a bite to eat and swigged a few Angkor smooth (again at 50c per pint about 30p). As we were just about to leave the heavens opened again and all hell broke loose. The tennis was on the telly (Wimbledon mens final) so we decided to have a few more. The rain didn't stop, so I suggested we move to a place over the road called 'Angkor What?'. Well Erica was tired so I decided to get a bucket of Vodka Red Bull (yes the asian stuff), one thing led to another and we can't remember coming home (again). A great way to get out of temple mode me thinks.  But hey I came home in a free t-shirt after our third bucket so I'm still feeling the value.
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