Another Wonder of the World

Trip Start Aug 22, 2012
Trip End Jun 16, 2013

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Flag of Cambodia  , Khétt Siĕm Réab,
Friday, December 28, 2012

After a very long day (12 hours) on the bus to Siem Reap, watching the people and the countryside of Cambodia flash by like a movie with no real plot but a continuous theme of vignettes such as:
  • the young child standing on his father's foot and clinging to his leg while he works in the field
  • another child about 8 years old who is supposed to be working the family stand but is arched over her chair, head hanging close to the ground imagining something probably wild and wonderful
  • a rest stop for buses filled with a conglomerate of entrepreneurial booths selling something or other amidst the dirt, smells and activity of bus passengers arriving and leaving in throngs,
we arrived tired and ready to drop into bed. We left our bags at our hotel (Shadow of Angkor II) and headed down the street for a bite to eat.  With our bellies full and a nice cold beer to cool us down, Jim was in absolute heaven when the bill came in at a mere $12.  "You can’t beat that"!

More About Tuk-tuk Drivers

We seem to have some karmic connection with tuk-tuk drivers.  The driver at Shadow asked us if we needed transportation on our first day.  We declined because we had no plans for the day; we were just going to nose around.  Well, we ended up doing a full day trip with another driver (more on that story). Well, for the entire week that we stayed at Shadow, the driver there would not talk to us; he wouldn’t even look at us. 

Returning to the story of the tuk-tuk driver we did go with…turned out while he waited for us during our boat ride, he drank himself silly.  When we got off the boat, we couldn’t locate him.  Once we did, he was acting a bit curiously but nothing obvious.  When he stopped to get a bottle of water and downed it in one fell swoop, we became a bit suspicious.  The ride back to Siem Reap was a long way and not easy driving: winding, bumpy country roads, a highway then busy city traffic.  About halfway, he veered off to a field to 'show us a Buddha’.  Once at a 10 meter high Buddha in the center of the field, he confessed that he was completely drunk and that he had taken a kick-back from the boat driver.  His conscience was really bothering him about the kick-back.  Initially I refused to get in the tuk-tuk however, it was getting late and the sun was setting, we were in the middle of a field still quite far from the city…how would we get back?  Which was more dangerous – getting in the tuk-tuk with an inebriated driver who would experience dire consequences to his livelihood should he be in an accident or having two, white and vulnerable tourists trying to get a drive in the dark along the highway?

Jim, in his way of staying level-headed  under stress being able to weigh out the risks, felt we should go with the driver but still remained calm and ready to walk if I did not want to get in the tuk-tuk.  We drove safely back to our hotel with him.  What’s the lesson here?  Do our values need to adjust given the different values and situations?  Do we need to stand fast in what we believe? If we don’t, do we feel like we have compromised on something important?  What do you think you would have done?  And notice I say ‘do you think’ because I surely would have answered this differently before I came here.  Delicious food for thought!

By the way, during that day we saw Kampong Phluk – a floating village and forest.  The poverty is staggering and yet many people appear to happily exist in their world of basic survival – some combination of fishing, growing of food and enterprise.

Temples, Temples and More Temples

Now the highlight of the stay in Siem Reap…Angkor Wat and surrounding temples!  Having seen Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat within 2 months of each other has been an experience of a lifetime.  They are both magnificent man-made works of art – Machu Picchu is a precise, spiritual, engineering feat and Angkor Wat is an artistically spiritual piece.  However, both are clouded by histories of conquest and conflict.  

Unfortunately, the crowds have such an impact on my experience that I find myself left with a sprinkling of awe at the work and history mixed with disappointment at not being able to have the experience I had dreamed of.  Sunrise at Angkor Wat was a crazy mad house with throngs of people crowded together, trying to push their way to the front to get the best photo, talking and laughing loudly with vendors trying to sell their coffee, souvenirs and even chairs (to rent) for either sitting on for a rest or standing to see over the crowd.  Mayhem.  Sunset was similar.

We did two consecutive days of temple visiting preceded by a sick day for Jim with a cold and followed by a sick day for me with gastro issues.  Back to the temples for one last day and then off to the northeastern part of Cambodia.  We were not able to contact our family over the holidays as much as we would have liked; it didn’t feel too much like Christmas here anyway. Regardless, we did miss everyone and hope you all enjoyed your celebrations and downtime.

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Margy on

What a wonderful experience. Donna your description drew a great picture.

Sue Walker on

Tony and I have decided that both you and Jim have a new career. Jim photographer and you writer for National Geographic. Donna your writing is awesome and Jim your photography well ! Simply outstanding. I wish you both a Speedy Recovery from your travel flu bug. Xo. Safe Travels

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