Temples and Markets
Trip Start Jul 02, 2012
58Trip End Oct 04, 2012
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I had a guide with me, a young Cambodian guy who had been a monk for 6 years and a guide for 4 after he left because "he wanted to get married". We travelled by tuk tuk to see the most famous temple in the area - Angkor Wat. ;This temple is the largest Hindu complex in the world and was built in the 12th century. It was later adapted to become a Buddhist as well so many of the once Hinus carvings and statues have adaptations like the addition of a lotus flower to turn them into a Buddhist piece.
The majority of the huge blocks of sandstone had holes in them 2.5 cm in diameter and 3 cm deep, Which may have been for rods to transport them The 40 miles from where they were quarried or for pegs to help manoeuvre them. The amazing thing is that modern engineers estimate it would take 300 years to complete Angkor Wat today and yet the monument was begun soon after the king came to the throne and was finished shortly after his death, no more than 40 years.
I stood in the 'knocking arch' and thumped my chest 3 times with the echoes booming all around - my guide told me I'm assured of good luck and prosperity as a result! I also placed incense at the foot of a beautiful Buddah and had a hand plaited bracelet tied around my wrist by a little old woman who chanted a prayer as she tied it.
After a couple of hours exploring the temple (you'd need a whole day at least to see it properly), my guide took me past the souvenir sellers to the Buddhist Pagoda just to the side of the temple where he lived and trained for 6 years. He was still well known there so took me through the very basic kitchen facilities, the meeting place, dining platform and even in to one of the Monk's very sparse bedroom. It was a rare insight in to how they live, it was wet, muddy, rundown, there was no electricity, rainwater was collected in big open air tanks and orphaned kids and children of poverty stricken peasants all lived there too, taken in by the monastary and given a basic education. Very humblimg to say the least.
We walked past, through and over temple after temple and then along a huge terrace which included the Terrace of the Elephants and the Leper King Terrace who was confined by 'Hell', a deep moat all around him!
Back on the tuk tuk, we rode past lots more ruins, small temples, Buddhist statues and Pagodas with the monks in them.
Arriving back at the hotel, we all went down to the hotel restaurant for lunch and were once again waited on hand and foot. The hotel is a boutique hotel with only 7 rooms and only 2 of the rooms had guests while we were there so we pretty much had the sole attention of the staff. While it was fantastic most of the time, eating at the hotel could sometimes become a little claustrophobic with three sets of eyes watching our every move and trying to anticipate our needs. We would put our glasses down and someone would rush in to refill them. I would glance at Richard the wrong way and another person would interpret it as me needing something. I guess we’re just not used to that level of service!
The women in particular were the hardest to bargain with, they would plead with you, beg you to help them, stare up in to your eyes with pathetic expressions – and then laugh when you agreed a price. It was such an act but quite fun to take part in.
On our way back to the hotel we saw the first near miss accident. As one motorbike came round the corner, another was coming in the opposite direction towards it and they both slammed to a stop within inches of each other’s front tyres. Not a look passed between them, no horn, no words, not even a gesture! They simply turned their wheels, eased around each other and carried on. It has been great to see how the traffic just seems to work. Everyone drives relatively slowly – 20-30kms per hour and so there is always time to react. Indicators are seldom used and there are no road rules except don’t hit anyone! So if you come to an intersection (along with 20 other vehicles from all directions), you just quietly weave your way through in the direction you want to go. If you are travelling along a narrow road and there is someone slower in front of you you beep the horn, they move over and you pass by. Often they will use their horns to say ‘here I come’, not once to abuse someone. Awesome!
Back on the Tuk tuk in to town and we chose another restaurant, this one was called the ‘Old House’ and was lovely. Richard has been sampling quite a few soups and the carrot soup was particularly delicious at this one.
As soon as our time was up with the fish ($1 for 15 minuted plus a can of drink!), we were surrounded by girls pleading, wheedling and begging us to go inside for a foot massage. Actually they needn’t have tried so hard as we were all keen, so in we went and were treated to a lovely (if somewhat firm) massage. Once again the masseuses were horrified at the state of my bruised legs (they do look quite ugly!), and the way they kept glancing at Richard suggested they either didn’t understand or didn’t believe my explanation about the football game!
Each night at 10pm, the power goes out in our hotel for about 5 minutes. From what we could understand from the explanation we were given, this is because Siem Reap changes over from Vietnam supply to Thailand supply at that time because the rates are cheaper. A similar thing happens around 5.30 – 6am when they change back.
It was another fantastic day, we are loving the experience – they people are the friendliest we have met, the sights are amazing and being treated like royalty at the hotel doesn’t hurt either!