Angkor What?

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We went to see sunrise at Angkor Wat this morning – a suggestion made by Nadeige in a rare fit of "I love temples", yesterday. The troops, this morning at 4:30am were not quite as enthusiastic. We persevered nonetheless.  The sunrise, however, fits more into our growing category of “ fabulous things that never were.”  This would include such things as seeing Mount Fuji or seeing Rocher Perce – we knew they were there, but they remained hidden to the human eye.  Similarly, sunrise this morning was not the glittering temples backlit by glowing golden rays – rather it was more like an increasing awareness that there really were a lot of clouds in the sky and that it would probably rain.  And rain it did.  Fortunately, Angkor Wat still has many of its roofs intact.

The temples themselves are magnificent structures and don't require fancy sunrises or sunsets to highlight their magnificence.  In fact, I think Ta Proem, the temple that famously has been overgrown in parts by huge Banyan trees, is even more beautiful in its deterioration.  The area that the temples cover is so large that you rarely feel overwhelmed by other tourists, which is nice (having had the opposite experience at many of the temples in Egypt).

After wandering about Angkor for a few hours, Wana, our driver, took us out toward Tonle Sap.  The idea was that we were going to see a floating village.  However, he failed to mention that this would cost even more money, as we would have to take a boat (I suppose that would be a logical guess if the village floats).  This seems to be a fairly common approach.  Things always cost more than the initial price.  The assumption, presumably, is that, as foreigners, we have buckets of money.  And we do, absolutely.  Our lives are filled with many inconceivable luxuries (from a Cambodian standpoint), not the least being free health care.  Cambodia, certainly has brought home for me how many services we have for people.  Here, the bookseller with a cart of books to sell to tourists is missing both his hands.  The man asking for money at the restaurant is missing much of his leg.  A woman follows me asking me to buy milk for the baby she’s carrying.  We are constantly assailed by children much younger than Torin selling bracelets, guidebooks, post cards.  And in turn the organizations that work with these children tell tourists not to purchase these items, as it keeps the children on the street.

The area where we’re staying is very tourist friendly – not at all the area where Siem Reap residents live their lives – unless they are trying to sell things to toursists.  But our drive out toward the floating village took us past a different kind of neighbourhood.  These houses are built on stilts and they vary in the sturdiness of each structure.  At the minimum they are a rickety-looking, single-room home, tenuously held up on bamboo stilts.  There aren’t really any doors, hammocks are strung across the back.  Water can be had from a well and there doesn’t appear to be any kind of plumbing.  My impression was that sewage, if there was such a thing in these homes, ran down a tube into the sludgy river behind – the same one that children played in.  But maybe I’m seeing it wrong . . . On the other hand, I’m guessing that these people know their neighbours, and their children don’t disappear into their rooms for hours to play computer games or watch tv.

The temples were awesome.  I am glad to have come to this place, but we have reached that point where if you offered Nadeige or Torin the chance to be home in exchange for an ice cream cone – they’d pick home.  In a heartbeat.  Three more sleeps. Two in Siem Reap.  One night in Bangkok and then a series of flights that are longer than the day itself.
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Grandma W. on

Home OR ice cream ?? We have both! Looking forward to hearing when you will arrive. Love to all.

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