Angkor Wat, Irrawaddy dolphins and border guards

Trip Start Nov 10, 2005
Trip End Apr 30, 2006

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Monday, March 13, 2006

This is the big one! The largest religeous complex in the world: Angkor Wat. At its zenith, Angkor was home to over a million people while London was but 50,000 and Europe was in the dark ages. And like building the Great Wall or the Terracotta army in China; you had to be at little nuts to do it. Or, at least proclaim yourself a god-king and enlist your people to build it in your name. That's what King Jayavarman II did in the ninth century and was then built upon by later kings until the 15th century.
Stepping into Angkor Wat gives you the feeling of living out Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider. The jungle has swallowed up much of the temples and while some restoration projects are underway, many of the temples now rely on the jungle trees to hold them together. Smiling buddhas, monks in orange robes and temple complexes that have hidden passages. This is what ruins are all about.
I spent four days at Angkor traversing the temples in a tuk-tuk and by bicylcle. I was accompanied by Sophia, a lovely german girl I met on the bus. She had limitless energy and dragged me out into the dark at 5am to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat and we returned at 6pm for sunset. It was an exhausting four days but most definetly worth it. We headed back to Phnom Penh on a speed boat along the Tonle Sap river waving to the local kids who were all very excited to see a boat full of white people.
I spent the next few days taveling to the Lao border. I stopped in Kratie to see the rare fresh water Irrawaddy dophins and then made my way to Stung Treng to catch the speed boat along the Mekong river. This boat was no bigger than a canoe with a bad-ass engine on the back allowing us to slide accross the Mekong at 60 kilometres an hour. I reached the Lao border mid-afternoon. This is not an "offical" border crossing and we had to wake the border guard upon arrival as he was fast asleep in his hammock. Unaware that this was the only crossing that didn't grant tourist visa's upon arrival, I was told to "go back to Cambodia". Oops. I volunteered to pay an extra "fee" if the guard was willing to grant me passage into Laos but this was to no avail. Money can buy a lot of things in this world but no sum seemed to spur the interest of this official. In all fairness I doubt he had those wonderful visa stickers on him to give me if he wanted to. So, back I went to Phnom Penh which is where I am writing from now. Armed with my shiny sticker i will again attempt passage into Lao. Maybe it's time for a "happy pizza".
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