Siem Reap

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
Trip End May 02, 2013

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Where I stayed
MotherHome Inn

Flag of Cambodia  , Khétt Siĕm Réab,
Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Although not completely dashed, Sylvia's hopes of not being pestered to spend money in this country quickly diminished. So frequent are the requests to ride in a tuk-tuk or receive a massage that the markets even sell T-shirts stating "No Tuk-Tuk No Massage Today".  However, the Cambodian people do seem to have a gentler and more genuine spirit about them, which makes it impossible not to smile back and politely decline most of the time.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay here at MotherHome Inn and would highly recommend it for anyone coming to Siem Reap.  By the way, the city name means Siamese (or Thai) Defeated, which is interesting considering the close neighbours to the west, but that's another story.

Aside from the Temples of Angkor (see separate blog), we have set out on a few other adventures here as well.  We took a cooking class at Le Tigre de Papier that included a visit to the local market and making a three-course meal to be savoured afterward.  Sylvia made mango salad and Amok fish curry and Jason made chicken spring rolls and seafood curry.  Everything was made from scratch, even the curry paste.  We also had a banana tapioca dessert.  Despite the heat that nearly made our appetites disappear, everything tasted delicious.  During our class we met Tiffany from Australia who told us a chilling story of her experience in Bangkok (see aside below).

We also took a tour of Kompong Phluk village near / on Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.  It is dry season now so the water flows downstream from the Himalayas via the Mekong River and the levels are low.  In the wet season, the water flows backwards (upstream) from Vietnam and the lake swells, encroaching on the villages while providing plentiful fish to sustain life.  Thus, the timber and thatch homes are built high (up to 10 m) on stilts.  Families get by on $100 to $500 dollars a year out here.  The lake itself is surrounded by mangrove forests which protect inland areas from strong storms and provide beautiful settings for open boat paddling.

The following morning we went for a 4-wheel ATV ride through the local villages and farms and also stopped at a NGO-run school / orphanage.  This and the visit to Kompong Phluk brought to the forefront the stark realism of poverty that exists in this country.  We learned that some families send their children out to beg, while others sell their children to work for wealthy households.  When girls reach a certain age, some get sold into the sex trade. 

Despite their life circumstances the children here are wonderful.  Many that we met come out smiling and waving as you pass by and interestingly, they seem to learn to say 'bye-bye' before 'hello'.  We're not sure if that's because people leave more often than they stay.  It was heartbreaking to say no when they asked us to buy things from them (we encountered this mostly at the temples where the tourists are).  However like other friends who have visited Cambodia we decided that it's more beneficial to contribute to a reputable organisation that teaches kids life skills and how to read and write so they can have a better future.

One more night here and we're off to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, in the morning.
So long, Siem Reap.  Wish we could stay longer.

Aside:  Tiffany was travelling alone as she had done many times before.  She met a Thai family while dining at a restaurant in Bangkok and they offered to show her around the city.  They seemed trustworthy so she accepted and they picked her up at her hotel the next morning.  During the long ride they spoke only Thai.  They switched cars multiple times and eventually stopped at a house.  Once inside they locked the doors.  By this time she was extremely uncomfortable and asked to leave.  They told her they would call a taxi for her and gave her a Pepsi in the meantime.  She drank it and the next thing she remembered they were out shopping and she was signing credit card receipts in an involuntary state.  When she came to, her credit cards were maxed out and there was no sign of the family that abducted her.
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Jinnie on

What an unfortunate and scary story about Tiffany - at least she wasn't harmed.

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