Trip Start Jun 05, 2008
38Trip End Sep 28, 2008
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Where I stayed
We meet our hotel pickup - Mr. Lok - who will prove to be an absolute gem on this journey. Half Cambodian and half Chinese he has long wavy locks and the most mellow slightly nacroleptic personality we've met on the journey thus far...except of course the Indian cows whose nonchalance is a divine right.
We wake up the next day, 4:30 am in order to get to Angkor Wat for sunrise. Mr. Lok, ready and waiting takes us on a 20 min tuk tuk ride through sleepy roads covered by towering age-old trees and dotted with thatched roof hots whose awnings play home to yawning women starting fires for breakfast
Built in the 12th century under the Khmer Empire and ruler King Suryavarman II it is a Hindu Temple built of enormous stones and with elaborate beautiful and still intact stone carvings. The actual archeology of it is fascinating and I def suggest reading into it. Sunrise in Angkor Wat was gorgeous but in truth Angkor Wat, in my opinion, is far from the most impressive. Its first impression, upon arrival, is breathtaking, but the real gem is in Angkor Thom, the largest temple complex in Angkor. An enormous stone pavilion walkway stretches several hundred meters perched atop the backs of elephants carved into the structure. It is winged by various temples, stupas, and Bayon and enormous moat-ed towering stone complex with hundreds of peaceful serene heads carved into the pillars all of them, taller than I.
We finish the evening unexpectedly with a dance performance and dinner at a rather upscale restaurant hotel. The performance of alleged traditional Cambodian dance consists of prepubescent girls and boys wandering around the stage giggling and trying to look at someone who knows the actual choreography. The second dance consists of a boy in monkey costume dancing and prancing around a girl in a fish costume. It's strange what tourists buy into. But at least the live drumming music was good...and it was funny to know that this dance was absolutely ridiculous and made up and improvised. Tourist traps are funny because half the tourists know they're being trapped and go along with it while the other half completely nodding knowingly buy into the realness of the scene and its so accurate portrayal of real traditional Khmer and Cambodian peasant lifestyles. hmmmm
Also, no, we did not see Angelina Jolie's face on posters anywhere...though we did see Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore at the fish market in Japan. He was really tall and good looking...she was pretty sweet and old..Not sure if I blogged about that star sighting yet but I'm still excited can't you tell?
The second day at Angkor and another sunrise wake up call at 4:30 proves to be equally as beautiful as we visit the jungle temple, Ta Prohm, a temple that is in the enduring grip of tree roots that have sprung up through the millenia through cracks in the walls or in the ground nearby. The roots are as thick as cars and grow everywhich way, some up and down as gravtiy dictates, but there are probably some pre-newtonian tree roots that seem to have decided to grow perfectly horizontal. The roots, a stark white, seem to glow in the morning in contrast to the dark grey and red of the stone. Enormous boulders (Shrek and Donkey would be delighted Chloe) litter the grounds and are covered in moss. So much of the ruins looks like an incomplete giant 3-d jigsaw puzzle where stones on the ground are carved in patterns or with portions of statues on them or the buddhist apsera deities who topless seem to dance within their stone sanctuaries. I could go on, but essentially one neesd to see if for themselves.
We are greeted by an elderly straight backed old man whose tan rawhide skin is peppered with various tattoos on his chest and neck and in his dirt brown uniform he nearly blends into the temple walsl himself. He has no use of his right arm but helps guide us through Ta Prohm and to prime photography spots in the complex. Cambodia has a tragic sad history and the effects of the Khmer/Pol Pot Regime are still obvious today. This guide seems to be one of the lucky ones as so many men line the street missing various appendges or having lost their eyesight. At every turn of the road we are met with children many of them orphans trying to sell us flutes, bracelets, water...anything. In contrast to many other countries, the efforts to train disabled people and those who suffered from the 1975-79 genocide and famine murdered 1/4 of the Cambodian population, are visible with many disabled playing in bands for money, selling things on teh street, or training to work in the hotel/massage/bar/tourist industry.
Cambodia is amazing. The people are fantastic and the food here is delicious and everything is super duper clean including the kitchens, bathrooms (even in the tourist stops) and restaurants. (Mom - this means u can totally come and stay!) For the luxery traveller giant hotels complete with gardens, walls, fancy cars, and pools line the main roads to Angkor from Siem Reap. As for Fuj and I, we're staying at a guesthouse we chose solely because we heard on a website that they had recently had puppies. Sure enough there are puppies that scramble up and down the hotel steps begging fortheir mother, attacking the potted plants, and sprawling on the tile floor to cool their bellies.