Seriously though (although that's pretty serious), I've been traipsing up and down ancient temples around Angkor Wat for two days
. We only see the famous Angkor Wat (Wat means 'temple') on TV and articles, but there are numerous Wats all around here---dozens! I have sweated and climbed and huffed and puffed. Did I mention that the cheapo mentality (along with greater freedom) instigated the grand 'bicycling' idea. I can bicycle. Who can't pedal a bike? No big deal. And it wasn't a big deal the first 6 hours. Okay, okay, I digress...back to the temples. They are ridiculous. How else do you describe them? Most around a thousand years old with intricate carvings all with specific purposes and meanings. When your world is ruled by multiple deities, gods, and spirits, there is a lot of etching to do! There of course will be ad nauseam pictures of temples. Sorry--but they're so beautiful. My highlights so far have been dragging my butt out of bed before dawn to bike 40 min to Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise. All my life I have seen those pictures of Angkor Wat and to actually experience it (with, you know, about 1000 of my closest tourist friends--who all took minivans or tuk-tuks) was very exciting. Then, I got to visit the temple where scenes from Tomb Raider (with Angelina Jolie) was filmed. Seeing the trees take back their territory by engulfing the stone was pretty awe-inspiring. Power of nature and all that.
One thing that is interesting is the fact that all prices are inflated near the temples. However, because I've been in Cambodia now for several weeks, I am familiar with what the prices should be. So, every time you even pass by a food/souvenir stall, you are approached by a woman selling her restaurant, menu in hand. We look at the menu which sports prices 3x the going rate. We simply say it's too expensive and then tell her what we'll pay. The workers usually accept without us having to actually even turn away. But, sometimes, the 'turn to walk away' maneuver has to be employed. Don't worry though, they're still making a profit
. What is more upsetting is all the young children hawking wares throughout the temples. They will tell you they are in school (either they go in the morning or afternoon--whichever time it isn't when you ask them). Unfortunately, it is probably not the case that they get to go to school. Instead, their parents are basically pimping them out and it is sad to see 5 year olds working like that. In the end, it is better to not encourage this activity by buying from them. Rather, eating at the restaurants or staying at local hotels is a better way to infuse money into the economy.
Speaking of money--almost 100% of the cars in Cambodia are Toyotas. For cars, it's almost exculusively Camry's. I've never seen so many Camry's in my life. For trucks, it is mostly Navara's and Hilux's--two models we don't have in the States or Canada that I'm aware of. I cannot figure out why Toyota is the only brand here. You would think the other Japanese companies would be competitive as well if it were just a location thing. Who wants to figure this out?--Chris, Patrick, Matt??
In case you're wondering, it's not all fun and games (and cycling and cycling) being a tourist. In the evening, important things like laundry, travel arrangements, accommodation arrangements, ATM's, misc shopping (such as a rain cover for my bag, or nail clippers...) must be done. Basically, every night I do the day's laundry in the sink with a bar of soap (the liquid detergent bottles are too big and I have nothing to carry the powder in). Because I'm often wearing similar if not the same clothes each day, I like to have fresh options. (Plus, I don't like the idea of those sweaty dirty clothes festering together and tainting my bag). Of note, the water the last two days after bopping around those dusty temples, has been brown after I put my clothes in
! Then, there's the accommodation situation. Hardly ever do I commit to more than one day in a place without actually having spent the night there--you never know what it's actually like. Or, they only have the room for a night or two and you are forced to go find another place to stay. The life of a vagabond--carrying my life on my back (well, sort of--go with my imagery here). I want to leave Cambodia on Friday. That's great. How? Where? These things must be figured out. Talking to travel agents, reading Lonely Planet, reading the internet, talking to other travelers....these things aren't just organically delivered to me in my sleep unfortunately. Good ATM news is that good ole Canadia Bank (yes, it's actually Canadia. I'm not making fun of Canada's name), does not charge an ATM fee. All the other banks charge $5 a transaction plus whatever your awesome bank decides to gouge you with. Apparently, Laos, where I'm headed next, doesn't have a lot of accessible ATM's and no Canadias so I needed to get enough cash out to last at least 2 weeks. Finally, all the things you have to take care of such as unruly toenails, mullets, etc must be done as well. See, I barely have time to relax. ;)
The word of the day, well, the last two days is 'OWWW'. Never, ever, think that just because you rode a bike when you were a kid that you are somehow granted invincibility and great biking immortality. It's not true. If you've, like me, only been on a bicycle about 3 times since you were 12 years old, I urge you to not then bicycle upwards of 100 kilometers (60+ miles) in two days on a bicycle constructed in the colonial era. My rear end has never hurt so much (although I remember a similar pain after a spinning class--you people are freaks!). I feel my 'sit' bones (or ischeal tuberosities as they're also known) must be closer to the surface than other peoples, or maybe I'm just a huge wimp. Whatever the underlying reason, the pain in my tush has trumped some pretty fine temples. All I can think about is that I have to do this again tomorrow---who cares about what some consider the 8th wonder of the world, my butt hurts!