Cambodia: Day 1

Trip Start Jul 25, 2009
1
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Trip End Ongoing


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Friday, December 24, 2010

It took me about 2 hours of editing these photos, exporting them to upload, only to remind myself that this website shrinks the photos to the point where any artistic value is diminished into obscurity.

I need to find another site.

In the meantime, I suppose I'll trek on with my journal, at least. This time, there will be photos. I may switch to another site for both convenience, as well as photo-presentation, to make use of these shots.


Not a great way to start a blog...whining and technical jargon. My bahhhhd.

I popped out my journal for this entry. Lots of juicy facts. One: I was truly scared shitless on that plane. I don't know why. I don't usually get frightened. I could have just been that I was travelling on my own into the unknown. It could have been a bad mood, lack of sleep, or whatever. It was tangible. I was looking down at Thailand from the plane and contemplating its dry browns, wide expanses of green, and was excited to hail a tuk-tuk.

I even wrote 'this is going to be an adventure to remember'. Close enough for Baggins, but not good enough for Tolkien. Nothing akin to being ambushed by orcs.

Dec 23rd: I come back to my Guesthouse after shopping and the show to see lizards crawling on its sign. This is the place for me, I remember thinking.
I note to myself over the next couple days just how vibrant the people here are. They live each day in a struggle I cannot even begin to describe. Little money, big families, and big hearts, they smile and greet everyone as though you can save them from everything you see around them. And in many cases, your money would help them greatly, more than one could imagine. But I was on a budget, and so I was generous with my smiles, meals, and whatever else I could afford for people who were kind to me.

 I remember that I made an appointment with the guy who dropped me off at the guesthouse. He waited for me with my bag once I got to the place. That was stupid. I mean, most cases, you can trust the bag with the tuk tuk driver in Cambodia. It's a little different from Thailand in that: I don't think as many people are up to stealing. I was relieved after checking out the guesthouse that my bag was still there, but then he started asking me what my plans were tomorrow. I told him I didn't know yet, but settled on an 'appointment' with him, since he was very busy and his boss needed him other places.

I knew this was BS, but I should have said no anyways. I said yes, half-knowing I was not going to be there. He certainly got over it by now, and completely forgot about me the ever-changing and always-forward present...but I will always feel a little tinge of guilt with letting people down. It's not just money, it's principle.

I had a wonderful chance on Christmas, the next day, to offer a nice looking woman a ride home on my bicycle. Exhausted, untrusting, and doubting the strength of my legs (and the rusty bike), I turned this woman down at the end of her long day of begging. She was selling books, books I already had (for less than $1), but in the end I was exhausted from a long day of biking and drinking (which I'm getting to).

There's a particular journal entry that highlights this. For those who know me, you already know my handwriting is actually worse than most elementary students. This is horribly, sadly, true. I can type fast and play music. Anyways, I will attempt to decipher this message, written on Dec 25th, 1:46AM (Thai-time):

        I am fucked. Drinks all nights. Almost fight with group. I will bike @ 5AMam. Fuck...sleep.         Good times.

Needless to say, I'm not very proud of this. I don't remember anything beyond a few flashbacks, once I set my kaboose down in a small bar, on Bar St, next to a man named Alex.

Alex is from Australia, and was also travelling solo. He was tall, reminded me a mix of my friend Shaun and Derek: a humble mix of loud drunkenness. We got into the buckets, buying large amounts of vodga and redbull (redbull the way it was invented: illegal in this formula in the states, with enough energy to rouse the dead). I remember another Australian dude, a creepy looking guy, who I could have sworn had a scar from one side of his face to the other...told me and my pal that 'if you touch my girl, I'll kill ya'. Nice guy, I remember patting him on the back with a small and reminding myself to get the heck outa there.

The rest is random images: two girls stepping up beside me, taking each an arm, and walking me partway home. A bunch of guys arguing with me as I stroll away, and jump onto the back of a bike, telling the guy to just 'drive!'. I remember waking up the guy who had the keys to my guesthouse, who was sleeping on the ground outside of the place, with a white mosquito-net around him and some pillows.

I don't remember writing this. One of the few pleasant - yet somewhat disturbing - surprises of my life.


Now for the main reason I came to Cambodia: the city of Angkor. Also home its most famous world wonder, Angkor Wat, it would be three days of exploring its temples, from dawn to dusk, hopping between galleries, up steep staircases, and swinging from trees that have grown into the temples itself...

Fantastic.

I hired a tuk-tuk for the day, to bring me from temple to temple. I forget his name, but he was slow to answer, and had a great smile. Very relaxed. I liked him, and trusted him quickly after. He brought me to some of his friends' restaurants, where I bought him a meal or two, and we ate pleasurably between visits.

We first drove by Angkor Wat, a stunning view on first sight. The weather was warm, about 30 degrees Celsius, and not a cloud in the sky. We went to Bayon first, a temple that has the king's face carved into almost every angle of it. It was said that he could watch over his people this way. In most, he's smiling. But there are all sorts of sinister bas-reliefs and carvings that the accurate eye can seek out. I was like a fat boy in a candy shop.
 
Then it was onto the elephant terrace, and a number of other temples. I did the main city of Angkor in a few hours. When we stopped for a lunch, a girl selling books at the restaurant asked me in a well-rehearsed yet somewhat monotone voice: "If I can tell you where you're from, will you buy a book?" I wasn't convinced at first, but when she guessed right away Canada, I was surprised. Then she told me the capital, and guessed that that was where I was from. Then she told me something I didn't know: who our Prime Minister was. Amazing! I bought a book from her, "Stay Alive My Son", a heartbreaking tale of a man losing everyone he knew who was close to him during the Pol Pot Regime.

I bought all sorts of trinkets from people during the course of this week. I've just made a video of this mouth thing I haggled some guy from $2 to 0.50-cents for! We both walked away with a smile.

Well, the photos speak for themselves. I could get out the book and go into more detail, but the truth is: I'm just too lazy.

Enjoy the pics!
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