Trip Start Jun 06, 2006
62Trip End Dec 01, 2006
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The next day was our grand trip to Angkor Wat (And also my 29th birthday). We got a three day pass (40 USD per person) and headed off to see the great temple. It really is stunning! Quite a fabulous complex with such intricate carvings. The entrance of it reminded Stan of the Taj Mahal as there is a similarity in the approach to the main complex with a grand gate and then gardens on each side of the main pathway
I liked Angkor Thom better as it is has more character to it and is an entire city. Plus, we had managed to get a guide for the day. They are normally arranged by the hotel you are staying in and cost us 20 bucks for the day. Mr. Huen wasn't a very good guide as his English was very difficult to understand but he was a lovely person. It also helps if you have a pre arranged deal with a Tuk tuk driver to take you around for the day. As we were walking back the previous day from Angkor Wat, we bumped into Mr. Sovanne who brought us back for a very fair price of 3 dollars. (The Tuk tuk driver on our journey there had charged us 5 bucks!) So we roped him in for the next two days as well and were quite happy to have done so. His English was also very limited but again he was such a nice person that it was a pleasure to have him take us around. (It was 12 bucks to be taken around the whole day around Angkor Thom and it's neighbouring temples and 20 bucks to be taken to Banteay Sriep as that is quite far away.)
The interesting part about Mr. Huyen and Sovanne was that they were both trying to get married. (Not to each other though!) In Cambodia, the tradition is that if a man wants to marry a woman then he must provide a lump sum to the woman's family at the time of marriage
Mr. Sovanne is already engaged as he seems to be capable of delivering his promise, Mr. Huyen however is having some trouble in coming up with the desired amount. He comes from a very poor background and his family can not help out much even if they would like to. I hope his guide skills improve so that he can attain a happily married life!
Coming back to Angkor Thom, the complex is huge and there is just so much to see and learn about that it all boggles you quite a bit. Since we have the Rough Guide to all of South East Asia, there is limited information in it. So having the guide helped. The weather however was not helpful. It was so muggy that it became almost unbearable at times. I'm sorry but I don't remember all the details of all the temples that I visited that day. It was a case of information overload and half the time I was just trying to understand where I was myself. They were all beautiful though. (I will try to list all the names I remember while uploading the photographs.)
My favourite place was Ta Prohm, which is where a constant battle between stone and wood is being raged and I think that the wood is winning in most places
The one aspect of Angkor architecture that fascinated me the most was the use of steep steps. They really made them very steep. Our guide said that it was because the king would be on top and so when anyone climbed they would have their head low and all fours on the ground. A bit of obligatory or enforced bowing I presume. So what about when the king climbed? I presume he had to climb and was not carried up. I guess he would be bowing to God. It's so great to be in the complex and just try and imagine what it must have been like in all it's glory. It's something I felt in Macchu Picchu as well.
On the way to Angkor Wat, there is a Kantha Bopha children's hospital that never failed to catch my attention. All over town and right outside the hospital, there are posters announcing a classical music concert by Beatocello that is held on Friday and Saturday evenings at the hospital. The performance is given by Dr. Beat Richner and is free. (http://www.beatocello.com/) Stan and I were quite excited about it and went to see it on Saturday. Unfortunately, it was cancelled as Dr. Richner had to go to Switzerland. Feeling quite disappointed we ended up at the FCC for dinner and far too many drinks.
The next day after another excursion at the temples, we stopped at the hospital on the way back as I wanted to find out more about the hospital and also donate blood
The hospital has been expanded tremendously based on the donations that it has received over the years. If you do not have money to donate, then you can always donate your blood as it is not readily available. Khmer people due to cultural reasons are not very keen on donating blood. So Stan and I chipped in (Stan was donating blood for the first time) and spent our afternoon bleeding into a bag. It is something that I would urge every backpacker to do while they are there. It only takes half an hour of your time and is very safe to do so. My only regret is not seeing Dr. Richner in action!
Post script -
I met up with a friend of mine who also works in the development sector and happens to be working in the South East Asia region. His agency has been dealing with Dr. Richner for quite a while now. I had an interesting discussion with him about the children's hospital and Dr. Richner's work and have changed my perspective slightly on the hospital.
I was aware that the hospital was private but since it treated the patients for free I did not think much about it