Day one January 2nd ...
We had spent the last four days smack bag in the middle of Singapore. I was expecting Cambodia to be a culture shock. It wasn't.
We fly across the Gulf Of Thailand towards Cambodia very early in the morning. Arriving in Siem Reap at 7.30am
In Singapore we had been very, very, busy. Tannalee is exhausted and falls asleep on the plane.
My first impression of Siem Reap from the air is that it's very flat, green and wet. I had read somewhere that you could see Angkor Wat flying into Siem reap? The morning was clear and I craned my neck over Tannalees sleeping form, but no luck on my side of the plane. I couldn't see it!
Getting our visa and going through immigration is easy and quick. This was the first time our one hundred dollar note was rejected, I still have it as no one during our entire trip would accept it!
All because of this little hole in the middle of the 0. The hole actually got bigger as the trip progressed with people poking and prodding it trying to decide if they would take it.
I didn't research this trip to death as I wanted to be surprised!
I had booked a driver over the Internet for our time in Siem Reap. He was highly recommended on trip advisor, his name is Seila http://www.blinkquick.com/tuktuk/. We second that recommendation.
When we walk out of the airport Seila is there with our name on a board, we follow him to an old sedan. He has borrowed a car to pick us up with our luggage. The car is gas with the cylinder in the trunk so our bags won't all fit, Ross's bag gets the front seat with it's own seat belt, while the four of us squish in the back.
We are all tired and find this very funny, I'm trying not to laugh as I don't want to offend the driver.
My first impression of Siem Reap from the car is flat, dry and messy, not dirty, although there is plenty of red/orange dirt around. Just lots of unorganised space, lots of space, lots of building going on. The roads are wide and there are big square buildings. Short, squat, strong looking buildings.
Seila is very quite and doesn't talk much, he actually spends most of the drive to to the hotel talking on his phone . I'm not sure what I was expecting but I thought he would be a bit more chatty, after all the taxi drivers in Singapore who loved to talk his lack of conversation is very much noticed. I get the feeling he is shy and not completely comfortable.
Over the next four days we get to know Seila a bit better. Slowly he becomes more talkative and we find him to be delightful. He seems to be gentle, quite and respectful by nature. I felt that even when explaining things to us he was listening to our questions, our comments and learning in return. He is a young man with aspirations and a drive to improve his lot in life. Seila told us how he wants to be a tour guide not just a driver. I wish him well and hope life is good to him.
Seila with the kids
Seila drop's us off at our hotel to check in while he goes to get his Tuk Tuk .
We are booked into Bopha Angkor Hotel.
I would of loved this hotel if not for those first few minutes in our room. We walked in and everywhere we looked there were mosquitoes! There were so many that we just dumped our bags and asked for some spray. I used a whole can spraying our two rooms, later I started counting dead mosquitoes on the beds and floor I stopped at about 40!! I am a mother who went to Asia worried about dengue fever, so this didn't endear the hotel to me that's for sure!
Seila picks us up and we get into the Tuk Tuk for the first time:)
Ross says he is really surprised that I'm OK with it, he's amazed that I didn't just book a car for the whole time. What can I say? I did my research and tuk tuk seemed the way to go. We loved it and I have no doubt that driving around in a tuk tuk added to our Cambodian experience. The only draw back is that we can't talk to Seila and ask questions while we were driving.
Driving along ,lots of building going on.
Our first stop is the silk worm farm, we learn the process of making silk.
Someones baby sound asleep
We tour around the farm while Seila waits in the tuk tuk (on the left). I think he had a little nap:)
Next stop the war museum
Here we are met by guide who explains that his services are free but if we like we can give him a donation, as he works for charity.
Our guide has lost his arm to a land mine, he is patient with Riley and explains everything we see. He tells us about the war and some of the terrible things that had happened.
Ross and I both know the basic history of the Cambodian War. I have no desire to see the killing fields, but it didn't feel right to come to a country with such a tortured past and not acknowledge it to some extent.
We go back to the hotel for a swim
We have a swim, check out our rooms and count the dead mosquitoes in our room.
Seila comes back with the tuk tuk. We go to the Artisans d'Ankor and have a tour of the work shops.
On our way to get our temple passes, Tannlee loves the thrill of a speedy tuk tuk. Seila was going pretty fast and we told him later that's it's OK to go slower, we don't need to beat every one. It was funny, our first day in a tuk tuk and he was over taking all the other Tuk Tuks and a few cars!
We couldn't stop laughing, I think my laugh was slightly hysterical!
We line up to get our passes, almost get rid of the $100.
Next we drive to see the sunset. Now I'm going to tell you I would not have a clue where we went. This will be true for a lot of the photos on this blog. We saw so many temples that the names of them, with the exception af Ankor Wat and Beng Mealea, all blurred into one. I might look them up later and name them but for now they just are.
So Seila drops us at the bottom of the hill with one thousand tuk tuks and ten thousand tourist. He points to a big tree and says he will meets us here.
This is our first taste of the temples and we are in shock at the number of people around. Not just the volume of tourist but the manic feel in the air. It seems that every one is afraid they are going to miss out on something, the suns going down... Hurry Hurry! or you won't get to see the amazing sunset. Hurry Hurry! or you won't get a better spot than the person behind you. No one is actually saying these words, but that is the vibe floating in the air.
I found Cambodia to be a lot of hard work. We only had four days and there was so much we wanted to see.
Imagine our time there as a full length film shown on fast forward, so it can fit it into a short film time slot. Then imagine that every now and then there is a scene so moving or so incredibly beautiful either in nature or vision, that the film slows down, sometimes almost stopping so that we can savour the moment. This is how I think of my four days in Cambodia and walking up this path I experienced the first moment I would slow down to the point of almost stopping the film.
We are following the hoards of tourist to the top of the mountain when all of a sudden coming down the hill, against the flow is a group of about five priest dressed in their rich orange/ocher robes. Their dusty feet in flip flops are making slow heavy steps as they walk down the incline. The sun dropping behind them makes the scene slightly surreal.
Two of the priest have their arms linked and the one closest to me has a mobile phone held at chest height. Just as I realise he is filming the crowds making their way to the temple he looks at me and makes eye contact. He smiles a cheeky smile as if to say isn't this crazy, then winks at me! and he is gone, down the hill, while I continue up with the rest of the crowd.
This was a moment of beautiful rich colours, amazing sunlight, crowds of people. A moment of surprise when something totally unexpected caught my eye and touched my heart.
Once you reach the top everyone clamers up the steep stairs to get a good view point.
Riley all the way at the top of the stairs. The stairs are steep, narrow and worn smooth on the edges.
All together waiting for the sunset, cameras at the ready.
This was our first look at a temple in Cambodia but the amount of tourist most definitely had more of an impact on us than the temple itself did.
The sun starts to go down, we have been here for maybe 15 mins. Ross and I have seen alot of amazing sunsets and the ambiance for this one is ruined by the fact we can hardly find a place to stand. Couple this with the thought of getting down those stairs and the hill in the dark with all these other people? Well... that is enough to make us leave.
So we left before the sunset.
trying to get to the big tree I nearly get Tannalee and I run over, I feel sick at the stupidity of it!
We wait by the big tree, and wait,and wait. Well we did leave well before the sunset and reason that Seila wasn't expecting us back for some time. On the way back to the hotel Seila takes us to a local night markets.
There were fields and fields of people sitting on blankets having dinner together, selling things and riding on amusement rides. Truly as far as the eye could see people were shopping, eating and enjoying the festival. Seila said this market is on every night, but later when we spoke to our guide he said it was a special weekend with a very big popular band playing, so we aren't really sure what was going on but it was incredible!
Riley was going to eat a spider but I freaked out and wouldn't let him!
We say that Cambodia wasn't a culture shock, but this market was. We have never seen anything like it. I have videos that I tried to put on YouTube but it took to long to load, if I can figure out how to do it later I'll add a link.
We drive back to the hotel and eat there on our first night the food was really nice and we slept well under our nets. I can't believe we did all that on the day we flew in!
Day two is spent with our lovely guide, who is a walking encyclopedia
Day 2 January 3rd
After our experience with the sunset last night Ross and I agree we aren't going to bother with sunsets or sunrises. I think at first Seila finds it slightly troubling that we don't want too, like he's not sure why. But then he has a big smile on his face when we tell him "Be Happy you can sleep in".
So we arrange to get picked up at about 8am
Our hotel is quite ornate this is the dinning room
Breakfast is delicious
When Seila pulls up we tell him that we had meant to ask for a guide today, would it be possible to arrange one even if just for the afternoon. He pulls out his beloved mobile phone and presto in about 15mins a guide turns up, we now have a five seater tuk tuk:)
I feel terrible that I can't remember our guides name I think it was Kear(so I will refer to him as such)
Kear jumped into the tuk tuk with a great big smile and his breakfast, he apologized for eating but said he just came straight away and had no time for breakfast. Of this we had no doubt as he turned up so quickly, he did offer us some of his big flat fried bread thingies but we declined. Our education began that day when Ross asked him what they were and Kear described how they are made.
Today's our feelings for Kear would be mixed at one moment full of admiration for his knowledge and photography skills, the next wishing he would just stop talking and let us go into the temple or move along!!
We arrive at Angkor Wat and sit on the wall while Kear tells us when it was built, who built it, how big it is etc. etc.
A little to our left is a young couple doing the same thing and I wonder what their guide is telling them.
We are still listening and asking a few question when Tannalee say "oh hi" and gives a big wave . Who are you waving to I ask as I look around, it turns out that the young lady in the couple is Tannalees history and geography teacher at school!! What are the chances of that??
Finally we walk towards Angkor Wat
Just inside there is a priest blessing people he is surrounded by about twenty locals all patiently waiting their turn. I wish I could join in, but I don't belong in this tightly huddled group of locals.
Would of been an amazing photo.
I have an aversion to taking photos of people unless I ask their permission or they are just part of a larger picture so you will see few photos that focus on individuals in my blog.
Again the amount of tourist throws us, I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't this wait your turn to see the sites circus that's for sure. The photos I had seen of the temples just didn't portray the amount of tourist we were seeing. I hadn't done a huge amount of research about Siem Reap as I wanted to be amazed and surprised. If I had, I guess I would of been prepared for the people and organized to go to places less crowded. I did read a few times on the forum about guides who knew how to get to the temples at the right time to avoid the crowds, I should of taken more notice of these post.
A few times I took photos that I love but I had to wait for the shot, so I also took a photo to show what the scene was like the majority of the time
Quick there's no one in front of me, take a photo.
The colours and light while looking at the temples is beautiful.
Wait here are all the people.
Kear in the left of the photo.
Kear being our guide, it's early in the day and I'm listening:)
Have to love those shadows
While we are walking around we see a priest that is doing blessings... for a donation. No crowds of locals here. I wonder is that because of where he is, are his blessings real or just a show for tourist? Was the first priest well known and much sort after?
Sounds silly, but in a few days on our flight from Singapore to Bali I was playing with that little piece of red string hoping it would keep us safe.
He tied the string on while chanting
...and finally blew on the string in short sharp blows
We are not a religious family, but we are spiritual, I feel that a blessing given and accepted with an open heart can only be a good thing. I hope this priest believed in blessing us for the right reasons and not just for the money.
The line to walk to the top of the towers
While were lined up a girl walked past and was complaining loudly because her shorts were 'to short' and she wasn't allowed up the stairs. I would be embarrassed and hardly want to draw attention to myself!
Our turn to walk up the scary stairs.
Mum went a few years ago and said these stairs weren't here.
It's a long way down
I noticed a carving with a hole and was drawn to touch it, surprised that the carving was obviously hollow. I commented to the kids how shiny and smooth it was, we rubbed the cold stone and wondered how many hundreds or thousands of people had done exactly the same thing to wear the stone down so.
How long ago did the first person notice a small hole and rub their fingers along the edge?
Ok you want to know how silly I am?
It was really quite here, no people around (surprise!) and this carving seemed so special. She is the only one who has been polished to such a high sheen, by countless finger tips.
I rubbed the smooth edge and thought about all the other people who had done this, what were they thinking ? did they even consider it or just run their fingers over her when they walked past?
She seemed important, I ran my fingers around the edge of the hole and... I said a prayer or made a wish? I'm not really sure what I would call it, but it felt right.
Walking to the next temple, how I
choose to remember the scene
In reality the crowds were with us
I am glad we had a guide today, with out him we would of got lost we had no idea where we were going!
Looking back at Angkor Wat
Walking to the next temple
We are standing out the front of a temple was it Bayon?
When I took this photo of the lions.
Kear was talking and talking, I remember group after group of tourist going in to have a look while we stood out the front listening. Watching the light get dimmer by the minute. I was almost in physical pain stopping myself just walking off and I was trying all kinds of body language to try and get him to see when it was time to stop talking!
This door way where the kids are peeking at us was only a few steps from where we had just been standing for what seemed like half an hour. Kear stopped talking walked a few steps towards the door, I was all excited, finally we are going in, then beyond belief he stopped and started talking again! I almost burst out laughing at the absurdity of it and literally had to bite my tongue :)
Kear was been paid to be our guide, so in all fairness he was only doing his job. It's just that the magic got lost in the details.
By the end of the day we had tried all known strategies to get us moving along. We would point to things in the distance and comment, trying to distract him, a couple of times Tannalee and I very very slowly just started walking away. By the end of the day I would just smile and walk away when I'd had enough, Tanna hot on my heals. He who dared to ask Kear a question would suddenly have three pairs of dagger eyes aimed at them. This was Ross 99% of the time!!
For all our efforts Kear was totally oblivious to the fact we wanted to move on. He would just keep on talking, rambling off dates and measurements, I'm sure he must of been top of his class:)
Finally free....inside the temple we take photos like little kids!
Looking at the photos I remember how hot it was. The heat was a dry heat like outback Australia and I was surprised at the lack of humidity today. Everything was covered in fine dirt, actually I think dirt would be a strong memory of Cambodia for me. The dirt tracks, paths and amazing deep rich red dirt roads. I liked the ambiance given by the dirt, things looked and felt ancient. Pardon the pun, but it didn't feel dirty, it just felt natural.After Singapore with it's love of air conditioned malls, natural was good.
Now for the reasons we loved Kear and believe it or not would highly recommend him!
Kear talked a lot, yes, but he did have a lovely voice and a great sense of humor. He taught us how to say "hi how are you, I'm good" well I think that's what we were saying. I have no idea how to spell it and hope someone will let me know the correct spelling and exactly what we were saying. We would say "sighsa bock" and the reply was "soc sa bigh" whenever we said it to locals they all smiled and replied.
Kear loved taking photos and showed us how to stand for these shots, he took the photos:) While he was taking them other tourist were watching, he then helped them take the same photos.
I liked that he helped other people along the way, he did this on a few occasions, it showed his love of the area and his want for everyone to enjoy and learn.
This photo reminds me of the gum gum statue from the movie 'night at the museum'
Riley talking to Kear, I loved that when he wasn't been a guide he would just chat about life.
What temple is this? I have no idea where this photo belongs.
Back at the hotel for a swim and some lunch
After our break we are picked up again and off to Ta Promh, this is the temple in the tomb raider movie.
It was late and the sunlight was amazing, I really noticed the colour of the light in Cambodia, maybe it was the dust? It was as if you could see the colour of light, in the air.
Never in a hundred visits would we have seen this face. Kear grabs my camera and zooms all the way in so we can see what he is trying to show us. Other tourist look over our shoulders to see what our wonderful guide has shown us:)
Did you know there were dinosaurs at Ta prohm, a stegosaurus LOL!!
Without a guide we never would of seen it. Once again it was funny how other tourist came over to see what we had been looking at with our guide when we walked away:)
Was it here that Kear took us into a small dark chamber with a huge vaulted ceiling and showed us how to hit our chest in a manner that made the sound of our vibrating bodies echo off the stone? amazing! somethings can't be photographed.
Going back to the hotel, Seila with his tuk tuk
We say goodbye to Kear and thank him for a wonderful day.
Forget all my complaining about information overload, I wouldn't hesitate to use him again. He added so much to our day with his beautiful gentle nature and the passion that he showed. He was easy going and natural with the kids. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was quick to laugh.
That night we go to Pub street for dinner, shame on us we have pizza.
Tannalee is dying to go shopping, she buys a pink hammock.
Tomorrow we are going by car to Kbal spean (Water Fall), Banteay srie and Beng Mealea.
I read about Beng Mealea on the trip advisor forum and go to bed hopping that Beng Mealea will be different. Not as busy? I'm not sure what I'm looking for, I only know I haven't seen it yet.
Tannalee is exhausted, asleep safe and sound under the mosquito net.
I look at her so safe under the net, in our air conditioned room that has been sprayed with bug spray numerous times. I think of all the children and little babies asleep tonight who don't have such protection. My heart aches.
Day three January 4th
Once again we declined the offer of a sunset and Seila picked us up around 8am
At one point there were all these big cast iron pots along the side of the road, when we asked Seila what they were he stopped so we could look
Ooh yum it's palm sugar
we are all brave and have a sip of the juice
We bought a few packets mostly because the ladies had so kindly let Selia show us everything. They were so yummy we made ourselves sick eating to many!! I wish I had one now
Boys will be boys
Seila showing us how they climb the tree
Driving along we occasionally saw these quite elaborate scare crows. We asked Seila what they were for and he said they were to scare away ghost, that the locals believed dengue fever is not caused by mosquitoes as science says but by ghosts. So when the dengue seasons starts they put up these scare crows to frighten away the ghost.
Next we went to Banteay Srei
Just past the car park there are rows of market stalls and all Tannalee can talk about is going shopping on the way out.
Free from a guide Tannalee rushes off with her camera, much more enthusiastic now that she doesn't have to stand still and pay attention.
Walking out there is a group playing music it was common to see people who have been hurt by land mines to play music at the temples.
We bought a CD from this group.
It was here walking along the path towards the temple that we saw a young girl begging, her face was so badly disfigured that I actually started to cry as we walked away from her. I've never been so upset at seeing a beggar before. Her face had no emotion, there was no look of please help me, nothing, just a blankness that was heart wrenching. After hearing the guide at the museum talk about how hard his life was because he had lost an arm I wondered at this young girls life.
Her face looked as if it had just melted and I'm ashamed to say that it was hard to look at her. Of course we gave her some money, but in reality what good would that do?
I still wonder about her. I hope she has a mother who loves her as much as I love my Tannalee.I hope there is someone who tells her it's whats on the inside that counts, I hope people are kind to her.
Next to Kbal Spean
Seila says it's only 2km walk, I tell the kids that's nothing, about the same distance as our local shop that we walk to all the time. I didn't realise it was more like rock climbing than walking, and all up hill. 2kms each way:)
It was some where along this path that we asked Seila why some of the trees had red rings painted around them. He told us that meant that it wasn't safe to go past those trees, that there could still be land mines. I'm not sure what answer we expected but it sure wasn't that!
Carvings at the top
Looking over the fall. Seila told us that in this pool at the edge people wash away their sins by splashing water on themselves. Soldiers who had killed people would lie in the pool to cover their whole bodies as their sins were so great.
We walked to the base of the fall
The waterfall is not strong but it is still very pretty. There are butterflies every where. It's hard to see in the photo but Tannalee is surrounded by them. Is it a flutter of butterflies?( I looked it up it's a group or a rabble) there were about 20 fluttering around the basin. Not all the same but a big blue one, lots of bright yellow ones, little brown and mauve ones flew here and there.
Riley cools off under the water.
The basin is beautiful, with the waterfall, butterflies and jungle vines.
It is so hot today, we are all exhausted after the hike up here, we still have to get back down and we have drunk all our water.
But...for me this is definitely a time to slow down the film, to really look at what I'm seeing and remember these few moments forever.
Surrounded by so much beauty looking at Tanna playing with a flutter(rabble) of butterflies while Ry puts his head under a waterfall.
Starting the walk back down, the kids were good and instead of complaining they just kept on making jokes about the walk. Like.. "Yes mum it's an easy walk, just like going to the shops"
At the base of the path there are toilet blocks with a female attendant and a male attendant for their respective amenities. When we came down and went to use them the female attendant was going through the male attendants hair like she was looking for lice. It's funny the things kids remember, Tannlee has brought that up quite a few times since we have been home. She was horrified that they would do that in full view of every one like it was the most natural thing ever. I told her it probably is.
On the drive to Beng Mealea both Ry and Tanna fell asleep. We drove along dirt roads and it was really bumpy, I held onto their heads so they wouldn't hit them. At one point I was so hot with this human blanket that I felt sick!! Ross turned up the air con and turned the vents onto me,then I felt a bit better.
We arrive at Beng Mealea and Seila says he's hungry so it's OK we can go by ourselves while he gets something to eat.
Walking up towards the temple I tell the kids this is the temple that I really wanted to see. I try and psych them up and talk about how it must of felt to be an explorer and come across these amazing places.
Well this one is definitely a ruin!
...as we wander around the outside I feel let down, seems like we have gone from over crowded restored temples, to a pile of rubble.
We spot stairs that look like they lead somewhere, so head over in that direction.
It's a short flight of big brown timber stairs that lead over the outer wall. Very plain and in no way ornate or interesting, they look like could lead to the back of a factory. But they go up and over the wall, so off we go towards what will be our most talked about Cambodian adventure!
When we first reach the top of the stairs there is a ragamuffin group of little kids lounging all over the wall.
They don't really even look at us as we walk past them. I'm drawn to this big beautiful tree growing on top of the wall, in the middle of the compound is an impressive square building.
My first impression is OK this is pretty cool, not amazing but I can see the attraction.
We head back towards the kids where there is a timber walkway built above the ruins so you can easily walk around. One of the little boys jumps up and starts to walk ahead of us, it's immediately apparent he wants to be a guide of sorts.
He is adorable, the time of day and his age flicker through my mind, should I be saying "no we are fine". Maybe we are encouraging him to be here earning a few dollars when he should be at school instead? He is just too cute and I can't send him away, he is here anyway, I'm sure it's after school hours.
He walks ahead and throws his arm towards a timber plank that is balanced over a stone channel, he looks back at us and says "this way inside".
Then he throws his arm in the opposite direction towards the timber walk way and says "that way outside", his big eyes stare at us blankly waiting to see our response. His whole body language is like, well what you want to do, hurry up I don't have all day!
We have absolutely no idea what he is talking about, inside, outside, what? from what I can see the walk way is very official looking, it meanders around the corner.
The plank looks wobbly and leads to a big door that has been boarded up.
Well we wanted an adventure, I head for the plank.
Here is our cocky little guide leading us towards the big door you can see the official walk way to the right.
The door... like stepping through the looking glass.
I must admit to feeling a little uneasy entering the building, had it been boarded up because it was unsafe, or were the timbers there as a support? We really couldn't tell, as we wandered around following our little guide there were more then a few times I thought how unsafe this was. Maybe I was being a very bad parent.
Inside the temple is room after room with giant stone blocks collapsed onto themselves.
Ross with our guide
no paths here
The little guides on look out, they are up about the same height as a two story house.
From up here they can see who's coming.
It might not look so high in a photo but we definitely would of been hurt if one of us had slipped. We are about 10 feet from the ground? maybe higher.
Around about now I'm feeling like a very bad parent and hoping no one falls. I think a lot about the little kids running all over the ruins. They seems so cocky and confident, almost mocking us as their faces appear from above, but do they ever fall ? Do parts of the temple collapse, how safe are the kids who act as guides? Do they keep the money or give it to their parents? Do they have parents?
The little guy on the left is our original guide, along the way we acquired another older boy. They would wave their hands this way and that while calling over their shoulders to tell us things like "big tree", "hand tree", "library" etc. etc.
Big tree was our favourite, we still say to each other " hey look, big tree"
The kids around Beng Mealea made our day, they were so off handed and cheeky in their mannerism. They didn't walk they swaggered, they climbed all over the temple like monkeys. When it came to the end of the tour they were all big cheeky smiles, but with this, hey man you know you should give us lots of money, attitude. Completely confident and wonderfully at ease, these guys are going places!!
We climb up and out of the temple ending up on the top of a wall where the official path ends, we follow our guides back along the boardwalk finishing at the same point where we had first made the decision to go inside the temple.
I can't imagine if we had not walked along the plank to go inside, this path is all that we would of seen.There is absolutely no way we would of gone inside if the kids hadn't enticed us.
"Look, see the hand?" our little guide says
Walking along the path we have a chat to our guides. It's OK school has finished for the day, when they grow up they want to be guides and they know how to say hello in many different languages. Ross says in Australia we say G'Day to which they point to their wrist and necks? we try for some time to figure this out but the language barrier is too great and we never understand what they were trying to tell us?
Looking around the temple, the light in Cambodia is just amazing, it is soft, diffused and mystical. The whole country seems to glow. What you don't see in the photos is the butterflies floating around and the kids calling out to each other.
In these photos there are no other tourist, because there weren't any around for a change:)
Walking back towards the car park, we laugh about the little guides and wonder at the audacity of them!!
The karate kid
On the way back to the car park we see some kids playing. The one with no shirt on is standing in the middle encircled by a small group, it's obvious he is the alpha and ready to take them all on.
As we watch the group slowly circle him then suddenly one gets the courage to move and they all attack.
Boys will be boys and this little guy wiped the lot of them out, it was so funny there were all kinds of very theatrical moves. The kids around here seem so happy, they couldn't give two hoots what we were doing. Beng Mealea seems to be just part of their backyard, or like going to the local park.
We found the car but Seila was no where to be seen, while we are waiting this little girl (in the red) comes up to us and smiles "candy?"
I haven't got candy to give to the kids it's not something we like to encourage. So she just hangs around us for a while then again"candy?" I put my hand in my bag to see whats there and find a candy cane. Not something I'd usually do but what the heck I love candy too, I give it to her.
Next thing this little girl in the white dress comes running over "candy?" only thing I could find was a packet of eucalyptus lollies not sure what she thought of them but she was skipping around and jumping so I guess they were OK:)
We spot Seila talking to some guys, call out to him and start the long drive back to Siem Reap.
Beng Mealea was worth the effort, it is this temple and experience we most talk about now that we are at home. It was beautiful, while being just little bit scary. This was the Cambodia we had wanted to see, it wasn't just the temple but the natural attitude of the locals around here and the long drive that showed us so much.
That night we try some of the food stalls, but end up back at Pub street for dinner.
Me writing in my diary
We organised for Seila to pick us up later tomorrow so we could laze around for a while. We tried to make it a 3.30 pick up for the river cruise but he threw his hands up in the air and with a big smile on his face said "Why not go early it's included, I can take you to local markets"
In the end we compromise and arrange a 2pm pick up.
Day four January 5th
I wake up early and decide to go for a walk. We have been here for three days and haven't yet had time to walk around Siem Reap.
We found a guy selling the bread things that our guide Kear was eating for breakfast.
We bought two and they were delicious! very sweet.
we could of had a least two days just to hang out in Siem Reap, colourful and vibrant it deserves more attention!!
We go back to the hotel have breakfast, hang around the pool, start packing for tomorrows early flight and then head to the Butterfly Restaurant for lunch.
Around the hotel
Outside our room
Butterfly restaurant menu
After lunch Seila picks us up, first stop is a local indoor food market. Yuk Yuk and double Yuk, this would have to be one of the stinkiest places I have ever been too!! There was even a dog walking around on top of the tables where the food was, sniffing fish etc. Have to admit I wondered if he ever cocked his leg up there Yuk Yuk !!!!
Seila explained that this is the local food market and that restaurants that serve tourist don't buy there food here as they are under strict licencing control and if people get sick at their restaurants they can get in big trouble. He was very aware of the poor hygiene, and said you could get sick from the food here, just a part of life for the locals it would seem.
Next we went to this huge place to book our table for the dinner show that night. We had to choose a table and get a ticket to reserve it. Seila came in with us and was very careful to make sure we got our ticket and that they put it on the correct table. He told us to remember where our table was, they must have a habit of switching you around to less desirable tables:)
Now we head toward Tonle Sap Lake for our tour, today Selia had picked us up in someone else's tuk tuk. He had lent his out to a friend who as going on a long drive because his was better for that? hmm... well we had quite a long drive ourselves so I wasn't very impressed, you could feel that the suspension wasn't as good on this tuk tuk but it had a back rest for the front seat so that kind of made up for it.
The drive was very scenic
We arrive at the wharf, it's organized chaos, boats every where. Selia picks one out, our skipper is very quite and serious.
Not long out from the wharf we make the mistake of waving back at some kids. We go on our merry way when all of a sudden this little kid appears selling soft drink, none of us saw him get on the boat and he scared the life out of us! Tannalee said she was trying to figure our where he had come from, he was wet so she thought he had been somewhere up the back in the motor, like a little deck hand:)
He had apparently jumped off his boat onto the back of our boat, with the motors so loud we hadn't heard anything. We bought some fanta and his dad came back for him. I asked the driver do the kids get hurt often, I mean they must fall sometimes? he said yes sometimes.
Things like that are hard aren't they, you don't want to encourage dangerous practices but you want to help. I'll look into it because if the kids are often hurt we should be aware of it and encourage tourist not to buy drinks or give money to the kids with snakes.
Maybe there is some other way we can help them? but they need to know whats happening as well. They need ot understand they aren't getting the money because they are endangering their kids.
Can you see the snake around the kids neck, seemed every child had a snake we even saw a baby in a hammock with a snake!!
The young boy below often comes to mind when I remember Cambodia. He was not so little or as cute as the other boys paddling around in big metal bowls. We were a fare way out into the lake and could see him coming. He looked so desperate his hands were all wrinkled and blue at the tips from being in the water for so long, we wondered did he have to come out so far to get attention now that he wasn't so cute?
We have seen a lot of sunsets but I have to admit this one was something very special.
So glad we didn't go on the Tara River boat, just so much atmosphere on our little boat.
Just near the end of this magical sunset a boat with three idiots pulls up near us. They were drinking beer and playing really loud party music, you have got to be kidding me!!!
As the sunsets there is a mass exodus, so many boats racing back to the wharf I again I felt like I was in the amazing race.
Our skipper was very conscious of the floating houses and little boats fishing along the way. He would slow right down every time we came to one. Very respectful of him, we in turn had the utmost respect for him.
When we get back to the tuk tuk Selia tells us to watch out for bugs and we have a very funny trip back trying not to swallow any. But it's really hard laughing that much with your mouth shut!!
We go straight to the restaurant for our dinner show and feel extremely under dressed. There is a huge buffet dinner with sooo many people.... Cambodia has sooo many tourist. I really notice the crowds here, everywhere you go is pushed to the max.
I go first with Tannalee, we wander around trying to find rice. I have a few funny moments when nearly every table I end up stopping at has the same waiter topping up the dishes even he laughs and says 'you again!' after about the fifth time.
When we travel we push ourselves to try new things. I had a dessert here that actually made me gag, I have never done that with food before, well it was different!
The show was good and didn't go for too long.
Selia picks us up early for the airport, we hop on the plane and head for Singapore.
Cambodia wasn't the culture shock we expected, what was a shock was the amount of tourist all clamoring for the same sites.
The people we met were gentle and reserved, with an amazing thirst to learn about us and a quick laugh. Their cheeky nature is very apparent when you interact with the kids!
I would say to people leave time to wander around Siem Reap itself and drive out into the country side.
I would love to come back some time and have time to stroll, rather than race.