Temples and Tuk Tuks

27 Jan
Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The 14 hour bus journey to Bangkok wasn’t that bad, so Stefanie and I decided to head straight to Siem Reap, Cambodia – another 7 hour journey. We’re crazy right?! I was really nervous about the border crossing. I heard that there would be a million scams (including money exchange and visa scams) and it would be quite a hassle – but having travel experience eased the process. We arrived at the border prepared and made it all the way to Siem Reap unscaved.

Our tuk tuk driver brought us to a cheap guesthouse for about $4 each a night. So cheap! Actually, Cambodia is a dirt cheap, but significantly poorer than Thailand. You can tell just from the taxi ride into the city. There are a lot more beggers, including children and there are a lot of landmine victims as well. Cambodia is the world’s most heavily mined country. It’s really sad to see a barefoot child searching the garbage bins for recyclables next to an expensive hotel. Stefanie and I were sitting at a street stall and this boy comes up to us asking for money. I didn’t want my food anymore, so I offered it the boy. I barely touched it, but he didn’t want it. He asked for money. And then earlier, this little boy dragged stefanie into a store and asked her to buy him milk for the baby. She was considering it before these two girls came up to me and told me that it’s a known thing around here that the boy will return the milk for money later on. It just shows how desperate the children and families are for what little money they can get. Even though it is a scam, you can’t help feeling guilty and want to help, but it just perpetuates.

I thought about this for a while. The poverty is outrageous actually. I believe that their families send them out to collect money – so if they accept the food, but go home and have nothing to show for it – they might feel inadequate or guilty as well. The parents depend on their children to provide – just as much as they depend on each other.

On a lighter note, Cambodian people are so friendly. I really enjoy my interactions with the children, tuk tuk drivers, souvenir vendors, street cooks and staff, high school students. The only annoying thing, but more funny is that they call stefanie and I ‘Lady’. “Hey lady! You want to buy cold drink?” “Hey lady! You want something to eat?” “Hey lady! You want fish massage?” We haven’t heard them call out anything to a man though. I am curious to hear what they’ll say.

Anyways, I have so many more comments about the culture and the people but I’ll save that for another post.

Stefanie and I have been exploring the Angkor temples here in Siem Reap. They are really impressive and unlike anything we’ve seen in our travels. They are a UNESCO world heritage site and were built between the 9th and 13th centuries.

Jungle Temples, Cambodia Angkor

Jungle Temples, Cambodia

The most famous images are the ones of Angkor Wat – with the three huge peaks – and the jungle temples – where large tree roots take over door ways and stone walls. It was pretty magnificent and we spent two days wondering the complex. My favourite temples were the jungle ones where you can see the power of nature over time and the Bayon, which had enormous Buddha faces on each standing tower. You can bike ride through the area, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s blistering hot and the temples are far from one another. We hired a tuk tuk for the two days and it was nice to be chauffeured from one temple to the next and catching the open air breeze. You can also just hop onto the back of a moto-taxi – which is better if you are a solo traveler.

Bayon Temple, Angkor Temples Cambodia

exploring the Bayon Temple

Tonight was our last night in Siem Reap. Stefanie and I ate at a street stall for dinner and later had a glass of wine in a retro alley bar channeling 1920s Shanghai, called Miss Wong. Dinner and drinks for a whopping $5! That’s my idea of a good night out, especially on a backpacker’s budget.

Tomorrow, we head to the capital of Cambodia – Phnom Penh. Stefanie’s old coworker has a brother living there and we plan to get in touch with him. He’s 65 years old and owned a school in Cambodia. Now, he’s taking 6 months off – so hopefully, he can show us around or maybe share some advice over dinner. More updates soon!

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