|One of the must see places on our list was Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We had seen a model of the massive temple at Wat Po in Bangkok. Time seemed to be moving very quickly and our travel pace has certainly picked up since leaving Thailand. I had no idea when we left home that we would spend 10 weeks in Thailand. The original plan had been to spend an equal amount of time in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Once Cory and Elaine recognized that they would be returning to Thailand they realized that some of the things they missed on this trip would be on the list for the next trip.
We took a flight from Luang Prabang to Siem Reap. It was another routine flight. I am getting rather used to flying. When we got off the plane in Cambodia the heat flooded over us like a warm blanket. Oh it was good to feel the sunshine and warmth again.
Our taxi driver took us to our hotel, and on the journey negotiated with us a rate for being our driver and taking us to the temples the following morning.
He turned out to be a wonderful guide and driver and we learned that he has a dream of being a tour guide, because a tour guide can make $25.00 a day. Can you imagine $25.00 a day. There is one slight wrinkle in his plan is the cost to get the license, it is $2000.00. He was very close to having this amount but then his heart took over, and he spent his savings on his wedding, and is now a family man with a one-year-old son. While he drives taxi and plays tour amateur tour guide during the day he studies at night. It is quite an interesting concept that one must be qualified to be a tour guide. We ran into this with Marco in Egypt, and James in Bangkok. Rules are in place and the penalty for breaking the rules is quite severe. The licensing to become a guide is equivalent to a university degree.
You notice I mention our Egyptian and Thai guide by names. Those are easy names to remember and the Laos, and Cambodian names just seem so foreign to me. I can’t remember our guide’s name, but know that his son is called Set. Well, I guess Poco sounds pretty foreign to them, and after all we are the guests in their country. As much as their names do not register, Cory and Elaine don’t compute with them. The closest connection they seem to be able to come up with for Cory is Curry, and Elaine gets called Ellen or Mrs. Cory. But it doesn’t matter where I go, people still smile when they see me. It must be true, smile, and the world smiles with you.
I digress, our tour of the temples. There are so many, and cover such a wide area. Set’s dad helped us chart our plan of attack, and took us from temple to temple. Books have been written, (and yes Elaine bought one), about these temples, so how can you possibly expect me to do justice to it in one little journal entry.
Here is my plan, I will show you pictures of the temples, and if you want to research them, feel free. My observations will be more about what we saw and how we felt.
Elaine’s camera envy was kicking in big time. The temples were full of busloads of Asian tourists. From what we have heard the Asians come over on a tour package, and not as individual travellers. Apparently this is because they can’t or choose not to speak English. In their package tour, they have their own guides, and all their accommodations and meals are taken care of. What they do bring is not one but two or even three massive cameras. It was mind boggling for Cory and Elaine to watch these people hustling and jostling for the best picture for the perfect shot, without regard for anyone else. Apparently the bigger the camera rule also applies here.
The other thing observed was every time Set’s dad would stop the car at a spot for us to get out, we would be swarmed by hawkers selling their wares. At one stop it was quite comical, a lady had an armload of woman’s hats. She saw that Elaine had a hat, but Cory did not, she turned around in such blur we almost missed her switching her stack of hats from woman’s to men’s. It gets frustrating repeatedly saying, no, no thank you.
As Cory and Elaine had discussed previously they had been quite negligent in sending postcards. One of the items that was offered to them was a book of 10 postcards for the equivalent of $1.00. Cory often suggests to Elaine that she should bargain and negotiate with the sellers. It seemed at last the message had clicked in, and when they were approached at another stop a man wanted to sell a book of postcards for $2.00. Elaine played hardball standing beside this man who was facing Cory. She insisted she had paid $1.00 for the last batch and he agreed. As she came face to face with the man, she realized he only had one arm and one eye. Her delight and satisfaction at successfully bargaining was diminished. This man was one on many that we would encounter in Cambodia that was a victim from the land mines.
The Cambodian land mines are a whole different story, and the evidence is clearly visible. We encountered bands composed of survivors. It is really quite heartbreaking, and a tad bit scary. We read in our guide book that if you are on a tour and need to stop at the side of the road to take a bathroom break, do not go too far off the road because landmines are still buried.
At another stop we saw a young boy of about 5 or 6 sitting on his chair. His head lifted at the prospect of a customer. Cory got out of the car and gave him a look, and he turned away. He then turned back towards us. He was probably the dirtiest little boy we had every seen, but his big brown eyes were full of life and the smile on his face warmed our hearts. We could not pass up the opportunity to buy yet another package of postcards, which were quite grimy from the grip of his little hands. As we talked and “negotiated” with him, the other sellers surrounded us, offering us books, DVD’s, scarves, t-shirts, and one mother even came over and put something in her diaper wearing daughter’s hands to try to convince us to buy even more stuff.
We were able to get away with just the postcards, and the memory of this smiling little boy who waved at us as we drove away.
We stopped at one point along the way so Set’s dad could show us how they make the sugar from the palm. The whole process is very similar to our maple syrup production in Canada.
At the end of a very good day we returned to our hotel, and made plans to meet up with Allison, an Australian girl we met in Koh Phan gan.