South East Asia: Cambodia

November 17, 2009 - Siem Reap, Cambodia

I arrived in Siem Reap and got a moto taxi into town to find a guesthouse. I arranged with my mototaxi driver to take me around the Angkor Wat temples the next day! "Siem Reap" means Siamese Defeated (i.e. thai people defeated) so its not the most tactful name - and the two countries aren't exactly on the most friendly terms and at the time of writing this certain border crossings are closed in areas where there is land disputes between the countries - Also interestingly the former prime minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra (former owner of man city btw) who if he returns to thailand will be arrested for corruption is currently hanging out in Phnom Penh as financial advisor to the cambodian government - and they are refusing his extradition - (you have to hand to Thaksin he knows how to make the headlines).

Siem Reap is all about the Angkor Wat temples - and its a booming tourist attraction with people visiting them in hordes from all over the world - seen as I was only visiting them for a day I did the normal 1 day visit of the highlights including Angkor Thom (Bayon, Baphoun, Ta Prohm, Terrace of the Elephants, Ta  Prohm and Angkor Wat itself and a few other smaller ones like Thommanon and Banteay Kdei - which probably means nothing to you reading this - so i'll break it down a bit

Angkor Wat - is the iconic one on the cambodian flag etc.

Ta Prohm - is the one used in tomb raider the film - although unfortunately I didn't see Lara Croft knocking about!

Bayon - has the distinctive Giant faces on most of the towers - that you've probably seen a copy of somewhere without realising it. And the other ones just either have historic importance or interesting stone carvings etc.

Even if your not into historical sites/temples etc. I think you'd find it hard not to be impressed. It's definitely one of the most historical sites i've ever  seen (apart from maybe Machu Picchu at dawn on a clear day - ha I sound like such a travel snob (forgive me!).

It's well worth the visit and I think one day is enough if you just want to see the highlights! The locals here are very pushy but they do it with a cheeky smile and in a friendly but persistent way (I have to say I do like the locals a very spirited and friendly bunch for the most part - but also very very pushy). I ended up buying a few things or being persuaded to part with money for things I didn't really want or need (so mam I hope you like cambodian style cloth designs) - my advice if your visiting the Angkor Wat temples is bring some money and a sense of humour and a bit of cheekiness too and you'll enjoy the banter with locals and the kids trying to sell you stuff and it will actually be one of the highlights of the day (instead of an annoyance). In one case there was an extremely bright young girl of around 11 or 12 i'd say who would really go places in Ireland I rekon - she knew 7 (or 8 ) languages including good conversational Irish (Gaelic) not just reeming off phrases but understanding and responding correctly to questions and responses. Also she guessed I was Irish from my accent when I just said one word! A very sharp kid - such a pity she has to work selling souvenirs and t-shirts all day!

I like Cambodia and the locals but its a very poor country and it has a lot of problems and I was a little freaked out and felt really bad about some of the poverty especially on the 2nd night I was there - a little girl grabbed my hand and was pleading for me to take her to the food stall to buy her some food (not asking for money just hungry) it was very heartbreaking and I didn't really know how to handle it so I took her to the food stall and give her a few dollars for food. Also some of the pushiness of some of the prostitutes grabbing at my arm late at night after I came out of a sports bar from watching the Ireland vs france match freaked me out a bit (really seemed like desperation out of poverty). All this mixed with my growing home sickness the closer I get to going home (kind of have the feeling I just want to be home already and the countdown is going slow).

ConCERT in Siem Reap is a good NGO charity in cambodia and it does alot of good work and Cambodia needs as much help as it can get I rekon - and I plan to donate to some money to them when I get home! Whilst in Cambodia I also seen the film "The Killing Fields" in my guesthouse about the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot - It was absolutely horrifying what went on only 30 years ago or so! Like an Orwellian nighmarish vision except the truth was much more horrifying than any fiction!

So I had majorly mixed feelings leaving Cambodia - the temples where very good to visit, I like t he people and Siem Reap is a good town but I was also glad to leave and head back to seemingly safer Thailand - I don't know what that says about me though I mean i've seen many other places and countries with poverty and problems that i've been in before but they didn't effect me in the same way!

(Well that blog entry got fairly sombre all of a sudden - anyways next stop was bangkok in thailand)

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