Tuesday, September 27, 2005

 

Angkor: Here, it's a temple and a beer

Hello from Cambodia! We arrived last night after a 12-hour journey from Bangkok. Pretty knackered after our transit, but not so tired I couldn't try a cocktail called, of course, a Tomb Raider. Vodka, Cointreau and tonic with a lime. Quite revitalizing.

We started our first of three days today at Angkor Wat, the largest religious building in the world. One of my favorite things about traveling are the superlatives I get to experience: the biggest this, the tallest that, and that one oldest other thing.

The main temple, Angkor Wat, looks surreal to me. We spent about 2.5 hours there, and that was just walking through the place at a decent pace. One could easily spend an entire day in just this one temple. Bazillions of photo ops. I am so tired right now, it's hard to think of a creative way to describe it. It's vast, it's super old and it's really neat to be in it.

Next we headed to Angkor Thom just down the road. We went into several temples there, including the Bayon, which to me was almost more interesting than the first temple because it's more crumbly and has the eerie stone faces that watch you in every dark corner of the temple. We have plans to visit more of the sites at sunset on Wednesday and sunrise on Thursday.

Cambodia is way more Third World than Thailand from the instant you cross the border. More rural, more dirty and dusty. More desperate? In that sense, it feels a little more adventurous to be here than the other places I have traveled, but there are plenty of tourists around for sure. We chose to charter a car to get us from Poipet at the border into Siem Reap, the boomtown next to Angkor Wat. It took five hours rambling over the bumpiest road I have ridden on in my life. Spokane's potholes will never bother me again. I did a lot of thinking on the drive about the horrors these people here have seen even in my lifetime. Once again, it makes me grateful for where I come from.

The people here are more aggresive than any other place I have been with their urgency for us to buy something from them, but I think that's because they have to be. Still, I refuse to pay $1 for a can of Diet Coke when regular Coke is only 50 cents here.

Ten weeks into my trip, I have noticed it is very easy for me to ignore the children who follow us around trying to sell postcards and water. Ignoring them doesn't help them but it doesn't hurt them. It's neutral. I like to think I am a generally compassionate person, but I feel cynical compared with my traveling partners. I don't believe any of these people are interested in talking with us when they ask where we are from and what are our jobs; they just want a bit of the money in my pocket.

I am obviously not fresh to the road anymore. When I get back on my feet at home, I will have to do something to be of service in some way to people who don't have what I do. My life is comfortable in relation to families who have to take a bath in the river and live in one room their entire lives. Time will tell if I walk my talk.

In one month from today, I will step off a train in Germany and gather my niece and nephew into silly hugs and kisses, one of the things I have missed the most being away from them. I will shiver -- finally cold! -- and ask to borrow a coat from my brother-in-law while Becky laughs at my 1,247 new freckles.

Comments:
Hi, Amy. Glad you are having fun trapsing through Asia. Funny sad how people end up ignoring certain experiences after awhile (I think about this when I pass a homeless person on the street) and how we don't usually think of how good we have it until we internalize how others live. Thanks for respecting the cultures of those you are visiting.
 
Nice page..Did u have fun at Angkor?
 
I found ur blog very intriguing.. hopefully my blog will be the same whilst im over in cambodia in november :) i will be writing a journal i guess of my every travels around more remote ruins in cambodia or off the track ruins if i can get to em :) hehe
Hope to read future blogs of urs!
 
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