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November 20, 2004
Amy writes:

Ta Prohm - Amy finds her roots (arf!)
Amy finds her roots (arf) at Ta Prohm.

It was amazing... Got up super early to see Angkor Wat (which is both the name of the city of temple ruins and the most famous single temple there) at sunrise and spent another two days exploring the rest of the temples. We saw the major ones (about 20 of 100), got bitten alive again (deet does not do it for me) but really liked it.

Here's what else we noticed:

Pesky kids trying to sell you stuff (even tiny ones) and who look like they're about to cry when you insist you don't need 20 braclets for $1...

They're waiting for you outside all the temples screaming: "Col' drink sir! You want col' drink. Food madam, you want some thing eat?". And the boys with the guide books try and corner you saying: "Where you from?" And when you say England... They spiel off "Capital city, London. Borders with Wales and Scotland". I started testing them on our last day and asked the capital of Canada. When they gave me the answer, they told me about Canada having two languages and then started gabbling to me in French! It's funny now to think about it now but at the time it was a bit much.

We probably would have bought something (Jody liked this Angkor Wat paper weight which lit up with disco lights at the touch of a button) if we'd been able to browse the stalls but as it was, once you approached them, the kids wouldn't leave you alone.

Out of Angkor Wat. Cambodia is a lovely looking country - green and lush when you get out of the town. Driving past paddy fields and villagers just getting on with their daily chores was for me the best part after the temples. Part of the country is flooded for three months of the year. We saw this when we flew in but couldn't work out what we were seeing. From so high up, Jody thought it looked like broccoli in a pan (obviously, the trees in the flooded area). It doesn't really rain much either. We experienced a shower that literally lasted for about 50 seconds when we were at a temple one afternoon. The locals got really excited but it was over before it had really begun. Not like in London then...

Jody writes:

The ruins. This is what we came for. On our first night we took a tuk-tuk (more basic than those in Thailand - these ones are simply motorbikes pulling a cart) to Phnom Bakheng to watch the sunset. I didn't know that we were driving via Angkor Wat itself, but as we passed the sight of the massive complex looming out from the jungle it was worth the trip alone.

After spending three days (two of which we started at 5am to catch the sunrises) exploring temples, we learnt to enjoy the remote ruins more. Angkor Wat is in such good condition (following constant restoration - it is Cambodia's flagship tourist attraction after all) and is always so crowded that it ends up looking quite bland close up.

We prefered the more ruinous jungle temples, such as Preah Khan. We reached the complex at 6am and were the only two people there for quite some time. It felt like we were the first people to ever discover it. Some structures had collapsed and elegantly tumbled through standing doorways. Trees straddled ruins, both destroying and holding together the ancient structures. Headless statues rose up from the rubble and plants and flowers grew everywhere. We spent hours there and took a lot of photos (which we will show in a 10-hour slide projection, with commentary, upon our return).

The people. While the children at the temples chase you with trinkets and clothing to sell, the adults try and get you to eat at their stalls. Once we made our choice and finally sat at a stall, the owners changed completely. They're warm, friendly and relaxed and sometimes shooed the children away so that we could eat in peace. Most Cambodians have excellent English too. The English and historical knowledge of one of our drivers was so good, there was no point in shelling out $20 for a guide (we prefered to explore for ourselves, anyway).

Landmine victims beg wherever tourists can be found. They frequently followed us, waving torn limbs and shouting "disabled." One day, we were eating at a temple and saw a local girl who had serious facial burns sharing a joke with the cafe staff. The minute we stood to leave she changed completely, chasing us, pointing at her face and screaming and moaning like the undead. Our driver found it hilarious - he'd probably seen the act before. Neither Amy or I knew what to do in these situations, so we just ignored them. Is it right to encourage begging by giving money? We didn't think so.

On the whole, we loved Cambodia and wished we could have spent more time exploring other parts of the country, rather than just the well touristed area. We're currently killing time in Chiang Mai, having plotted some things to do in the next few days, including an elephant trek.

posted at 2:26 PM | link

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Jody and Amy have finished their 10 month adventure around the world, that began Nov 2, 2004, and ended Sep 2, 2005. They're back home in London now, doing normal things, like going to work and drinking tap water. You can see a map of what was their planned route, but we didn't quite follow it.
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