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Angkor Wat

Very nice, but overall mixed feelings about Cambodia so far

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Written on April 27...
Today we visited a few of the temples of Angkor Wat. It's quite a sight indeed! We were originally going to buy the 3 day pass ($40) which is crazy expensive for my budget, so for budgetary reasons, and a small blunder yesterday, we scaled down to the 1 day pass ($20).
Indeed, we tried to go yesterday, and rented bicyles ($1/day each)to get there (it's only 7km fom town), however we somehow managed to get lost on the way and end up at a back entrance, where they only emitted 1 day passes, so they gave us somewhat vague instructions on how to get to the main entrance. We tried to follow these directions, but ended up at a side entrance, where they also only gave 1-day passes. We finally ended up at the right entrance, 4 hours later, after biking in the super hot sun (from 11am to 3pm). hehehe, by that time we didn't even want to go in anymore and decided to hire a tuk tuk the following day (today, tuk tuk is $10 -haggled down from $15), buy a 1 day pass and get a tour that way.
On the flip side, this "getting lost" forced us to bike through where people actually live. Poverty is overwhelming and is seen constantly, through their houses, and in town, through people begging (at the entrance of minimarts, on the street, at the restaurants, kids and adults selling stuff or just plain asking for money or food). I don't think I can properly describe the feeling of repeatedly saying no to 2-3yrs old kids, handicapped men, mothers with their children asking for food... And this is side by side with the sheer opulence of tourists fancy resorts and expensive restaurants. While biking yesterday, some big hotel had a sign advertising their chef's special meal, for $32/person. I think that $32 is more that many many people here make in a month...it's just crazy.

I also feel very very bad with being on such a tight budget here. On one side, people ask for food, or to buy trinkets and clothes for crazy cheap prices (T-shirts: $1, scarves: 3 for $5, bracelets and postcards: 10 for 1 $) and we keep saying no (no space in the backpack, no money to really spare), so they bring their prices down, walk with us for as long as possible, pull on our clothes. It's honestly extremely difficult and is making my stay here rather unpleasant. Being cheap is not so cool, and feels rather silly when faced with this reality..... One example today, of which I still feel bad about: yesterday I bought a "cut and ready to eat" mango at the market from an old lady, for 1000riels ($0.25). Today at the temple I saw some, sold under a tree by an older lady - side note: there aren't very many older people here, with the massive killings of some 50yrs ago) and asked how much: 2000riels. Stupid silly me, who got used to bargain everything, said no thanks and started walkign away. A kid selling postcards They kept asking and I said "yesterday I bought for 1000riels", so their gave it to me for that. It felt bad rightaway, and in retrospect, they could certainly use that 1000riels more than me, we are, after all, talking about $0.25..... I tend to forget that "in the heat of the moment" and just see 1000vs2000, or whatever amount is in question. I hope Phnom Phen is different (maybe with less tourism, there'll be a different feel)

Back to the temples.
Overall, I think 1 day was enough (after all, ruins are ruins). My only disappointment is that we didn't hire the services of a tour guide (we didn't even know the option was available until on site, and they must be hired at a centre that's a bit aways from the actual site) as we would sometimes "walk slow" or "linger around" a guide and his group and it sounded sooo interesting. If you ever come here, HIRE A GUIDE!
A distinction must be made between tuk tuk driver and official guide. We hired a tuk tuk (the taxi service around here, essentially a carriage for 2 people pulled by a motorbike) thinking that he would walk around with us and tell us some stuff (essentially acting as a guide), but not, he simply drove us from site to site and gave us very very brief explanation of the site (i.e. this is a temple the king built for his mother). Unfortunately, there isn't much written wabout what we see at each site either, so we got our info from the LP (brief paragraph on each temple), the bits of info "stolen" from the guides, and the occasional info board at the entrace of a site.
We got many great pictures and saw a total of 4-5 temples. I'll talk in more details about each (the little more detail I have) once I post pics. The internet here is way too slow to even consider posting pics!
SO it was a good day, but I'll be happy to leave this town of Siem Reap tomorrow morning, heading for Phnom Phen.

Posted by Mistrale 06:09 Archived in Cambodia

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