Jan 252014
 

so tomorrow morning we are off to phnom penh, by car and then boat down the mekong river. we cant catch the boat all the way because being the middle of the dry season, the water is too low up this end.

siem reap reminds me of so many of the larger towns i have stayed over my many years of travelling the world, it takes 3 or 4 days to really get connected with the energy of the place, to work out where to eat, where to shop, and to start relaxing into the transition from traveller to resident – not resident in the sense of living permenantly in a place. Rather being at ease sufficiently to feel like you have stopped moving.

unfortunately that often means you are leaving just when you get the sense you should be staying!

siem reap is a dirty, dusty, flat town with few redeeming features – but like so much of the world, the redeeming features are the people and the food, tonite was a perfect example. we went back to the little restaurant that our guide had shown us, and where we had lunch with him 2 days ago. tonite we picked through the menu and kai had a simple but yummy fried chicken dish with rice, we had a simple fish soup with morning glory, a pork and vegetables salad and the wonderful fish & pork omelette (whoddu thunk!).

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a splendid and simple meal, with a room full of laughing and friendly cambodian girls who cook and wait on the few dodgy tables and plastic chairs, a family of orphaned girls taken in by their uncle and set up in the restaurant as they grew up. kai ended up sitting with one of the sons of one of the sisters and tried his best to ‘corrupt’ him by playing games on the iPhone with him. so we sat and had a cool beer, chatting with the girls, watching some inane comedy in kmher on the TV while 2 boys were absorbed in their games of the 21st century.

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its that simple, and its more than enough for me, its why i travel, i have never been one for seeking out other tourists to sit and chat with, to hook up on facebook or compare lists of places been and things done at the shallowest level, travelling for me is about that interconnection with the people, culture and food of the places we visit.

yet in a city filled with thousands of tourists we saw almost none sitting in the khmer restaurants, or eating the street food with the local workers, and I never saw another child interacting with the cambodian kids – and we wonder why there is so much racism and xenophobia, although I am not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg.

 

Jan 252014
 

today is definitely a lazy day, we wandered back to the La Boulangerie Cafe for breakfast again, its a good thing its a fair walk from the hotel because I dont think 2 croissants and a pile of crispy bacon is all that healthy!

the rest of the day has been spent resting, reading, playing cards and fiddling on the internets! I have added a subscription button on the sidebar, this will save me manually emailing out updates and automate the process, so, dear readers, please avail yourselves of the marvels of modern technology and sign up. free set of broken coathangers to the first 10 to sign up, and you go in the lucky draw to win a bounced cheque for a large sum of money.

here are a couple of pics to look at in the meantime,

click on the ‘i’ in the top left corner of the image for descriptions

Jan 242014
 

holc3this morning we found a little french cafe we had been looking for, kai woofed down pancakes and chocolate, which while not very healthy, were delicious by all accounts. he then had a hair cut and after lunch Bun picked us up and we headed out to the temples again, first up was Ta Prohm, where scenes of the film Tomb Raider were shot. it is largely overgrown with huge banyan trees wrapped around and growing through its structure.

Ta Nei was the second one we visited, also largely overgrown by the jungle, but as its hidden away down a dirt track very few tourists visit it, in fact while we were there we were the only people visiting the temple – a welcome relief from the hordes crawling over the other temples. we were able to get a real sense of the peace and serenity of these incredible temples set in the towering and shady jungle.

the final temple we visited was Bayon, this temple was built in a period of peace between hindus and buddhists in cambodia and the intricate carvings reflect this. its known as the temple of faces due to the large buhdda faces carved in the towers.

our final stop for the day was to observe a troupe of monkeys playing in the grass beside the road, it was a highlight for kai, there were several new born babies as well as big males, pregnant mums and juveniles. we bought some bananas to feed them with and i discovered they dont like having their tails pulled – i was only actually giving it a gentle tug to encourage one to turn around for a photo, but i have a scratch on my leg to prove it!

we actually enjoyed the 3 temples today much more than Angkor Wat, they were smaller and more intimate, the shade from the huge trees makes them cooler and overall they just seemed more interesting.

the history of the whole region is fascinating, the vandalism by each of the religions towards the others is such a sad indictment of organised religion, so many of the carvings defaced after changes between hinduism, buddhism and islam as the state religions in the khmer kingdom.

the damage is much worse than that caused by 900 years of weathering or decades of ferocious war in the 20th century.

the sheer scale of the empire at its peak in the 12 century is hard to picture, such enterprise, infrastructure development, enginineering and pure human effort is hard to imagine – especially as the whole region was basically deserted later, hence the fact that all these temples lay unknown and undiscovered until the 1930’s.

tomorrow we are having a lay day, then sunday we are catching the boat down to Phnom Penh.

click on the ‘i’ in the top left hand corner of the images to see the caption.

 

Jan 242014
 

holcas you can see, its a bit chilly in the mornings in siem reap, even allowing for us coming out of our wet season and into their dry, there is no doubt its rather cool first up.

we have spent a couple of days getting familiar with siem reap, being somewhere that there are so many tourists is a bit of a shock after malaysia, and it does detract from the experience somewhat.

the food is good, although its proving harder than I expected to find good local food – mainly due to tourists meaning that there are many more western style restaurants than i expected.

as you can see from the tarantula video, there are still opportunities for authentic street food!

today we did angkor wat, we hired a guide,  he had a car with a driver and he was certainly informed and passionate in his guiding, the numbers alone are impressive, 30 million tons of sandstone, floated on bamboo rafts down a canal from the mountain where it was mined, 8000 elephants in the construction and a 100,000 khmer labourers to build it – all done over 900 years ago.

the highlight for me was the little cambodian restaurant that our guide, Bun took us to after the tour! we asked him to take us somewhere to have a traditional cambodian meal and the fact that the restaurant is only 100m from out hotel is an added bonus!

we had an amazing omelette, a yummy sour soup with fish, a great pork and pumkin dish, and a sweet and sour vegetables.

last night we had the amazing experience of going to the local cambodian circus, called phare.

it was an incredible blend of culture, theatre, story telling, dance, acrobatics, juggling and music – with amazing energy and intensity.

the circus schools takes disadvantaged young kids from cambodia and teaches them to become performers so it has an important social as well as cultural function. we had vip seats in the centre, front row – when the flaming skipping rope slipped out of their hands , as you will see in the video, it nearly hit us and kai reckoned “we were nearly killed!”. kai had an absolute ball and along with Lego land I think it is a highlight of his travels so far.