Monday, July 30, 2007
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Since our last installment, we left the noise of honk honk honk, beep beep “coming through”, BLAT, and eek eek from all the cars and motor scooters otherwise known as Hanoi behind. I have to say, a step up from Bangkok chaos but still worse for motor scooter hell than Rome. The architecture in Hanoi is quite lovely with victorian row houses but still plenty of shacks and tin roofed hovels as well. But I think I already talked about Hanoi.
Last night we got rain for the first time on my trip. When we arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia, the rain was pouring down on the runway. As we did not have a room for the nigth yet and this is a relatively small town I was not looking forward to walking around in the rain to find a room. It turned out OK, with a $5USD ride downtown.. Yes USD. EVERYTHING here runs on US Dollars.. you even withdraw them from the ATM.. really quite amazing to be 10,000 miles from home and in a country where you tower over everyone by 6 inches and don’t speak the language and still are using your own home currency!
Anyway, this morning we were up and at em after a sweaty night from a piece of crap AC unit that barely chilled the room to 25 degrees C.. thats about 80 folks. But thats OK, becuase I found some truly LARGE beers last night at the hostel and had some great conversation with the crazy Turk and his psychiatrist wife, the danish enconomics student and the “free lovin'” kraut. But things closed early (lucky for me) at 10pm and I had to go to my room and sleep for once.
After hopping in the tuk tuk.. sorry for those who don’t know, think of a moped with a trailer and two seats on top and an awning… and we were off. It was at this point we learned our driver Mr. Lucky would be taking care of us the whole day. Thats where the quote today comes from.
Anyway, Gino and I are both in agreement that Siem Reap is a much nicer town than Bangkok or Hanoi. Much quieter, just about as poor but with a developing infrastructure of nice hotels and resturants. We get to the first temple and its a doosy! 10′ rock carved faces looking down from all angles in the jungle all spread around a 100′ pyramid like temple. Really quite amazing to see the arrogance of the king who built it carve his own likeness in so many places! After this we walked around and got hijaked by another tour guide who we foolishly thought was just a nice local trying to help. Anyway, he was really low key and quite informative and I didn’t have to read (and Gino didn’t have to listen to) me yap from a guide book that we bought for the temples.
The other sites included the King’s palace grounds, a MAGNIFICENT jungle temple (very Indiana Jones) and then the leper terrace and the elephant terrace. Really amazing the amount of rock carving that these people did. They clearly needed more to do with thier time.. kind of like Gino and I sitting at this BUTT slow internet cafe with about a 56k upload speed and a computer that I can outtype!
After lunch, Gino the holywood star showed up at Ankor Wat. Yes folks its true. In his lovely golden t-shirt and his majestic stature, he truly was the sight for the asian tourists almost as much as the temple. At one point while we were just looking at the grounds, Gino was asked if he could have his picture taken with a little asian man.. which turned into two.. which turned into three. All three of them though they were taking thier picture with the incarnation of the happy buddha! Really I almost fell over an pissed my pants! Gino wasn’t quite so amused but he was laughing.
At the end of the day, Gino and I McGuyver’ed the room light/power/AC switch so that it woudl stay running when we left the room. Maybe tonight we’ll have 20 degrees in the room.. wouldn’t THAT be grand! (sorry.. too much time with the Irish.. Harry, would that be Lovely yet??).
Dinner tonight as a whole consisted of a plate of fried rice with beef, vegetable noodle soup, chicken with vegetable and fried egg noodles along with a LARGE beer and two cokes. Now to put this in perspective, my “half” of the meal cost only $.40 more than my two snickers bars that I just bought. Yes the ENTIRE meal for Gino and I was only $6, which was more than we were charged and yes it DID fill both of us up Stu. You could have eaten for hours here for $10!
Anyway, this PAINFULLY slow experience at the internet cafe is now at an end and I’m not even going to contemplate trying to upload any photos here. I’d be here until Friday if I did. Tomorrow more temples. Friday off to Thialnad again for some island loving. The trip is winding down, but Gino and I are raring to go. Gino can’t wait to join me on my African safari adventure when I go.. OK.. well maybe not, but Turkey, Greece and Italy sound like fun.. who’s in!!!!
Keep your nose tuned for the smell of elephant stories and your dive fins ready for storys of underwater adventure.
FACT FOR THE DAY (unrelated to our trip but we’re struggling):
Denmark has the oldest continuous monarchy in all of Europe
Bill and Gino