Friday, April 15, 2011

Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Siem Reap, Khmer etc. 3

(continuation : Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Siem Reap, Khmer etc. 2 and Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Siem Reap, Khmer etc. 1)

Where have we left ? Oh yeah, we went to our hotel after the awesome tour of the Khmer Ancient civilization. Then we had to prepare for some walk and night surf of Siem Reap central as we were invited by Helia, the Australian we met, to some sort of fun chat and ll of the couch surfer people. We had an hour to prepare and we met at the hotel lobby. After some few sms exchange, Helia led the way going to the rendezvous.

We met some couch surfer from the US, Australia and someone from Poland, I think. I forgot where in Europe, actually, but she looks like the mature looking version of Dakota Fanning. There we saw the friendly and chatty British couple, Tony and Jill, also dining at the restaurant. We then seated a few tables away from the British couple after some his-and-hellos. We were then introduced and shook hands with the couch surfer people. It was a night of cultural performance by the restaurant, a night of sharing experiences and interests and a night of I guess strangers connecting each other to become acquaintances or maybe friends. It was a bit of fun talking but I was and I think same goes for Olga, were a bit hesitant on some topics. Personally I am not that chatty to strangers but for socializing, I make some ways to make it happen, but yeah a bit hesitant, still.

After the couch surfer meet-up, we went to the night market and we ate ice cream. Helia decided to go ahead but then we wanted to stay to check some pubs for a couple of drinks. So, we were back to Pub Street and I had a can of Angkor the local beer, and Kay was having a glass of wine. Oh it was a very relaxing night, plainly talking and munching some chips and watching rowdy passersby. After we finished the drinks, we headed back to our hotel. It was already late in the evening.

The next morning, we were scheduled to go to the floating village. It was a short trip and we have booked Bud, our tuk-tuk driver, in going to the river. When we arrived at the river dock, we then proceeded to getting tickets for 20USD each, which was quite expensive for the place. Well it's a touristy area so that explains it but the place was not what it looks like to begin with. Anyway, we get on to our motorized boat which looks weird I guess, because the propeller was protruding outside of the boat which as really visible at the back of the boat. So, good luck to those who might be ran over by the boat or whatever it is. The journey to the village was not that long, and as advertised by the boat captain, we would be going to the school, to the fish and crocodile farm but prior to that, they are bringing us to the schools supplies store for the kids in the floating school. It was way of helping the kids according to the boat guide. We bought pencils after the floating store attendant explained things. There was this mistrust with the way she spoke her terms of helping the school children as the food and supplies were ridiculously expensive. So we just bought a set of pencils and since the pencils looks used, we marked them. If we knew that it was such a situation there, we would have bought it in the city proper and label it accordingly. We feel that there was some kind of exploitation in the area. Anyway, enough of the dramatic commentary, so yeah, we rode the boat again to go to the school. We saw there some children playing and having fun, unlike some children near the temple where they were selling some goods. We saw some noisy class conducted. After giving the pencils to the teacher, we then went back to our boat and then they brought us to the farm. There were fish and crocodiles but not really that exciting. It was warm and hot and the food they were selling was really expensive. I don't think I would have to recommend the place and if you want to help, it's better to channel it to some valid charity organizations who knew the drift in this kind of business. Sadly, according to a Filipino friend based in the UK, the government is playing some kind of entertainment of the village's plight. At some degree, I agreed with her, and I have to be reminded that it is also happening in my country in minuscule and subtle way, but Cambodia was worse I've seen and I think it's happening all over the world done by corrupt individuals, governments and capitalists. It was bit drama and we were tourists looking to have some fun and to relax so we went to our own state of dream lands and so we finished the tour and decided to go back to the mainland. The guide made the trip interesting as he asked me to try driving the boat. It was scary but I want to try it so I jumped to the maneuver and we sailed towards the dock. It was scary at first but later on it went so much fun which drew some smiles in my face and too bad some scare to Olga and Kay. I had to have the boat captain take over as when we were about to enter the mouth where the path going to the dock was, there were some boats and they were bigger, cruising the opposite side, so it was a bit dangerous already. When we reached the dock safely, we gave 2USD as tip. We washed up and needed a bio break so we immediately searched for the toilet area. Then we looked for Bud and then asked him to bring us to a restaurant suggested by the travel magazine. We had some local food there and as usual the local food was sweet which was not really that appealing to us. Anyway we still enjoyed the food simply because we were hungry. After that late lunch, we walked our way to the city. We again, when Olga and I saw the mango vendor, we bought some and eat it the street way I guess. We also went to the new Siem Reap market and shop some goodies. We wanted to shop more so we decided to go to the Old Market. After the shopping, we went back to our hotel to fix ourselves for another night out. After that, we found ourselves back at the Pub Street. We ate at this two storey western restaurant and we ate a lot, fattening ourselves in the process. We were again, talking endlessly of a lot of things, family, work, and other accounts in our lives. Well mostly centered on personal adventures. After that, we checkout to have some few shops and also some drinks, then called the it a night as we were a bit exhausted as well from the long walks we took.

The next day was the last, so we woke up late. It was checkout time in the hotel at around 12 so we managed to leave our belongings at the reception and we went out to have some nice meal. We ended at the NYDC restaurant which was kind of interesting because they are non profit so by that, they give their profits to some worthy cause which was kind of interesting. After the meal, we headed back to our hotel to get our stuff and we decided to go to the airport. But prior to that we also checked the arts and craft on our way to the hotel.

Going to the airport was a good all thirty minutes and when boarding time came, we bid our good byes to Cambodia.

It was such a great experience all in all and an eye opener as well. Hope things will get better in Cambodia ....

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Siem Reap, Khmer etc. 2

(continuation: angkor-wat-cambodia-siem-reap-khmer 1)

After that short temple trip, we went to this mall to buy some personal effects. Then we went for another walk and found ourselves at the bluepumpkin savoring some icecreams. It was a boutique type ice cream parlor and we just suit ourselves in their comfy couch. It was a lazy afternoon and I almost took a nap. It was getting dark and we decided to go out and check other areas. We then went to the night market to scour things - buy some local stuff. I ended up buying a native purple shorts. I plan to wear it the next day for the ancient ruins of Angkor. After the mini shopping and some foot spa, we decided to check some restaurants at the pub street and had dinner in one of them. After dinner, and another visit to the shop, we went back to our guest house / hotel. It was a long stroll in siem reap I should say. After fixing myself to bed, I woke up the next morning a fresh. I was the first one to take the shower and it was cold even if the heater was on. I had to survive this mini ordeal .... We had our breakfast and after that we waited a bit for our tour van to arrive and yes it did after 20 minutes. There was this British couple waiting in the white van and they were very friendly. So we introduced ourselves and all that hi and hello - they were Tony and Jill and they are at their golden age. Both were very chatty and fun, especially Tony who has a lot of jests all through out the trip. By the way, we also met Helia, a lady from Down-Under. Next, we met the Indian couple and then the German couple. They then introduced themselves.... The tour guy introduced himself and so with the driver.

Our first stop was to the Angkor Thom but before that, we need to buy our tickets for a whole day pass and it amounted to 20USD. It was a bit expensive actually but we did not mind as that was the highlight why we visited Siem Reap, Cambodia in the first place. Going to Angkor Thom, the tour guide, educated us about the history and culture of the Khmers. It was very informative but I was drowned with excitement of what to see and feel about the ancient ruins. Truly, when we arrive at the mouth of Angkor Thom, we were greeted by this man-mad bridge leading to the site. Each side had this dragon serpent or what's that but it's called Naga. It's very old and some of the heads of the Naga were cut off some pillars were obliterated. We walked to the entrance and was amazed with the door and the hollow ceiling. They were made of rocks, and not just rocks because they looked really heavy block. These stone blocks were crafted or maybe beaten to reflect the practiced religion and tradition. The tour guide then shared to us the story of the ten blind men.... I knew the story when I was in grade school so I did not pay attention much but I realized I forgot the moral of the story and so when the tour guide finalized his script, I had to say , "Oh yeah that was the moral of it. Interesting! ". Then we went to the left side of the entrance when facing it as an exit. We then took some pictures to the surrounding pillars and the man-made canal. After that, we went to the site of the ancient ruin of Angkor Thom. It was really big and it has 54 towers on it with each tower having four faces with different facial expressions. Quite interesting and dramatic in design. There were so many tourists on the place so it got a bit crowded at the entrance of the temple. We managed to get some nice photos though. Then the tour guide explained to us the arts and the legends of the temple. The walls of the temple were decorated with the ancient culture and the guide translated the delicate art for us to understand and know what they meant. It was getting hungry by the way after we finished Angkor Thom and at the back of the ruin, where we had to meet our driver, there was this lady selling some mangoes. Olga and I bought two for each and it cost 1USD. The mango was all slight sweet but it was good and refreshing. I was a bit worried though that it might wreck havoc to my tummy. After waiting some of our tour friends, we took some pictures and then we left off after everything were settled. Our next stop was the terrace of the leper king. When we arrived there, we then alighted from the van and the guide began his story of the leper king. It was interesting because according to him the leper king got seriously involved with the nine-headed serpent who transfigured itself into a really beautiful princess and became a concubine of his. The king has a lot of concubines at that time. One of the guys said it was lucky for him and another blurted that, how was he able to survive with those number of women.... Anyway, we were so hungry but then there was this another temple which we had to visit. It was the site where Angelina Jolie shot the tomb raider. I was a bit excited! Prior to that, we passed by another temple which was not that crowded. We just alighted from the van and took some pictures from afar. Then we got back to the van and then continued our journey to Ta Phrom. We alighted from the van and continued on to a wall climb. then going to the entrace of the temple which was quite a walk. The place was really ancient and dusty worthy of the Jolie film. Upon reaching the site, the guide then worded the story of the temple. He then brought us the inner chambers of the place then leading to the site where Angelina took those stunts in Tomb Raider. It was a beautiful complex but not quite as impressive as the Angkor Thom. Anyway, we're a bit hungry and drained and we had to walk again to get to our van. There were kids trying to sell their goods. Poor kids, having to do all the old folks had to do. They should be playing and learning instead of doing those labor. So when we got to our van, the guide then informed us that we are going to this restaurant for lunch. Good thing it was belly feast time. The place was not far and so we soaked ourselves of the menu and I ended up eating stir fried pork. I had beef last time, though it tasted quite pleasant, I just did not like how the beef was prepared. Paired my viand with rice and a can of coke. It was soothing but way unhealthy.... The British couple who were seated at the my farthest left, then shared their travel experiences and some of their adventures and so with the Indian lady. The two Germans on my right were quite silent and they just enjoyed their food and the two bottles of Angkor beer. Kay, Olga and I were like kids listening to their stories and laughing at our own. We also had our own talks but were a bit oblivious as we were speaking in our native tongue, Cebuano. After lunch, we had to prepare for the next trip which is the highlight of the event, seeing the grandeur of the Angkor Wat. It was a 15 minute ride and when we arrived at the checkpoint, the guards immediately checked on our passes. Then we had to walk all through the way to the temple. A long walk will definite burn all the calories I ingested. My bottled water was thinning and I had to conserve a bit. I just did not want to collapse from dehydration. When we arrived at the temple, it was really beautiful and grandiose. We had some few snaps. We then proceeded to the tower temple and the crowd was huge. We queued to see the temple towers atop. The climb was really steep so one should be very cautious. I think some of my mates were a bit scared of the height and fore me it was fun. I was not terrified of heights in fact I enjoyed it and played some jokes to my friends to look down because it's really nice and high. When we got to the top most part of the temple we then checked the whole tower together will all the tourists. It was fun watching the whole surrounding covered with lush greenery. It was a refreshing feeling and an interesting one at that. I feel like wanting to visit the ancient ruins of Egypt and the Mayan's.... After that mini tower excursion and some fun photos, we then had to go down and proceed to the other side of the temple. The guide was waiting for us at the foot of the tower. We had to sit a bit and wait some of our tour mates who were slowly descending. After everyone was accounted for, we headed to the right side of the complex and the guide began explaining the detailed sculptures and images. We then went to the ancient bath and library used mainly by the priests at that time to do some rituals and learning. We then went to another part of the temple and their the guide explained about the ancient life which was most highlighted by their religion. Quite a fine display and depiction of their lives and how they wanted to tell the world of their culture. Too bad the present Cambodia is a bit in shambles.

We then went went to the toilet as mostly wanted to do some clean up and bio breaks. It was not part of the tour wahahaha for us to see :P Once ready, we headed to the exit route. We also took some interesting photos at the pond where the Angkor Wat was a backdrop. What made it interesting was the shadow of the Wat was drawn on the huge pond. Then we proceeded to our van and that was the end of the day tour....

The guide culminated the excursion and he then told us that they will be dropping us one by one to our hotels. He also shared to us some interesting restaurants in town and some night attractions.

(to be continued)