4/16/2013

Angkor

After some time in Ho Chi Minh City, I realized I would not have time to see all the other countries I had in mind: Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and all the rest will have to wait for a second Asian trip. For now I will focus on what one may call "the communist trip"; Vietnam, Laos and China (and I was hoping for North Korea, but that sounds quite far-fetched at the moment) before I reach my oh-so-desired period in Mongolia.

But, before I dive into it, I had to go check out something I have been curious about for a long time: Angkor.

Thus I bought a ticket to Siem Reap (it was sold to me as a direct bus trip), the small town next to the ancient temples, in the Kingdom of Cambodia. They call themselves "The Kingdom of Wonder".

Of course the direct trip became a trip with a change in the capital, Phnom Penh, at 14.30. That was not a problem, even though the day was incredibly hot and the roads were dusty. There as well, I had the impression of being in a big dirty city, and I didn't really feel like going around to check it out. On the way to Siem Reap, I tried some fried spider, which was disappointingly similar to shrimp. That doesn't mean it was bad at all, but I was hoping for a unique flavor. I still didn't feel like eating the grasshoppers or beetles. Maybe later.

Siem Reap is my only impression of Cambodia, and that is probably a very poor one, because the place is filled with tourists, from all over the world. The Cambodians seemed to be a nice and open people, but it was hard for me to be in an environment that had no tourists. And whenever I managed, conversation was a difficult task. I did talk to some locals, of course, and their main theme is still the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. It's amazing how young the country is, because of that conflict. And though I had a great time, and prices were very comfortable, it was not the best place to be. Apart from the dust and the dirt, the incredible heat was killing me - for a couple of days, I was officially at the hottest place on the planet, according to some weather reports. But what is more; there still is something quite dark about Cambodia - the prostitution, the child-beggars asking for milk (which is actually quite expensive there), and the many orphanages are just a part of that. Pub Street, while a very western and exaggerated party-like part of town, can be fun for music and drinking, and other parts of town were not bad at all either, including the Night Markets. It is a place on the rise. Great numbers of tourists visit it, so they can see those fabled temples, which I had the opportunity to explore:


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.



While they are impressive and it is a beautiful scenery, I honestly expected a bit more, both from size and from 'vibe'. Unfortunately, there is not much 'holy' or 'spiritual' left in those temples. The vast quantity of tourists changes whatever buddhist or hindu atmosphere it had into a regular tourist attraction. Nice to look at, though.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Food was also quite good there, and very cheap. I specially liked their bread and their banana pies, and fish amok was a great dish to find out. It was also interesting to meet quite many travellers who have the intention of staying there for a longer period, teaching english and crafts; German, Cuban, Valencian, English, South African... it seems the whole world took an interest in these children, and want to help build a better Cambodia. I wish them all the luck in the world!

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