Friday, November 10, 2006

First impressions of Cambodia

Boat people of Tonle Sap, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

A busy day today at the temples of Angkor Thom, Ta Promh and Angkor Wat, for the sunset, including some precipitous climbs up to the tops.

Not so much time to write about them now, so should have more time tomorrow, when we will go for sunrise and sunset sessions, with a rest in the middle of the day.

Just to say that yesterday, our first day here, we hitched up with to motor scooter riders who took us around for the day at 5 dollars each. We went down to the villages towards the great lake of Tonle Sap, where there are many floating villages and markets to be seen, but we just stayed onshore and walked around the local village there, where a wedding was taking place, such that we spent an hour or so in the shade listening to the beautiful traditional music (sounding not unlike Ethiopian music, strangely enough). The people we came across seemed to be happy enough to chat a bit - where are you from, being the first question, after which they will often tell you that London is the capital city and that eight million people live there. Full of smiles, especially when posing for photographs, and not just the children.

Lots more to say, but I had better not keep Richard waiting, although I have now arranged it that he can go back with his rider to our guesthouse while I can stay here for another half an hour or so, it being only 19.15, and not exactly time for dinner, althoughj we missed out on lunch earlier (seems like Richard DOES eat less than I do!).

So, what more to say, other than this is all very different from Bangkok and the people in the villages are leading fairly simple lives, barely above subsistence levels. I find it very difficult to imagine the horrors which beset the country during the Pol Pot era of 1975-1978 when millions (betwen 2 and 3) were killed, mostly being the intellectuals, or anyone reasonably educated or even wearing a pair of glasses. This is a large proportion of the people living in Cambodia and it is strange to think that now 30 years on, life goes on. There is a loty to build up again, and here in Siem Reap, probably more has been built up than anywhere else, during teh last eight years since the area was re-opened to tourists wanting to visit the Angkor temples.

Last night we found 'pub street' , a row of trendy bars and restaurants, much like Boat Quay in Singapore, although less noisy. All housed in pretty colonial houses, many selling cold draft beer fo 50 cents a large-ish glass or cocktails 2 for the price of 1, delicious looking menus and charming staff, and all this had mushroomed out of nothing during the last eight years according to some French lady we chatted to at the end of the evening.

In the meantime, massive and stylish hotels are being built around town, towards the temples, many charging over 300 dollars a night.

In addition to the bars there are massage parlours everywhere, all charging the same prices. 6 dollars will get you an hour long foot massage whilst 12 will get you two hours worth, though how anyone can spend two hours massaging two feet is beyond me. These places offer massages only, but very annoyingly, many of the tuk-tuk drivers will come up to you in the street asking if you want boom-boom and trhat they know just the place. Seems to be a lot more expensive than in Bangkok anyway, but there is no doubt a great demand for it.

Anyway, time now to blog a couple of new photos and then find out where my rider has gone to.

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