Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Siem Reap

The center of Siem Reap looks a lot like Khao San road. Very nice and cheap restaurants competing with each other. One offers free traditional dancing show, another one offers free movie with each meal, every one has happy hour. In massage places $2/half an hour they offer free beer/wine/soft drink. Bicycle rentals, $1/day with free map and water. How do they make any money? I went to the restaurant with a free show. After 1st dance about 3 couples left, after 2nd dance about half of the people left. I stayed for the 3rd dance. It's very beautiful art form with exaggerated hand movements. Every movement is emphasized,  the curve, the finger positions, but the bodies barely move, and oh my god it's so boring. I just read in a book about Cambodia some years ago that women should walk quietly, barely be noticeable,  no talk, be agreeable. How boring is that? These dances represented that. All soft and slow and elegant, and my head is falling into my salad :)
Couldn't fall asleep. The room stunk of dust and cigarette smoke. I put a towel on the pillow, but that didn't help. At 11:30 I woke up and went to the reception to change the room. They showed me 3 more rooms, but they were all the same :( Somehow I fell asleep, but then in the morning I couldn't wake up because the room didn't have a window. Penny was supposed to come that day and changing guesthouses would be a bit problematic. I saw one more room in the morning, and magically it had a window and it didn't stink :) Perfect! :)
There is this amazing ice cream place is Siem Reap - the blue pumpkin.  It's smooth, with a bunch of exotic flavours, plus upstairs is an air conditioned lounge with beds to lie on :) We went in, and I asked for 1 scoop with 2 flavours. They didn't allow it. I told them that I won't buy anything and they'll be losing business if that's the case. They still said no. I didn't get anything :( But we left 2 comments about possibilities and professionalism. I know in Canada they don't allow for it either. What's up with that?? Then we went for a massage. It was very nice. First good massage since Bangkok for $4/hour. Penny as a bonus got a breast massage from her male masseuse :) At the end they said "tip for me". I wanted to leave them $1 each, but ended up leaving $1 for both of them. We told them that it's very rude to ask for a tip!
Woke up at 4:30am to see the temples from the Angkor period. These are considered to be the best temples in the world, and Angkor Wat is the largest Buddhist religious complex in the world. It appears on the flag of Cambodia and is the symbol of national pride. Angkor Wat was built first as a temple to a king, and later to be served as a musoleum. It's was build to represent mount Meru, home of the divas in Hindu mythology.  The temple was build in the 12 century and was dedicated to Vishnu - preserver of the universe.
(LP) The Cambodian "god-kings" of old each strove to better their ancestors in size, scale and symmetry, culminating in the world's largest religious building, Angkor Wat.
Angkor is one of the world's foremost ancient sites, with the epic proportions of the Great Wall of China, the detail and intricacy of the Taj Mahal and the symbolism and symmetry of the pyramids, all rolled into one. The hundreds of temples surviving today are but the sacred skeleton of the vast political, religious and social center of Cambodia's ancient Khmer empire, a city that, at its zenith, boasted a population of one million when London was a small town of 50,000. The houses, public buildings and palaces of Angkor were constructed of wood - now long decayed - because the right to dwell in structures of brick or stone was reserved for the gods.
The god-kings of Angkor were dedicated builders. Each king was expected to dedicate a temple to his patron god, most commonly Shiva or Vishnu. Then there were the ancestors, including mother, father, and grandparents (both maternal and paternal), which meant another half a dozen temples or more. Finally there was the mausoleum or king's temple, intended to deify the monarch and project his power, and each of these had to be bigger and better than one's predecessor.  This accounts for the staggering architectural productivity of the Khmers at this time and the epic evolution of temple architecture.
Even though it's so grand, with a huge bass relief, I wasn't too impressed. The most well known temple in the world and I feel disappointed. We arrived at sun rise to watch the colors of the sky change above the temple along with hundreds of tourists, so the pictures are nice. We went into the temple itself before the sunrise finished to be able to get some people-less pictures. Next we saw some small falling apart temple, and that we liked much more. The huge stones are covered in moss, and there I felt like Indiana Johns exploring the unknown. What a cool surprise it was to run into a huge spider! I called some other tourists and we took turns in having brave waves and got our cameras closer to the spider. We put the camera lid near it for perspective, but it still didn't look big, so I put my hand next to it slowly and I'm not breathing while I move it closer and closer. I have a huge fear of spiders and this task took quite a lot beats of my heart :)
The whole day we're running around, climbing stairs, temples, dancing, jumping, from sunrise till sunset, and the whole day Penny is singing a song: "today i feel like not doing anything, just want to stay in my bed" ... not a very appropriate song for the day :)
Next was the jungle temple which was awesome! These temples were forgotten for 100s of years, and the surrounding jungle incorporated them in it's scenery. There are large trees growing on the top of the temples, the roots are now not only supporting the trees but also the buildings. We got so excited and took many junglie pictures that our tuk-tuk driver got worried that we got lost :) We were climbing some temples and jumping on the rocks. I think in Canada there would be a very heavy fine for that activity. While I was posing and dancing on the rocks, Penny wasn't the only one taking pictures, many passer-by-iers stopped to snap a few shots, people might've thought it was professional as Penny was throwing her comments: come on girl, show me what you got, are you feeling it, I want to see it in your eyes! :) We took 365 pictures :) The other 3 temples were ok. They're not very significant, but I also liked them because no one is going there, and we can get lost and explore at our own will. We saved the best for the last - the Bayon temple. There are 216 faces namely of the king himself looking at you from all directions. Some say it is to signify to the people that king is always watching them, and they can't hide anything from him. When we got in the tuk-tuk to go there, our driver informed us that we have half an hour to see it. What?? I told him no, that we'll be done when we'll be done. He said that we started early, and that in the last temple he told us to go faster and he saw me walking slowly, we start early so we finish early. He argued more and more, and I didn't have the patience for that. Even now when I write it, I feel the heat. I told him that we started early and we paid him extra for it. We signed up for an additional tour, and paid him more for it. I was walking slowly cause I'm sightseeing and I'll take as much time as I want to take. We paid him $27 for the day which is an outrageous amount of money for Cambodia with an average income of $2/day, and he dares to complain?? He should be happy that we took him as our driver! I told him that we'll finish when we'll see everything there is to see, and that it's not negotiable! When we got there, it was the most beautiful temple, and I was in a bad mood. It took me about 40 minutes to convince myself to get out of it, but by that time we've already left to see other things. In the temple the monkey got to my mango, again, I saw it coming and put the mango and pineapple bags on the ground. Thank god it left the pineapple alone :) This temple is where the "Tomb Raider" was shot, I guess now I have to see that movie :)
Next day we took bicycles for rent. We decided to go back to the temples because the roads are green, shaded and quiet. They stopped us on the way there, told us that we need to get a ticket. But we don't want to go inside the temples we tell them, we just want to cycle on the roads. No, it's impossible they tell us. GRR! & there are so many cars on the road. I asked them why aren't they stopping these cars? Because they're locals! That just doesn't make sense, I showed him on the map where we want to cycle to, and then showed him a ticket from yesterday. I guess he believed us at let us through. Next stop we weren't so lucky, but I still tried to persuade him. "It's a public road" I tell him, I don't even understand why Penny stopped. We turned around, and I told Penny not to look at these people, pretend as though they don't exist. This strategy works very well with almost anything where you want to pass something without being stopped :) We turned around, and ended up in a very beautiful countryside where kids as well as adults were yelling "heeellooooo" to us. I stayed a bit behind, and when I caught up to Penny she was talking with a tuk-tuk guy. No I don't need a tuk-tuk she tells him. He tells her that she is tired. Is he talking to the ever energized Penny that I know?? "Do I look tired?" she asks him. I hold myself very hard not to say "In other words, what she's trying to say is: are you an idiot???". Those people have no brains. I don't understand these tuk-tuk guys. There could be 10 of them standing together. You can say "no" to the first one, and the other 9 will still ask you! They spend their days endlessly waiting for clients, sleeping in their tuk-tuks and otherwise not communicating much. Why won't they grab a book and read, or learn a new language, learn history so maybe they could become guides and earn more money? Maybe that's why they're the tuk-tuk drivers.
Another victory of talking to yourself - Penny said that her mind is racing, she has too many thoughts and often can't fall asleep, that's why she always listens to techno/electronic music when she falls asleep to calm her mind. I told her about my monk story (btw, I'm sleeping great after that), and that she should talk to herself, she did, and she fell asleep :)
Back at the blue pumpkin  I found the manager, I approached him, and asked him why it's impossible to have 2 flavours in one scoop? He smiled at me and said that it's possible! Yeeeeihhhhaaaa! Too bad though that we already had ice cream and I just ordered a salad :)
Had a dinner at the local place. It was so cheap and so good. I had noodles with veggies and seafood for $1.25 that you have to wonder what's the point of all the overpriced Western restaurants, of course the next day I missed pizza and enjoyed it in a quite posh Italian trattoria with a glass of white wine :) Had to hold myself from ordering a tiramisu ... that's what the Western restaurants are for :)
We went hunting for cute guys, but couldn't find any, instead we found annoying tuk-tuk drivers who in the tuk-tuk position with hunching back and hands on the imaginary wheel were running around us in circles with their right hand rotating as in giving more gas and offering us tuk-tuk, marijuana and LSD.
I had long island ice tea for our good bye drink, waited for 2 am till Penny's pick up came, and couldn't fall asleep till the rest of night. I always forget how sensitive I am to caffeine and that I shouldn't drink coffee or coke after 3 pm. I couldn't fall asleep on the bus either, even though I was outstretched on the whole back row :(
Back in Phnom Phen, I need to pick up my passport from the Thai embassy. I tell the tuk-tuk driver that I need to go to the embassy and then a guest house. He tells me $8. I tell him $4. Ok, he says, $6 is the last price. I tell him $4. He says that the king died, and the area is closed, and that he has to go all the way around and ... I interrupt him ... yes, I understand, I give you 4 dollars! (which is too much anyway). They talk between themselves. Ok! The pick up time in the embassy was between 3-4pm. I get there at 3:20, there are people waiting and the counter is empty. My suitcase is in the tuk-tuk because I thought it would be half a minute to pick it up. The time goes by, I'm pacing back and forth, occasionally looking out the window to see if he's still there. An HOUR later, the agent unceremoniously comes out, takes his time to sort the passports and without looking at you takes the slip and hands you the passport. The guy in front of me didn't get the visa, and I started to feel nervous. I didn't have any documents which were required for it, but I got it, Yeeii :) We went to the guesthouse, the driver took my suitcase out of the tuk-tuk and didn't say a word, he didn't even mention that he had to wait for me for an hour. I gave him $6 and thanked him very much for waiting. He didn't have enough words to express his happiness :) "Where are you from?" he asked me ... from Canada I smiled at him :)
I've been sitting in the blue pumpkin for a while now waiting for my bus having a yummy blueberry cheesecake and writing this blog. I'm looking around and I see a lot of couples who come together and barely say a word to each other. They look around, through the window, looking everywhere except at the other person. There would be moments where they'll have a fake smile and be back to being bored. Why do people do it? They should either fix the relationship, find something that they both can be passionate about, or break up, or at least that what I would do. Life is too precious to share it with someone who you don't connect with.


  1. Yana
    The amount of human effort and time to build these buildings
    must have been enormous.
    Another wonderful story.


  2. Great info.I loved Siem Reap when I was there, such a lovely city.

  3. Damn, I wanna see the tomb raider temple! Just how big was that spider by the way?