More Temples, More Phnom Penh

Angkor Temples, round 2

On the 16th I had my second go at Angkor wat, with much greater sucess as my antibiotics seemed to be doing the trick.. so I went and saw the remaining temples I had missed the first time... mostly similar to what I'd seen already, I like east Mabon - had nice elephants - and Tah Prohm is a gorgeous temple that the surrounding jungle has overwhelmed.. they've (who ever "they" are... probably the "man") even filmed a scene in tomb raider there... but don't let that put you off.

I had fun with my driver who seemed to be obsessed with me eating "at the temple" - in particular where we ate on my first day - no doubt there's some kind of kick back in it for him - and he seemed annoyed when I denied him the pleasure, but by then I was kind of annoyed with him - too cocky and in your face, he tried to stop me even visiting one of the temples because it was "same same"... and it wasn't.

But I digress, so the temples were good... my visiting was rounded off by about 1pm, and then I headed back to Angkor wat after an extended lunch to catch sun down on the big one again - which afforded some nice people watching time - and a few conversations with the locals who seemed to find me curious - apparently Angkor wat has more stone in it then the great pyramids - I said "all of them?" - and they said "yes!" with chests that almost seemed puffed out. 

I haven't got a clue if it's true though ;o)

The unamed girl at Ta Keo

Though of course I couldn't visit Angkor without having a run in with the local street kids.. in this case a girl who I'd estimate at about 7 or 8 years old, with empeccable english considering she obviously wasn't attending school (though submersed in this archealogical pseudo amusement park for most of her life she was probably going to have a hard time not becoming multilingual). 

At any rate.. as I was skirting around Ta Keo the little girl approached almost on the verge of tears and asked for some food - I didn't have any food and she looked about to cry after I said as much, so I started chatting to her, as much to distract her as anything else. We headed around the base of the temple and suddenly her whole attitude changed and she ducked out of site from 3 children above, and signaled me to be quiet... I wandered up beside her and she said "bullies" - and wouldn't budge any further, and started sniffling - so I suggested to her that perhaps we could walk round the other side - her little face lit up and so we turned round.  On the way she played tour guide, as older boys in the area normally do to try and ensure you'll be guilted into giving them some money - but by this point I wasn't really sure of the little girls motivations... 

"This is limestone" she proclaimed, followed by "this is sandstone, it's better against rain" - she pointed to collapsed statues of nagas and snakes, she was pretty damn good actually. After a while we talked about her parents, mother dead (of course) and her father is a cripple from a mine accident and plays music at one of the other temples (mine victims play music for donations all around the angkor temples) - all a bit grim for a kid that should by all rights have been in school.

After a while we came to some steps, and she motioned up - "theres a buddah at the top, if you want to go have a look" - at which point she mumbled "money?" - and I replied "of course, when I come back down ok?"  (I find this is a good way to pick the greedy kids, as they wont trust you) and she smiled and seemed pretty happy at the thought and waved me goodbye.  So I clambered up and came back down 10 minutes later, she was hiding around another corner this time because the bullies had relocated.  I followed her along then she disappeared completely, so I fished my wallet out and starting grabbing all my low-order cambodian riel, till I had a fistfull, probably about $1 US - more then enough for some food and water - later on I caught site of her again and she walked up looking sheepish and whispered me to be quiet again, so I stood there and then casually tried to hand her the money I'd got out... and a wave of panic and anger flashed across her face, like I'd do her a mortal wound and she started weeping and pleading that riel was worth so little and that all she wanted was US dollars. 

At this point my charitable spirit left me and my critical re-evaluation of the situation kicked in, "are you sure you dont want it? I have no US dollars", she shook her head, so I started walking away.. after I had all but left the temple grounds I heard a whimpered "okay mister" from an alcove as she crouched out of site.. so I gave her the cash and tried to see what kind of facial expression she adopted - but it was just blank, like I no longer existed... as I got back on the tuk tuk I'm pretty sure I saw her chatting to all the "bullies".


And this is why I like watching people from a distance - up close it's hard to get any kind of focus, and it's also why my time spent exploring these temples isn't how I'd imagined it to be in my head before coming here.

Back to Phnom Penh

And so today I jumped the bus back to Phnom Penh.. it wasn't bad, I was greatful for my faltering sense of smell and fully charged I-Pod as I was seated next to a mum with bub of about 6 months and another girl of probably about 3 years of age.. The problem with alot of asia is that nappies are non existent - so when a baby shits, it's potentially rather... exposed.. as it was today, thankfully I managed to dodge it :) and drowned out the horrendous Hang Meas Karaoke VCD volume 59 (I mean 59, I can't believe there are at least 58 more of these... ugh!) which was playing on the T.V up front. 

When the bus stopped briefly at some unknown village I got to watch one of the local kids wander round with an empty Tora air pellets box over his head.. he even bumped into things... umm... random?

And this afternoon I plowed through another 100 pages of "No Logo".. which is a good read, until finally retiring to my room for a quick freshen up before dinner only to get a call on my cellphone from Mum & Dad.. which has been only the second call I've got since leaving NZ (the first being from Mark Skinner while in the Beijing airport) - must say I was quite surprised!

I'd almost forgotten how it works (the phone that is) - in fact the only reason I keep it charged now is because it acts as my alarm clock.

At any rate, I'm kicking it for a few days here and then will make my 3rd and final border crossing in south east
asia...into vietnam no less.. first stop, Saigon! 

Written on May 17, 2005