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Siem Reap, Cambodia — December 2006/January 2007

February 2nd, 2007

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At the end of December, while my mother and sisters were still in Singapore after the wedding they joined Candice and I on a quick trip to Siem Reap [wikipedia.org] in Cambodia to see the temples of Angkor [wikipedia.org].

With only four days in Cambodia we set off for the temples as soon as we checked into the hotel in Siem Reap. We rented two drivers of what my guide book calls Remorque-moto’s but which everyone in Siem Reap called tuk-tuk’s. They are not like the tuk-tuks [wikipedia.org] in Bangkok, they are really 100cc motorcycles with a two wheel carriage attached. We overpaid the drivers but they were very knowledgeable and drove us around from temple to temple and around Siem Reap for four days, all days. All in all a very nice way to see the temples except for the dust. Cambodia has a lot of dust. All the socks I took have turned a permanent shade of Cambodian dirt tan.

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The Angkor Archaeological Park covers some 400 square kilometers and there are hundreds of temples so the four days we spent in Siem Reap was no were near enough time. But we did manage to cover most of the big sites. The best temples were Bayon [wikipedia.org], Ta Prohm [wikipedia.org], Banteay Srei [wikipedia.org] and of course Angkor Wat [wikipedia.org].

After the initial shock of the scale of Angkor wares off it is a bit sad to see the state many of the temples are in, not because of time but because of looting funded by rich art collectors. Many of the temples under restoration or already restored have lost a lot of their statues and reliefs and I can only imagine how much worse the temples outside the protection of the Angkor officials are.

I’ve wanted to visit Angkor since seeing the iconic photos of Ta Prohm and it’s trees. Today most of the trees that sparked my imagination are dead, though their roots still strangle the very bricks of the temple. I am glad I made it to Angkor now and I wish I could have been there some time ago. Since the number of tourist is increasing every year I expect it will not be long before Angkor is a sterile boardwalk roped off tour. The number of tour groups for Japan, China and Korea on the weekend was staggering — the main temples were packed shoulder to shoulder. Not as many Americans, Australian or Europeans. It would be better for the temples if the tourist were confined to board walks. I saw a group of Chinese men use the side of one temple as a piss wall — even though Angkor has gone out of it’s way to have the best public toilets in Southeast Asia. The Chinese nuevo riche are uncultured, rude, disgusting and can ruin any vacation. 5000 years of civilization does not show, a pity what Mao did to them.

The Chinese aside I hope that I can make it back to Angkor again. I am a bit disappointed in some of the photos — and the lack of photos of some temples. A nice trip but too short.

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