My Cambodian capers
Cambodia is a land of amazingly architectured temples, of nature at its most wonderfully photogenic, of charming children (until they start becoming pesky!) and citizens living in poverty and scorching midday sun!
My trip to Siem Reap was an enjoyable - although short - trip where I really had great fun.
The ancient temples were definitely the highlight of the trip. The famed Angkor Wat with it's towers resembling lotus buds is a must-go destination. There's this spot where you can take an amazing photo of the temple with its reflection in the moat.
The steps up to the main tower of Angkor Wat are perilously steep! To get to the main tower, you need to climb up these narrow steps that are about 70 degrees to the ground! No guard rails except for a rickety and thin metal railing on one side.One of my favourite temples was Ta Prohm where Tomb Raider 2 was filmed. It's basically a huge, sprawling temple complex that's been left in the same condition it was found- velvety green moss on the temple stones and overgrown with really HUGE trees, mostly fig or silk-cotton trees according to the local guidebook and Lonely Planet.
Ta Prohm- look at the huge roots of the tree! Took this pix with my phone !
Another very memorable temple was Bayon which had a distinctive structure of towers of smiling-faced Buddhas carved in 4 dimensions in stone.
The many smiling faces of Buddha
Bayon from afarThe following carvings are of Apsaras, celestial dancers of the king. They are reputed to be "sensual, an idealized and seductive female form" and also "daughter's of pleasure" where their function is to entertain Gods, men and heroes fallen in battle. Apsaras are a common theme appearing in bas-reliefs and motifs in most of the temples we visited. They were adorned with different head pieces, earrings, bracelets, outfits but were ALWAYS topless and well-endowed. Hehe. The real-life apsaras, which we managed to watch at a free performance in one of the restaurants (second pix, on the right)
Another recurring motif we saw in many temples was the linga. It's the cylindrical stone (phallus) in the picture below and supposed to symbolize the essence of Shiva in an "abstract, pure and vital" form. It's usually inserted into a pedestal- yoni, symbolizing the female principal. (Somehow, Dan Brown's Da Vincci Code comes to my mind here. All the symbology! =D) Oh, interesting fact, the linga and yoni was a symbol of fertility and water drank from these stuctures (some of them had a little drain where water could be collected) were supposed to make a women pregnant.
A funny incident happened while my friends and I were cruising along Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia. From afar, we saw something we thought was a boat that was about to capsize because it appeared to be half filled with muddy water.
Our surprise was great when the "boat" came nearer and it was actually this:
Little kids in basins! Paddling expertly and bailing water as they went along to keep from capsizing! This particular little girl appared to be about 7 or 8 but noticing her full set of big teeth, we realized she had to be at least 12 or 13. Malnutrition probably resulted in her stunted growth.
The kids crowded around the boat and in their high-pitched voices kept asking us for "One dollar, lady, one dollar, sir!" The boat driver said that that the kids were actually Vietnamese. Pitiful to see them, but we didn't give them anything for there were so many of them.
Kids also accoasted us at the temples. Really cute, precocious kids. Peddling trinkets like bracelets, postcards, silk scarves. They would follow us from the North Gate of a temple all the way to the South Gate, all the way chanting a standard mantra of "10 postcards for one dollar. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Please buy some postcards from me!" And they'd repeat the counting of one to ten in Mandarin, some even in Japanese!
I was impressed at first with their intelligence. After a few days though, when at each temple we went to we met with kids repeating the same practiced sales pitch, it started getting annoying.
This is another of their sales tactic which we found very funny indeed and became the oft repeated joke of our trip:Kid: "Lady, buy bracelet from me. 4 for one dollar."
Me: *shakes head* "Already bought. Thanks."
Kid: "Jie jie, ni hao piao liang ah!" (Big sister, you're really pretty!- the little flatterers!)
Me: *continues shaking head*
Kid: "Where you from?"
Kid:"Malaysia, capital Kuala Lumpur. I know, you buy from me?" *gives you doe-eyed look* (They also knew capitals of countries like China, Japan, Brunei. One kid stumped us by asking us the capital of Madagascar!)
Me: *unwillingly impressed* "No. Sorry."
Kid: "You know capital of the moon?"
Me: *surprised laughter* "No. What's the capital of the moon?"
Kid: "Capital of the moon is the sky. You don't know, have to buy from me!" (There's also a version of the answer- "Capital of the moon is, star"
Me: *speechless* -_-
All in all, it was one heck of a great trip. I'd recommend Cambodia to anyone who likes history, nature, is into photography, likes physical challenges or who loves their BEER!
Dirt cheap, beer! US 0.30 cents only, even cheaper than water!