Friday, May 16, 2014

Arrival in Cambodia & Ruins of Preah Khan

We flew from Bangkok DKK to Siam Reap on Air Asia, it's a quick one hour flight.  Arrival in Cambodia is pretty straight forward.  Once off the plane you are shuttled into a line where you will purchase your tourist visa ($20/person) and hand over your travel documents. The currency is the US dollar and they accept cash only.  No worries if you haven't brought any, they have an ATM right as you enter the building.
Preah Khan ruins
Once through immigration, if you haven't made arrangements to be picked up, you are steered out a door where a line of taxi's await.  This is all well orchestrated.  You wait in line for your turn then pay a man sitting behind a desk $7 and he assigns you a taxi.  That driver will take you to your hotel and then offer himself up to be your driver while you are in Cambodia.  These "official" drivers are licensed and should offer you a paper with their taxi id# so if you forget anything in the car you can get it back.  We paid our driver $15 for the half day excursion to Angkor Wat, $30 for the full day Small Tour Circuit and $40 for the full day Grand Tour Circuit.  As I mentioned earlier, this was so convenient.  The drivers arrived as scheduled and were always "there" when we finished with our tours of ruins.  They speak English and were very helpful.
We stayed in the Apsara Centrepole Hotel just off of Pub St. in Siem Reap.  I have to give this small hotel an A for effort, our wish was their command!  The staff was accommodating at every turn.  Upon arrival they greeted us with a cool beverage and sticky rice under a banana shaped cone.  They took care of our laundry needs and moved us to another room at check out to accommodate our later flight.  The hotel is convenient to restaurants, souvenir shopping and a grocery store.
What a fun way to be welcomed to the hotel!  
Pub street becomes lively after dark.  It's a fun place to wander after a day of sight seeing.  With restaurants, clubs, souvenir shops and massage parlors there is plenty to keep you busy.   Our girls preferred the pool, but we did get some shopping in.  One thing to be aware of though are the beggar children.  It is sad and disappointing to see these young children in such circumstances, but be aware that at least in some cases, they are running a scam.  One child holding a baby on his back came up to my husband and said he didn't need money, but wanted a meal.  He then took us to a convenience store and handed us a $27 can of baby formula.  This is a well known scam.  When my husband balked, the child said, "okay, okay the smaller can."  Do what you will, but if you have a bleeding heart I would carry a stack of small bills to hand out.
Children are used to sell souvenirs at the temples.  They know just enough English to impress you with words like "Obama is the President and Washington DC is the capital."  They will follow and implore you for a sale.  I suppose it is a brilliant strategy because it is infinitely more difficult to tell a child no than an adult, but I didn't like it.  A child no more than 3 walked up to me with postcards in hand saying, " one dollar, one dollar." Another child followed us down the entire causeway of the photo below begging us to buy her flute--going so far as to offer 5 for a dollar.
You can not be unaffected when you see what they have and have not. I struggled with the question, do I just give because I can or in giving am I perpetuating a social problem?  I will leave it up to the individual to determine.  My husband takes what we call the "King Benjamin" approach.
Turing our attention now on the ruins of Preah Khan--we visited these in the afternoon and we actually had this place mostly to ourselves. It has been left mostly unrestored.  Walking through fields of tumbled stone with trees growing in, on and around is so....other worldly.  I loved it!
In my last post I mentioned the gods churning the mystic sea of milk to release the nectar of immoral life.  This approach to the gate is a sculptural presentation of that idea.  On one side there are gods and on the other devils.  They worked together for a time until...I didn't quite understand the rest of the story and because I am so unfamiliar with Hindu mythology, I find it complicated.

 Here is a closer picture of what looks to be tug of war, but is the churning of the sea of milk.


 This is a local rocking chair, swing and seat.








I want you to notice a couple of things in this photograph. First the line of sight is perfect.  In every building we toured through the doors are in perfect alignment.  Secondly, that thing that looks like a mortar and pestle is a sacred alter representing the male and female.  Notice how nicely they fit together.












These ladies were cutting the grass with these knives.  They were very sweet to oblige my taking their picture.





These darling girls tried to convince me to buy the smoked snails this man was selling.  No thanks!  Which got me thinking.  I turn up my nose at the food the earth as provided these people, but I am happy to stuff my body full of chemically enhanced garbage.




 As I've said before, the ruins are fantastic!

3 comments:

  1. Now THIS is an amaaaaazing adventure! I am green with envy! Gorgeous shots.

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    1. Thank you, it was truly a dream come true! Now if I can just get to the Pyramids, Terra Cotta Soldiers and Petra I think I'll be finished.

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  2. Wow, always so amazing with not only the photographs but also the descriptions that add great context. I'm not one much for just perusing scenic pictures, but with your commentary it's great. Thanks for sharing!

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