We have had an interesting first few days in Cambodia! We have started in Siem Reap which gives us a contradicting first impression of the country. First we arrived at a new and modern airport with plenty of immigration and customs officers to ensure that it was a quick and painless process organising visas. Then we exited the airport and found two lovely friendly Cambodian guys who put our huge backpacks on the front of their scooters and with us at the back we zig zagged our way through the busy streets to our hotel. On the way we went past dozens of top end hotels. Even the place that we are staying at for $14 is reasonably flash! Once settled we went to explore our home for the next 4 days and wondered past shops selling labels like Dolchi and Gucci (real for once), jewellery, gelatto, Italian, French, and many many more types of food (so far we have had Cambodian, Italian, and Mexican!). This is to basically to cater for the huge amount of tourists who come each year (and now its the low season - would hate to see it during the high season!). We decided to have our first meal somewhere slightly authentic so chose a cheap Cambodian restaurant. We weren't there for more than 2 minutes when a young boy arrived with a happy "hello". "Would you like to buy some postcards,I give you a good price..." etc etc, just the usual. but after we no thanks, he changed tactic and asked where we were from. after we told him he said, Ï know the capital of NZ is Wellington, but i also know that it is not the largest city. the largest city is Auckland. Ï know that the population of NZ is 4 million minus 2. Do you know why? Because you are here.
But I also know that your Prime Minister is called Helen Clark and even though she looks like a man she is actually a woman" How can you say no to that. So we bought the postcards from what we though was this charming young lad.
Anyone who has been to Cambodia is probably laughing at us. This is the speech that a thousand Cambodian kids give but of course changing details slightly depending on where you live. Still out of all the speeches we heard his was the best!
Besides all the fancy shops and restaurants catering for the tourists there is a lot of poverty here. Many many mine victims come to Siem Reap and many many of them are working, selling books (mostly true stories about Pol Pot and the Angkar rouge - we have bought two and I am 3/4 the way through the first - extremely heartbreaking and frightening to think it only ended 10 years ago), some are in bands playing tradtional cambodian instruments, busking and selling CD's but many still beg on the streets. We are trying to remember to always keep small notes with us because we can't bear to go past and give nothing.
Our happy scooter guys end up becoming our drivers during the next two days that we spent at Angkor Wat. We enjoyed the two days looking at all of the ancient temples along with the other few thousand tourists and touts literally running to you the second you got off yur scooter or out of your tuktuk or whatever you were travelling in. "You buy postcard/book/drink/breakfast/lunch/bracelets............."
Chris has asked me in advance to forgive him when he finally loses it with a small child.
In Laos our most used words were "Sabaidee - hello", here they are""no thank you".
I'm sure we sound pretty selfish after all that Cambodia has been through but we aren't all that bad. We are pretty sure that it wasn't a scam when we bough a child some milk powder for his child and then gave him the change (around $40 which isn't a lot to us but goes a hellofa long way here). We are just the tiniest suspicious that he wanted to take me to a special shop instead of the supermarket we were right outside at the time and then chris remembering a guy coming up to him saying ÿou again, your always here". Scam or not, I'd rather be happy knowing the baby is not going hungry although it is likely that the containers of milk powder I bough are back on the shelf in his mothers shop!
Just in case this is sounding bitter at all WE LOVE CAMBODIA!!!
The people are very very friendly. for instance my scooter guy - Phat - was the smiliest guy you could ever meet. He smiled at everything and everyone and was so happy to be paid his mere $30 for the two day trip!
Here are some photos from our time here so far:
A traditional dish - Amok curry made with coconut milk - very very tasty!
Phat on the left and Say on the right - our two happy drivers
One of the gods up the path leading to Angkor Thom (there were demons on the right side).
Inside the entrance of Angkor Thom
One of the many faces carved into the main temple called Bayon at Angkor Thom.
Trying to be artistic
Here are some of the statues and wall carvings we saw:
On our second day we were collected from our hotel at 5am so that we could watch the beautiful sunrise over Angkor Wat:
These children had a different speech lined up "Please buy some postcards, 10 for $1. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and then proceeded to count to 10 in French and a few other languages I didn't catch or was trying to ignore. Then they spotted the island dancing girl on my T-shirt and we practiced some moves together before they continued on their way to the next lot of tourists.
Other than Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom (the largest and youngest temples) we saw many many more.
On our second day we left to watch the sunset (although it was cloudy and had been pouring down so we gave up) and these random people who we had not seen or met before wanted to take a picture of us with them. so here it is! (Random)
Tomorrow we are taking a boat to a town called Battambong, Central Cambodia. I'm not sure what there is to do there but the boat trip is supposed to be beautiful!