Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 4: Siem Reap/Angkor Wat

**updated with photos**

If there's one thing Cambodia has a lot of, it's temples. Millions and billions of temples. Angkor Wat is the most famous (holy?) of the temple areas so that's where we spent the majority of our day, for the not-so-low price of $35 per person. This included air conditioned bus transport, private guide and entrance fee, complete with an entrance ticket with a beautiful picture of yourself on it, taken when you weren't looking. Beautiful indeed.

We went to 3 different temples: Angkor Wat, Bayon temple, and the temple where Angelina Jolie filmed Tomb Raider. I tried to keep interest the entire day, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but when every square inch of your body is literally dripping with sweat it's hard to remember exact details.

Angelina clearly is a source of pride for the Cambodian people, and that temple, while awesome, clearly is sacred ground since "a big Hollywood company" chose that location to film their sucky film. If I'm not mistaken Angelina picked up a Cambodian baby while she was here filming that. I'm contemplating a $1 souvenir fan, she collects children. Yowza!

I will add pictures when we get to a hotel with wifi. Our hotel in Phnom Penh "has wifi in the lobby" but their router is hosed and nobody can connect and I am NOT sticking my memory card into a public computer. I don't stick things where they don't belong!

Unrelated note: I want to see some wildlife! We were on MAJOR monkey search mode but apparently it was monkey strike in Cambodia day - so very, very sad! So help me God my trip will not be complete without seeing a monkey in the wild. We did see a big, scary spider, lots of geccos and Marv saw a huge lizard I wish I would have seen. Pics to come!

Two of our Brit tour mates, Laura & Adam (who totally looks like Charlie from Lost, by the way, they were in the tuk tuk picture with us), happened to make a major life commitment at Angkor Wat temple - they got engaged! Aww, how sweet and memorable is that? So everybody agreed that that night will be celebration night, complete with traditional Cambodian dance and not-so-traditional $7 towers of beer, containing 10 glasses each. YAY for Adam & Laura!

You know when you're walking down the mall or in Wal-Mart and run into someone you know from college and remember, "Hey, I know these people, they're awesome, let's go have a hug and be BFF's for the night!" Of course you do, it happens all the time.

Well, that happened to us. In freaking Cambodia! Thanks to the magic of Facebook we found our friends Jonas & Tatiana from our university days were traveling Asia, and happened to be heading to Siem Reap the same day that we were there.

What. Are. The. Freaking. Odds?! Craziness!

They checked into the same hotel that we're staying at (on our recommendation), and got the "important person executive suite" - which is an identical room to ours except it has an additional window since it's an exterior room.

It's good to be baller, is it not?

We hung with them for the evening; Jonas, Tatiana & I getting home at 2 a.m. but Marv being a champion and not home til 4. Makes for a comfortable 6 hour bus ride the next day!

Getting hounded for money, especially by kids, is a way of life around here. After a very short time I'm used to it and have no problem blowing them off, except this one incident that will haunt me for the rest of my days:

As we called it quits at the bar and headed home there was a barrage of children not selling us goods (which we've seen a million times already) but straight up begging for money. At 2 a.m.! On a Monday night! Should you not be in bed? Resting up for school? Naive of me, I know.

Now for the haunting-me-for-the-rest-of-my-days-business. There was a girl, about 5 years old (keep in mind I know jack about child development, but that girl was no more than 7 at the most) carrying an infant who couldn't have been more than 2 months old. 3 at the absolute most. She said, "Food? For us?""

I stopped dead in my tracks and my eyes filled up with tears. I put my hands up to my mouth and pretty much shouted "Oh my God that's an infant, a tiny f@$#ing infant!!!" and I was seconds away from losing it. The baby was so small and so helpless (sleeping, thankfully, I think) and was being held by a child begging for food. Nothing can prepare you for that kick in the gut.

Luckily another tour mate, Ashika, who has been around more of the world at 18 than I ever will (she turned 18, the minimum age for our tour, the day it began), quickly snapped me out of it and made me keep going sans breakdown. But I will never, ever get that sight out of my head. I know those kids are used as a tool by their parents, so I really hope that baby and that girl at least had food to eat at home. And I know logically that "donating" money would only continue the cycle; not do anything to relieve it.

Ugh, what an awful world.

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