This post is going to be difficult to write (and probably long). I’ll also break it up by temples or whatever. I’m fairly upset but I don’t want that to diminish my enthusiasm for the temples or the majesty of them.
Angkor Wat Part II
We actually visited Angkor Wat for the second time on April 10th, but I’m just getting around to writing about it now.
Jay, who is awesome, and I were able to get more out of our experience the second time. We actually looked up this time to see the ceilings are prone to the vast level of detail the architects put into every inch of this place. Every inch of every stone seems to have an etching or carving put into it and the craftsmanship that went into these are astounding.
We quickly return to where we left last time; the lineup to the top of the temple, Bakan. Unfortunately the dress code is stricter than an exclusive nightclub premiere so Jay isn’t allowed in. She’s wearing shorts that don’t cover her knees. Even a lady that was wearing an ankle long dress got turned away because it was a wrap and not an actual dress. I don’t know what they think she’ll do – get to the top, take off her wrap and wipe her bare knees over everything? Oh well, their country, their rules.
Wooden stairs lead you to the top and they’re steep – almost vertical. However, they’re not as steep as the original stone steps they’ve been built over. If you have vertigo, fear of heights, a heart condition, or you just hate exercise, temples aren’t for you. When I got to the top, the heavier woman beside me just moved to the side, sat, and panted. They only give you fifteen minutes up here, so I think I know what she spent her time doing.
What’s worthwhile up here is the view. I tried imagining myself in the time people lived here, looking out over a kingdom or seeing armies march on me. Then I imagined I was a servant and how much resentment I’d have bringing some dude at the top of all these steps soup. I’d definitely be on the inside of a coup against the soup dude.
The details here aren’t nearly as intricate as the ones below. Probably because the people doing the etchings said a big pile of ‘fuck no’ when they were told to climb the steps to the top. Also what I’ve noticed in all the temples, the little statues are all missing heads. We decide it’s probably blasphemous to take a picture with my head as a replacement, so we leave.
This is the place I was stoked about. The abandoned city with temples inside. I was expecting more of a Roman vibe from National Geographic where nature has started talking over. This place looks like a park that’s been maintained, setup for tourists, with some temples. The Six Flags of temples.
The first one we go to is Bayon and it’s probably my favorite. The temple itself looks like an abandoned city. There’s tons of walkways, little nooks and crannies and some destruction and decay. For some reason, I dig on the temples that look like you can get lost in them. It’s characterized by the giant faces in the pillars.
There’s still an active prayer room, which we didn’t go in as neither of us wanted to take off our shoes. I can only imagine the odor in there after walking all day in the sun. I have a fairly good sense of direction, but I got turned around a couple times in here.
We leave and head over to…
The thing about these temples is they love an entrance. With the exception of Bayon, every temple has at least a hundred yard path leading up to it. I’m convinced that putting that long of a walkway up to anything will make it look majestic. I’m going to buy acres of land just so I can make a walkway that leads to my shanty.
After this long walkway we get to the temple where Jay is turned away again. She really didn’t miss much, just a view again. You walk around the square of the outside, go to the next level, walk around a smaller square, then go back down the steep stairs to ground level.
I go and collect Jay from the front and bring her to the rear of the temple because the signs ‘way of visit’ say to go that way. This is where things get confusing because ‘way of visit’ is a forest.
We go through a cement archway where and like a troll living under a bridge, a teenager comes out asking for money. We continue along the forest, thinking we may have found the temple of the Leper King along the way.
Eventually we make it out to the parking lot where we’re instantly bombarded by people trying to sell us everything – food, drinks, postcards, magnets, pants. The pants would’ve come in handy at the entrance to the temples, not at the end.
We find Yaaa and call it a day and arrange for the day after tomorrow to finish the temples off. We need a day to laze.
We’re on the tuk tuk for about an hour going to this one. It’s ruin-y, which I like, and all the etchings make this one Jay’s favorite. There’s a long walkway (of course there is).
I took my favorite picture here, which is two guys with extremely long lenses, taking a picture, standing in the exact same pose. I was quite proud of myself.
This temple also lets us out in the rear where you are greeted by children who pester you to buy ten postcards for a dollar. I’m not even exaggerating when I say one walked behind me for fifteen minutes as we made our way back to the front to meet Yaaa. “One dollaaaaaaa.”
We take the long ride back to Ta Prohm which is the Tomb Raider temple. Along the way we get quite the scenic tour. Many art shops, food shops, and little flea markets are set up along the roadside. We also get to see Cambodia outside of the tourist town, and it’s somewhat weird and disparaging.
The houses out here are all the exact same. They look fairly nice, but right next to one of these nice houses is a derelict shack that also looks like a home.
This would’ve been my favorite temple if it weren’t for all the people. It’s a temple with giant trees growing through it, almost as if Mother Nature was like “you think so buddy?”
These aren’t normal trees. I really mean giant. You can fit quite a few people inside the trunk of these trees. You immediately get a sense of this when you first come upon the temple from the really long dirt path that brings you to it. You also get an immediate sense of the decay.
Again, this is almost a city upon itself. There are many passages, nooks, and crannies to get lost in. That’s why it would have been my favorite if not for the people.
Yes, I know it’s a tourist spot and people are to be expected. Here’s the thing though: the passages are narrow, the door frames low, so maybe getting your tour group of twenty people to stop here isn’t the best idea. I don’t mean at the temple, I mean in these tiny hallways that can barely hold two people shoulder to shoulder. Now everyone has to wait while you tell your group the importance of limestone.
I’m here to see some rad things too, but I can’t when you stop the group every five feet and I’m less inclined to see something when all I’m looking for is a way to get around the small platoon of tourists you string along on every word you say.
Tours and tour-groups are fine, but in a place like this, limit the people to four to six. Keep people moving.
That being said, the place is really rad. Plenty of ruin. Plenty of seeing nature dominating. Plenty of areas to explore off the beaten path.
We follow ‘way of exit’ and are led out. Again, harassed by vendors selling their wares. We break and buy water before going back through the temple to the way we came in, where our ride is.
The route we take is along the outer wall. We came in the east entrance, went out the west, and now must return to the east. Going back along the outer edge took no time at all, making it seem quite bigger while you were inside.
As soon as we leave the archway, we see children and hundreds of vendors. We lock eyes and they rush us. Three people offer to sell me water even though I’m holding a bottle. A child follows me to the tuk tuk trying to sell me a shirt. I go from ‘no thank you’ to just a flat and firm ‘no.’ She doesn’t stop when I climb into the tuk tuk. She doesn’t stop even when we’re driving away.
I feel dirty.
When we originally met Yaaa at the airport and tried to make arrangements with him to be our transportation while we’re here, he said if we book two days with him, our third day is free. Today, our third day, he charged us twenty-four dollars. The past two trips have been fifteen. The difference in price today is because we went further.
I feel dirtier.
Again, yes, I’m a tourist. I realize they want money. My money. I originally hail from a city beside Niagara Falls, one of, if not THE, biggest tourist hotspot in Canada. I get tourism. I have never felt more like a dollar sign in my life, and I’ve been to a few strip clubs.
There were a few days here when I didn’t mind Cambodia. I didn’t like it at first, then it grew on me, but after today I’m done with it.
With the first set of kids that approached us in Buphuon, I tried to be nice and polite. They wouldn’t take no for an answer so I tried to talk to them. Probably naiveté on my part that they’d understand more than “one dollaaaaaa,” but they persisted. Jay’s advice was to just say no and ignore them. That doesn’t work either. They continue to follow you. Even following you while you’re in a tuk tuk driving away.
Jay wasn’t allowed in temples because her knees were showing. I think this has to do with a fear of sex, but honestly, in this heat, who the hell’s I thinking of sex? I was too hot to even scratch an itch, yet alone think about bumping uglies. If you can’t control yourself by the sight of knees, maybe religion isn’t your problem. But whatever, your joint, your rules. But if you deny someone access to somewhere because of your religion, isn’t it more insulting to have someone pedaling guidebooks and postcards on your holy land?
During our trip to Angkor Thom, there was a group of guys waiting in the forest area. They would try to befriend every single person that came across their path, then try to get you to give them money for ‘school.’ You’re twenty-five, what school are you going to?
Then there’s the constant barrage of children that approach your table while you’re eating. Seriously. Mid bite. And not just one. Expect to get propositioned by three to five.
When we came out of the Tomb Raider temple I saw all these kids start charging me, and I wanted to just duck back into the temple where they would leave me alone. I just couldn’t deal anymore. If I could just say no and they would go away, it would be different. But they harass you. And follow you. You want to give them a dollar so they leave you alone, and maybe that’s what people do, and maybe that’s why they don’t take no for an answer.
It’s honestly close to not being worth it to go to the temples and have to deal with this.
The last time we went we asked Yaaa about the country, money, when they started dealing in American dollars etc. Apparently it was sometime around ’93 and due to all the armies coming in here. That’s his explanation anyway, I can’t be bothered to look it up.
He said something like “we don’t have money like you do.” I guess that line could show the attitude of Siem Reap.
One of the last things we have is money. Our bank accounts aren’t suffering from a small leak here, it’s closer to a dam breaking. We didn’t have much money when we embarked on this trip. Dealing with bank fees and exchange rates are decimating us.
Then there’s the issue of paying double for things the locals pay half, or nothing, for. The temples are free for locals. That sounds fair. Nope.
When I lived in Toronto I never went to the CN Tower because I couldn’t afford it. Can you imagine the outrage of charging a Jamaican, or Australian, double for anything in Canada? “Sir, I see you’re Carribean, or Asian or Indian, do you have proof of citizenship? If not, that will be more money.” That just wouldn’t fly.
Yaaa dropped us off at the hotel today and tried to get us to book another day with him. When we said we would book through the hotel, he kept persisting, kept trying. That’s enough of you Yaaa. I don’t believe you have three kids anymore. I think you made it up to get a bigger tip. And if you do, go spend time with them and stop hanging out with your buddies beside our hotel. Yeah, we’ve seen Yaaa every night the past three nights outside of our hotel.
I can’t help but feel everything is a scam here and everyone is just after your money. It’s hard to relax and enjoy the moment and appreciate what you’re seeing and where you are when there are people constantly around you trying to get your attention, and then your money. If we decided to live here I can’t imagine that changing. I’m even convinced there’s different menus for locals and outsiders.
Tomorrow night is their New Years, so we’re staying for that, just to see what it’s like. Based on the setups we’ve seen around, it looks like it will be a wild party. Then we go south, maybe even to Vietnam.
There’s tourism in Thailand too, but the people are nicer and seemed more genuine. We weren’t harassed nearly as much and we felt welcomed there.
The US dollar is very annoying here, like I said, and maybe that’s what’s ruining their economy. They can’t seem to get rid of their own currency fast enough.