A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia

Cambodia’s Future Begins Today

sunny 34 °C

Confession time – Angkor Wat was actually bursting with tourists when we visited…
large_P1180523.jpg
But we have perfected ways of keeping them out of the picture as we explained in our blog post from Turkey, dated 12.10.2011, titled Confessions of a Devious Photographer.

Because Angkor Wat is such a draw it also attracts an army of locals hoping to profit from the visitors and there is no shortage of souvenirs and services on offer. The touts are accompanied by hordes of young children, especially doe-eyed little girls, who have learned their sales pitch in many languages and memorized the capitals and heads of state of numerous countries. Mention Canada and some adorable 5 year old kid will immediately tell you that Ottawa is the capital and Harper is the P.M. (This is impressive - eighty percent of Canadian 5 year olds, and a fair chunk of adult Canucks, wouldn’t know that). And if you still refuse to buy their postcards or trinkets the children will promise to go to school the very next day if you give them a dollar. We didn’t buy their trinkets, or their story, but they are poor people in a poor country. Many of them live in squalor on stilt houses like this…
P1180667.jpg
These riverside homes under the coconut and banana palms may look exotic, but the murky water is a sewer and mosquito breeding ground. Dengue fever and malaria are rampant in this seeming paradise...
P1180658.jpg
The ruined city of Angkor was one of the world’s largest urban conurbations in the 12th /13th centuries, but internecine wars and invasions led to its eventual downfall and abandonment. Tribal, religious and geo-political wars have blighted the world for centuries, and we have seen the battle scars in places like Kosovo and Vietnam, but nowhere have the wounds been so close to the surface as in Cambodia. Siem Reap may be a bustling city of neon lights and cut-price bars but it has a dark side: amongst the throngs of western backpackers and well-healed tourists, dozens, (probably hundreds), of paraplegic Cambodians scrape a living by playing music, selling books and trinkets, or outright begging. We refuse to exploit the plight of suffering people by photographing them, so here’s a happy picture of a flock of egrets amidst the lotus blossoms at Tonle Sap lake…
large_P1180652.jpg
Tonle Sap lake is home to countless fishermen and their families who live in ramshackle floating villages along its banks. It looks quaint from a distance…
P1180565.jpg
P1180588.jpg
But it’s not pretty up close…
large_P1180626.jpg
In the early 1970s Nixon and Kissinger ordered the bombing of Cambodia in a desperate, and secret, bid to stop the Vietcong from resupplying their troops in Vietnam. The Americans dropped over a hundred thousand tons of bombs and mines on the unsuspecting Cambodians, killing eighty thousand and wounding countless others. And then came the real tragedy: the communist Khmer Rouge, under the paranoid dictator Pol Pot, murdered between two and three million intellectuals, took Cambodia back to the stone-age, and left the country littered with millions of landmines. The legacy of this reign of terror can be seen today in the limbless and blind trying to eke out an existence on the streets of Siem Reap. But the terror has also left thousands of orphans, many sexually abused and suffering from HIV/Aids, and we visited an orphanage in Siem Reap where we were very impressed by the care and education given to the children. Here they are performing a scene from the Ramayana…
P1180749.jpg
We always donate to really worthy causes that we come across on our travels and this orphanage in Siem Reap is one of the most worthy we have ever encountered. It is entirely free of religious or government affiliation and every dollar donated goes directly to helping the children. Please take a look at their website www.acodo.org and see how you can help these orphans this Christmas. With your help the children of Cambodia can look forward to a brighter future.

Posted by Hawkson 06:21 Archived in Cambodia Comments (4)

If It’s Tuesday - It Must Be Cambodia

sunny 34 °C

We’re on a bit of a package tour at present: Hong Kong on Sunday; Bangkok on Monday and now we’re in the ancient Khmer Kingdom of Cambodia to visit the historic temple of Angkor Wat. Here’s a glimpse of the magnificent monolith to whet your appetite…
large_P1180419.jpg
We nearly visited four years ago when we were in this neck of Indochina’s jungles but some hack travel writer, who had obviously never travelled further than the end of Brighton pier, wrote in The Times’ Travel Section that anyone who had experienced Borobudur in Indonesia could more wisely spend their money on a crate of ice-cold Guinness in the Irish Pub in Bangkok than spend 11 hours in a mini-bus on the road to Cambodia. Oh. He of little knowledge! We have been to Borobudur, but we’re not Guinness fans and our friends Keith and Helen who were at Angkor just two weeks ago said it was a “Wow!” So here's Sheila together with our guide and tuk-tuk driver, Mr. Wan...
P1180461.jpg
Granted the stone temples at Borobudur and Angkor Wat are of similar age and religious persuasion, but that’s where the similarity ends. Borobudur has been knocked down and rebuilt so many times that hardly a stone has been left unturned, whereas much of Angkor is still in the wonderful state of decay you might expect after eight hundred years in the tropics. Many of the temples are only held together by enormous tentacles of giant fig trees…
P1180530.jpg
Other temples, including the mind-blowingly enormous Angkor Wat itself, have been restored, and even rebuilt, by a number of foreign countries including France, Japan and Germany. Here’s another view of the main temple...
large_P1180395.jpg
Understandably, Angkor Wat is one of Southeast Asia’s most visited tourist attractions and we had heard that the place can be an absolute zoo at this time of the year. So imagine our surprise when the only sounds we heard were the calls of tropical birds, the screeches of cicadas, and the whoops of monkeys, and there wasn’t a tourist in sight. Check it out for yourself…
P1180437.jpg
Can you spot a tourist anywhere here?
P1180479.jpg
Or here at the Lolei...
large_P1180388.jpg
What about here at the Bayon...
P1180507.jpg

Either we have bought a camera that simply doesn’t like people or we had the whole place to ourselves under a perfect blue sky for six hours. What do you think?
Either way - take no notice of The Times. Whatever your travel plans, don't miss the incredible ruins of Angkor Wat, (and try to get here before the tourists come back), because it is absolutely impossible to capture the grandeur and splendour of this wonderful place in a photograph - but we tried...
large_P1180410.jpg

Posted by Hawkson 00:24 Archived in Cambodia Tagged angkor wat Comments (5)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]