Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Bunking off to Cambodia and Laos this summer was the best idea that I’ve ever come up with. We stayed in Siem Reap for 4 days, and I couldn’t have asked for a better vacation. The main draw of Siem Reap is, of course, Angkor Wat. It’s the biggest, grandest, best preserved temple of them all and it certainly commands some respect. It used to be a state temple built for King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. Now it’s a collection of ruins slowly being swallowed bit by bit into the jungle. The funny thing is that it probably looks a lot better ruined than it did when it was new. It is an intricately carved stone relic entangled with massive trees whose roots bind and strengthen the entire structure, and the effect is rather beguiling.

The ancientness of the temples is hard to wrap your head around. It feels like you’re on some sort of elaborate movie set and nothing is real. It was hard to take it all in. Oddly enough, the best thing I can compare it to is the Vatican museum, where everything is so intricate and detailed and expansive that your eyes are over-saturated with awesomeness and you don’t know quite where to look, so you just stand there with your mouth open while street-kids root around unnoticed for valuables in your fanny-pack.

Each temple had its own draw, but I’ll spare you my take on each of them and instead offer you a couple pictures of each.

The above shot was taken while walking around on a ledge along the outer wall of the Angkor building. One of the best things about these temples is that they are 100% permissive to wandering. You can climb all over everything and poke around in tiny passageways and no one really cares. A stark contrast to other, decidedly less easy-going relic sites; try Googling “I got yelled at at the Parthenon” and see what comes up. (Consequently, “why are Greeks so angry” is a popular Google search as well.)

The downside was that for every temple you visited, there was a garrison of souvenir merchants and their children all waiting to harangue you into buying something. It was like Adam and I were walking piñatas full of money and if they shouted at us long enough we would explode and they could gather up all our precious money-guts. “Hey Lady, you want buy something? Look, you buy? Best price for you!” Sometimes the handicraft women would shove something into your hands and then refuse to take it back, hoping you’d feel obliged to pay for it. Lucky for me, having relented possession of all our collective monies to The Boyfriend, I escaped scot free by callously pointing at his pockets and deflecting their attentions onto him, while triumphantly scuttling away. I believe it was afterward that I paused to consider my lowly moral state.

Anyway, as for non-temple related activity, we chartered a boat to the floating village of Kompong Luong, which is a whole community of people who have built their homes and businesses on a massive lake. They have everything they could want: floating restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, hospitals, karaoke bars, you name it. At one point we saw a man in a motorboat casually towing his entire house behind him.

We went to the floating school and donated some floating food to the floating children:

We also went for some exotic Cambodian BBQ where we tried some snake, crocodile, and ostrich. They tasted like pork, chicken, and beef respectively. Afterwards we retired to our hotel and watched HBO, as we are deprived of American television as of late and were suffering from a raging case of meat sweats.

And then it was off to Laos…

I’ve set up a Flickr account so click here if you’re interested in more photo-ey goodness of the trip.

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