This post could alternatively be named “Indiana Jones and the temple of sunburn, sweat, and sales-children.”
I’ve spent the last two days climbing up, around, and through, all of the temples around Angkor Wat. (Click the link for your history lesson – otherwise just know that it’s a series of temples that took well over 1000 years to build, and Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world.)
Years ago I traveled through Italy. I saw so many old churches that I never wanted to look at an old church again. Sadly, Angkor Wat left me with a similar feeling. Or as they say here, “Same same but different”. It’s really quite a shame, but after the 15th temple of moss covered stones and large pointy spires that, well…used to be spires, everything starts to look similar. Some of the most impressive sights of the site were actually the trees that have been growing for well over 1000 years. A few temple shots are below:
Something else you need to know about the area – it’s hot! By 10am it’s in the 90s here, and the only reprieve that you may find is in the shade filled temples that unfortunately begin to bake like the inside of an oven once the sun really starts to shine. There is no shame in being completely covered in sweat by 9 or 10am here. You should bring water, but if you don’t, there are a TON of people who are willing to sell it to you (and books, scarves, pants, shirts, coconuts, pineapples, mangos, paintings, and probably a few other things I missed).
In fact, if there is one specific memory I’m going to leave Siem Reap and Ankgor Wat with, it will be that of the vulturous children who pounce on every single human being who walks near them. “Sir you want cold drink!?” “Sir you buy from me.” Sir this, Sir that. God help you if you actually DO buy something, because once the children see that you’re spending money, you’ll have a half-dozen pouty faces grabbing onto your legs and shirt in no time. Yes – did I forget to mention that they are all children? In Sihanoukville I mentioned the constant need to swat flies; the exact same need to swat things away came back to me at each one of the temples. Below are a few pictures of the vultures. (I should mention that I’m not trying to be unsympathetic to their situation – these children and their sales are most likely the lifeblood of their family income. I wouldn’t be surprised if these children too, once they hit a certain age are faced with the unfortunate situation of selling books and t-shirts, or selling themselves. It’s just unfortunate that they are able to severely impact an experience that specifically brings people to the country of Cambodia.)
Lastly, of all the pictures I took during my two days around the temples, two of my favorites ended up being of things not related to the temples at all. The first is a small child I found gathering up mostly smoked cigarettes and then lighting them back up to smoke them. The second is of some random child just sitting in a window of an old temple. The picture of the woman painting is actually quite cool too, but I can’t quite figure out the best way to crop the picture to show the scale of the tree and the detail of the work she’s doing. In general, this was a good place to do some people watching.