|Ta Promh (we think)|
|Monks on Vacation|
|Farmer with Cool Tattoos|
|Our Cartoon Characters|
|Phnom Penh Central Market|
|Peeking Through The Tree Hole|
Our introduction to Cambodia started in its capital, Phnom Penh. After Vietnam it was not hard for us to like the place. The people were friendly, the food was good, and even the tuk tuk drivers accepted our desire to walk without the need of motorised transport and happily let us be on our way.
On our only full day in the city we made our way to the infamous S-21 Prison, used during the regime of the Khmer Rouge as a torture ground for pretty much anyone, and to the Killing Fields, the most high profile location of mass graves in the country, also from the time of the Khmer Rouge. It was sad visiting these places, with both of us debating whether the family bringing along their 10 year old was a good idea. We were both in agreement, however, that it is always important to visit these reminders of the worst elements of humanity, hopefully as an educative recap that genocide is wrong, which should be obvious really, but for some reason keeps happening anyway.
Genocide monuments aside we liked the city but not our hotel which did an extremely bad and very obvious job of going through one of our bags when we were out for the day. Bizarrely they did not seem concerned by our complaints. Rather than move hotels we decided to just pack up and move on to the only other place of interest for us in the country, the famed Temples of Angkor.
Basing ourselves in the nearby town of Siem Reap, we acquired a 3 day pass to see the main drag of temples, as opposed to all of them which are spread out over an area of 1000 square kilometres and would take a very long time to see.
We hired a bicycle for the first 2 days and every temple we saw was beautiful and distinctly different, some with striking script etched into the wall, others with huge tapestry-like depictions of battles from ancient Hindu mythology, and yet more that had been overrun stupendously with gargantuan trees, a result of poor landscape gardening 1000 years ago. It was truly fascinating.
Having said that we were a little underwhelmed. When we looked back and tried to remember them they all seemed to mesh into one. Yes, they were impressive, despite the crowds being considerable at times, and yes they are definitely worth a visit. However, we think that they were not the best thing since Harry Potter. In hindsight maybe this is because we had to share them with so many other people?
Making use of the 3rd day of our pass we rented a tuk tuk with Gerben, a cartoonist from Holland, and headed out to temples located further afield. These too were unique and impressive in their antiquity and construction. However, getting bored of even these temples, we went for a walk into the countryside until we came across villagers eager to show us another temple very much off the beaten track.
And so we followed a man and his young son through the fields, in-between trees, at one point even frantically tip-toe jumping over a snake (probably poisonous) as it chased a frog (the frog got away and it was most likely our fault as we scared the shit out of the snake which had scared the shit out of us) until we came through to the smallest temple we had seen…and it was beautiful. This is what we had come to see. Less significant than other temples on the main tourist route, yet it was exactly what we had been looking for; derelict; ruined; away from the crowds; our own little piece of Angkor.
It was a shame that we did not have time to look and discover more of these hidden gems but after nearly a week here we decided that our yearnings for papaya salads and pad thais was too great. That night, our last night, we eagerly went along to a class on cartoon drawing that Gerben was asked to give at a local school. It was great fun and we enjoyed the company of the students who were kind, helpful and full of energy. The next day we packed up our bags and headed to Thailand where we hoped to sit back and relax in an apartment for at least a couple of weeks.