Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Oh Siem Reap!  How I love you!  Going from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh to the tranquility and relaxation (sometimes) of Siem Reap was such a lovely change!!  I sadly only had 3.5 days to enjoy Siem Reap (2 of those spent in Angkor Wat).. but you know what that means?! I will be stomping on Khmer soil again in this lifetime.. I'm very excited to really delve into the Khmer culture and spend more time there, one day!

The people in Siem Reap were amazing!!  I can't even count how many times I would be sitting in a tuk-tuk, and I would make eye contact with someone.. I smile.. they smile.. then we simultaneously laugh together.  Or sometimes we would make funny faces at each other.. or they would make funny faces or gestures as my friends and I took their pictures for giggles.  The Khmer people were very personable!  

And given, they could drive you a bit nutty at times, and I was quite elated to step over onto Vietnamese soil after 1 week.. especially because everyone and their 3-year old child are selling you something or asking for something and can drive you mad.  Especially at Angkor Wat you are hustled like c-r-a-z-y!  But you realize.. these people are living in udder poverty, you gotta do what you gotta do.  So you keep a smile on, and you try to politely turn things down or decline.. but you really just feel like a horrible person, because you've paid how much?! to come to their country just to take pictures, experience the culture and eat their food.. yet these people who live here are homeless, not in school, remember being tortured by the government who should have been there to protect them.. it's rough, and really makes you think twice when you go to bargain for that souvenir.

Examples of what you hear every 30 seconds while walking around:
-"Lady (pronounced slowly.. more like "Lay-day") tuk-tuk?"
-"Tuk-tuk lady?"
-"Hello lady tuk-tuk?"
-"Come see my things lady!"
-"You want pants?"  "You want scarf?"  "You want t-shirt?"
-"Where you from?"..."America"... "Capital is Washington DC!" 
-"Moto lady?"
-"Hey lady, moto?"
-"Magnets madam?"
-"Cheap Price!"
-"You want cold drink?" ..."No thanks"... "Okay, you come see me, get cold drink.. ok? Only come back to see me!"

For some reason, I think it is difficult for them to ask a question and leave it at that... I think they believe adding the word lady or sir forms it into a question... because you rarely hear a question without the worst word in the world being added to it.. lady! I still sort of cringe if I hear someone say 'lady'!! haha

I stayed at Garden Village Guest House while in Siem Reap, it's on a dirt road about 5 minutes from the main Pub Street area.  And it was AWESOME! $1 a night!! No seriously.  I was shown to my 'dorm' which was a queen bed with a bug net.. outdoors! I didn't quite expect that.. I expect it in the jungle.. but it wasn't quite what I was expecting for Siem Reap.. but it was awesome!!  No locker.. just kept my stuff under my bug net all day long and no one harmed it!  Dirt under my feet when I got out of bed in the morning.. but I did have a roof over my head!! It was just semi hilarious and very redneck!  This place had hundreds of beds.. mainly private rooms/bungalows.. and they just put dorm beds wherever they could manage.. on a porch.. in this nuck and this cranny.. under this awning.

View from the Sunset Bar... loads of friends made here!

The kitchen was 3 floors below the bar/restaurant.. so this is how they got the food upstairs! Genius!!

I had one day where all I did was wander around Siem Reap.. sigh, amazingness!  I got out of the touristy area and into the dirt road locals areas, and I have such good memories from it.  Walking along the riverside was very peaceful, even with the motos whizzing by.. perhaps it was so peaceful because I didn't hear the 'L' word every 5 seconds?  I got to a certain village where I was hearing some chanting.. and it was so beautiful.. I couldn't help but stand still and take in my surroundings.. and think, "Dude... you're seriously in Cambodia right now!".. I followed the voice, and I ended up across the river at a restaurant.. I THINK it was part of the multiple day mourning for a loved one who died.. but I'm not 100% sure.  I DO know, that it was SUPER loud once I found the speaker.. crazy loud!  I don't know how the neighbors didn't go bezurk!

Video of the chanting from the other side of the river:

And of course life isn't all fun and games everywhere.  I know the pictures I've posted/will be posting are quite beautiful and happy.. but there were loads of things you see around Cambodia that do break your heart.  This for example was a kid playing in some merky water.. trash abounds in both Cambodia and Vietnam, where they put everything in plastic bags.. one time a lady tried to give me a total of 3 plastic bags for 2 pastries (one bag for each piece of bread so they wouldn't touch.. then a bag to put those two bags in.. I freaked out a bit of course, and was like NOOOOO, and put them in one bag giving her back the others).. but I met a few European tourists that felt like they could do what the locals do.. throwing the plastic wrapping from the cigarette pack into the Mekong Delta, throwing cigarette butts into the river, on the streets... it's quite repulsive behavior, and we're not going to make this world a better place for our grandchildren unless our actions influence others in a positive way!

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