Sunday, October 08, 2006

Trip: Cambodia
Date: October 8, 2006
Place: Siem Reap

I just spent the past three days exploring the ruins at Angkor. They are really amazing, but interestingly, not as large as I thought they were. There are tons of ruins (over 300 temples), but none of the temples in itself is very large or expansive. I would compare it more to Tikal in Guatemala than to Macchu Pichu in Peru... That said, the carvings are absolutely amazing - much better than on any other ruins that I have seen. One temple in particular, Banteay Srei, has carvings that are so sharp and detailed they look like they were done by machine instead of by hand.

My favorite temples so far have been the ones that are still partially immersed in the jungle. If it weren't for all of the tourists, it would feel like you just stumbled upon them while hiking in the woods. At points I definitely felt like Indiana Jones, hopping from one stone to another in order to avoid the vast quantities of water that surround the ruins (the rainy season just ended...)

I think that perhaps I built Angkor up so much in my head, that reality could not live up to my expectations. I also think that I am starting to get a bit weary from traveling and that I have already seen tons of temples... Plus, my guide, who was a really nice guy, was not a fantastic guide. His English was mediocre and he only had basic knowledge of the temples. Consequently, he wasn't able to answer most of my questions. I was really hoping to learn more about the Khmer culture and what the buildings were used for, but I didn't really get that from him. Finding a guide in a foreign country is difficult unless you have a personal recommendation from someone I think. I asked for someone who was very fluent in English who had studied the ruins, but I would not say my guide fit that bill. He was a very positive, happy person, however, who was able to usually anticipate my needs for breaks and so on.

I was debating whether I should take the boat to Battenbang (Cambodia) tomorrow or just take the bus back to Bangkok and then the boat to Ko Tao as I originally planned. I heard very good things about the boat ride, but I am still quite sunburnt from my boat trip to Siem Reap. (I must have forgotten to put lotion on one of my legs, because I burned it so badly that I couldn't stand on it for the next two days. Thankfully - and bizarrely - walking was fine, it was just standing still that bothered me...) Plus, as I said, I am getting a bit travel weary. I don't know how those people who are on the move for an entire year do it! I met a lawyer who was traveling the world too, but she was doing it in two month chunks. She would travel for two months and then go home for three months. I think that is my preferred strategy! I am ready to relax for a week and then head on to Bangladesh where I can rebuild my home base...

Oh! And my camera broke!! I was so upset! It is less than a year and a half old, and my first day at Angkor the shutter button came off! Thankfully, there was a camera repair place in town who was able to fix it. Then, the next day, my camera gave me the message that there was no memory card installed even though there definitely WAS a memory card in the camera. We took it back to the camera place and they fixed it again. I was really annoyed though! This is definitely the last time that I am buying a Sony product. I have had so much trouble with their stuff and of course it breaks just after the warranty period ends! My laptop computer was the same way. Don't worry, I did get pictures of the Angkor temples, but I really had to work for them!

Sorry for the negative tone of the blog. I really am having a good time, I am just very tired today...


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