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Cambodia

Winter Vacation - Siem Reap, Cambodia 2007/01/05

Butterflies and goodbyes


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On our last day in Siem Reap, we settled into a very relaxed pace, getting up late and going to browse the Old Market for souvenirs. We took some pictures along the way.

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We bought some silk paintings, a couple of shirts, a scarf and a pin. We were there about an hour before deciding to find some lunch at the Butterflies Garden Restaurant. It was really relaxing. All the butterflies are provided by local children, and in return their community is given financial support. There are also literacy and education programs being established in the communities as a part of the system. We decided it would be good to support this cause.

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In the garden, we found a table and sat down. There were butterflies everywhere, and when our food came they kept landing on it. It was pretty funny. There were also lizards all over the place in the garden, and we watched one as it stalked and caught a butterfly. Yum. After we finished our meal, we walked to get some dessert (yum... coconut flan), and headed in the direction of our hotel. Just as we were heading toward the hotel, Vut (our tuk-tuk driver), pulled over and offered us a ride. We said we were okay for now, but he offered to take us to the airport later in the day, and it would be cheaper because he liked us so much. How could we say no?

When we got back to the hotel, we cancelled our pre-arranged ride, which the hotel wasn't too happy about, and went upstairs to pack.

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We brought our bags downstairs, settled the bill for the crappy room, and got in the tuk-tuk to go to the airport. We were sad saying goodbye to Vut, and said we'd try to find him again when we returned. And we meant it.

When we arrived at the airport, we saw a sight we had yet to behold anywhere in Asia: DQ. We checked in and made an executive decision that we each needed a Blizzard. Yummo.

After the ice-creamy goodness, we waited for our flight to Saigon. As we were sitting next to the bookshop, we saw a lady running on the spot browsing the books; working on her fitness, we guessed. Credit goes to her though for making the most of her waiting time; I sat on my behind and did a crossword.

Our short flight was uneventful. We arrived back in Saigon, changed our money (and got some strange looks in the process), and went back to our hotel. It was strange to be back.

We discovered when we checked in that the staff at the hotel had given us an upgrade, for free. It pays to be nice, I guess. Our room had a sauna and hottub out on the balcony. We dropped our bags and went down for supper. We ate and went back up to the room. We tried to fill the hottub, but we ran out of hot water and patience with the low water pressure (the latter ran out before the former). We felt a little defeated, so we went to sleep, with the assurance that by the next night, we would be in the Philippines.

Posted by agc_cwm 04:02 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Winter Vacation - Siem Reap, Cambodia 2007/01/04

From silk to sunset


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Well, needless to say, we didn't get up as early on this day as we did the day before. No sunrise for us. We did have to beat the afternoon heat, though, so we were on the road by 8:30. We first went to about 16km out of town to the National Silk Centre. This was way cool; we got to see each step in the silk-making process. The silkworms life cycle, the mulberry bushes they grow for leaves to feed the worms, the extraction of the silk, the combing/dyeing/weaving/finishing. It was amazing. I will never again question why silk is so expensive. Most of our pictures of the place mysteriously disappeared somehow, so we didn't have any of the mulberry field, or the moths or the coccoons, but we had a few remaining.

Did you know that ants eat silkworms? To counter this probelm, all the legs of the buildings are in containers of water, so the ants get in. Did you know? Me either. And aren't we both better off know that we know that little bit of trivia? That's what I thought. Moving on. We learned so much from our guide. He was very knowledgeable. Did you also know that the difference between raw and fine silks are the part of the coccoon the fibres come from? Raw silk is the outer 20% of the coccoon and fine silk is the inner 80%. They put the coccoons in hot water to extract the fibres. Cool, eh?

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In the small museum after the tour, we learned that in Cambodia, you wear a different colour wedding dress depending on what day of the week you get married. The photo below illustrates (from Sunday at the top).

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We also saw some traditional costumes made from silk.

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After the museum, we went to the gift shop, where there were a lot of beautiful things, but they were all a little too expensive for us, so we went back out to tuk-tuk for the dusty ride back into town. We wore our scarves over our faces to keep from breathing in too much dust. Vut laughed at us. We were glad that he was having as much fun as we were just driving us around and laughing at us.

When we got back to the hotel, we dropped off some stuff and went to the Old Market area to get some lunch at the Red Piano (all the ads for this place had Statler and Waldorf on them, so we figured we ahd to go). After this, we grabbed some ice cream and went back to the hotel again to meet Vut. And off we went for an afternoon of templing.

We visited a few smaller temples. The first one was Preah Khan. It had a really long path leading to it, and it was a fairly large temple with some nice carvings. I tried to do some crayon rubbings, but at some point I saw signs that said not to touch the cravings. The rubbings weren't working out anyway, so I opted not to make a covert operation of the enterprise. As we were walking around the perimeter, we noticed some numbered stones, indicating that this part of the complex had been reconstructed. It was really interesting to see that there had to have been a lot of work done to restore some of these sites.

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We left the temple and went to another really cool site, Neak Pean. Here, there was a temple structure on an island in the middle of a (mostly empty) pool. This large pool fed four smaller pools at the cardinal points. Apparently the pools actually have water in them during the wet season. It was pretty cool; totally different from all the other temples we'd visited. We didn't have much time to stay, because we had a couple of other places to see before sunset.

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After leaving this temple, we went to Ta Som, which was smaller and had some nice big trees.

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There was this one kid who was intent on selling us something. He pulled out all the stops. He did what every other child vendor does: he asked us where we were from, and then told us the capital city and the currency (the loonie), and counted to 10 in English. When we still wouldnt buy anything, he went above and beyond and counted to 10 in (we're sure) every language he knew how to count to 10 in. When we still wouldn't buy anything, we got very indignant and pushy, and asked us if we had any candy. I said we had cookies, but I could tell Andrew didn't even want to give him those, so I quickly "remembered" that we had "eaten them all". We didn't end up giving anything to the kid, and ended up walking away with him shouting at us.

And this is the major conflict for visitors here: it's just a child, so do you give them your money, not knowing whether they are going to keep it or if they have to give it to someone else? How much is enough money? Or too much? But if you do give money, are you breeding an attitude where they expect to be given a hand-out, and (as had previously happened to us) are disappointed and angry if you give too little? It's a difficult situation, because you don't know if you are helping or just making the situation worse.

After being adequately put off by the situation, we started making our way to Pre Rup for sunset. On our way, we pulled to the side of the road, took in the view of East Mebon from the tuk-tuk, and kept going. These pictures aren't actually of the temple, but we took them on the way there.

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We made it to Pre Rup with plenty of time before sunset, and before many of the other tourists arrived. And arrive they did; there were plenty by the time the sun started to colour the sky with a beautiful sunset (nothing like the Bay of Fundy, but it'd have to do).

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We climbed to a large platform near the top and staked out a quiet spot to sit. Which was more difficult that you think; I think most people there that day didn't understand the profoundness of a silent sunset, and they were all yammering away. Of course, there were the requisite vendors of bracelets, books, and postcards, but the most successful guy of the all had lugged a cooler of cold beer to the top of the temple. Andrew bought one, and I think most everyone else there did too. Andrew talked to one young guy selling books for a while, and learned a bit about his life, school, and what it is like to be a tuk-tuk driver (his former occupation).

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After the sun started to set, we decided to beat the crowd out of there and head back to the hotel. When we got there, we thanked Vut very much, gave him some money, and went up to our room to sit in the A/C for a while before going to ¡Viva!, a Mexican restaurant, for supper.

After that we went to an internet cafe to look at the photos we had taken to date; it took about an hour before we got tired of looking at pictures, and we weren't even half done. We went back to our hotel, showered, laundered, crossworded, and finally slept after our last day at the temples.

Posted by agc_cwm 06:23 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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