The Temples and Children of Cambodia

Date: 24/04/2007 | Author: Gabby

The beauty of the temples at Angkor is well documented. They certainly live up to their hype and deserve to be considered as one of the global seven wonders of the world. We bought a 3 day pass for $40 (interestingly enough the profits go to a Vietnamese owned hotel chain) and did what most tourists do: got up early to see the temples, took a long break for lunch to have a (not so) cooling dip in our (warm) hotel swimming pool, returning to the temples for the lovely late afternoon and sunset light. This is April, the hottest month of the year in Cambodia - it's hot, really hot and really humid!
We did the sensible, essential thing and hired a guide. I think had it not been for Mr Lee, we would have not covered so much in just a couple of days and we certainly would not have learned as much of the turbulent history in this incredible, up and coming country.
The girls were great at exploring the temples, and, credit to them, barely moaned. They were pretty amazed when they learnt that Angkor was home to over a million people in the 11th and 12th Centuries, when London was just a small town on the Thames. We even dragged them out of bed at 4.30 in the morning to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat, and although they were a bit grumpy at first and sunrise wasn't the best ever, they still managed to make the most of the experience.
Fortunately, there were many things to sidetrack them. First, the Buddhist shrines. The girls have seemingly become devout Buddhists since we arrived in SE Asia. There are many shrines at every temple, and in Angkor, often just the remnants of what was a Buddha effigy, covered in orange fabric and incense sticks burning becomes a modest shrine. The girls lit incense at every one, always befriending the nuns or monks who looked after them.
They were constantly amused by the coach loads of Asian tourists, many over-dressed, often in nylon - hardly suitable tropical weather attire! These tourists tried to take our girls photo at every opportunity, Ella tried to get a dollar every time they snapped but ended up with nothing.
The best thing was the kids - the legions of kids who try to sell you their wares are outside every temple, at every street corner and lurking near every cafe and restaurant. Once you get beyond the sales pitch, you quickly realise that these kids are funny and smart. With their ubiquitous smiles and cheery disposition you can't help but spend a dollar or more with them. Their English is generally so much better than their parents (who are always noticeably absent), generally because of their interaction with the tourists. Ella and Florence loved the banter with them. Seeing how little the Cambodian children live with really makes them appreciate what they have themselves (at least I hope it does.......that's the point of this isn't it?).
A great time exploring the temples and Siem Reap is a vibey town, but after spending 4 days in 40 degree heat, we were ready for some beach action and hopefully some cooling sea breezes........

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