So we got to Siem Reap late on Saturday and so didn’t really think about what to do until the Sunday regarding the temples. In the end Sunday turned into a bit of a mish mash day.
We caught a free ride into town from our guesthouse and were dropped of just outside the main market. Breakfast was the main issue of the hour and we grabbed a baguette with some sort of pastrami looking bacon thing and egg. Egg. Cant go wrong with eggs really. What was shocking was that as soon as we got out of our ride I was approached by an old Khmer guy with no forearms. He stood in front of me with his yellowing teeth – what was left of them, his grey hair and shabby clothes and looked at me whilst waving what he had left of his upper limbs. I knew there’d be beggars in Cambodia, and especially those who had suffered from mine blasts but at that point i didn’t really know what to do. I’d been warned that if you give to beggars then what justification do you have from discriminating one from the next, and before you know it you’re well out of pocket. In the end I realised there wasn’t a great deal I could do because I had no change so I just had to sort of ignore the fella. Not the greatest of feelings in the world, and odd to a certain extent because we ignore beggars/homeless/alcoholics all the time in the UK. But then the latter ignorance comes a long in the knowledge that the UK has a substantial welfare system to stop a lot of the poverty that can be seen in the rest of the world whereas some old farmer who is preparing his field to plant rice so that he can make a living doesn’t really deserve to step on a mine laid by some commy rebels.
Anyway, that site put me and Tim in a generous frame of mind once we’d eaten. We were approached by two cute Khmer kids selling postcards. We bought some. Albeit very expensive postcards. I think there was a break in communication or they were proper doing us over because we both bought 2 postcards for $3. We knew we’d paid over the odds but didn’t mind too much at the time because we wanted to put something back into the economy. I later realised that the kids probably meant two packs of postcards for $3 because we were approached by similar kids at Angkor Wat selling 10 postcards for $1. DOH!
We popped by the market and determined not be done over again i was in full haggling mode and managed to get a nice white shirt from $6 down to $3.5 although you’d still spend less than that on KSR. Nevertheless the t-shirts were cheap and both me and tim got an Angkor beer t-shirt for a couple of dollars.
The rest of the day consisted of doing odds and ends. We went to visit the Land Mine Museum which is run by this absolute local legend who goes out with nothing but a stick and clears fields of land mines. At this museum which was more of his backyard there were piles and piles of all sorts of land mines. Ridiculous amounts and shocking too. But the museum was also the home for young land mind victims who the owner of the museum offered to look after and then people who had come to the museum can sponsor one of these children through university – which half a dozen or so had managed to get.
We sat and chatted to our driver for a while who told us hideous stories about police and government corruption from the past and present [but much less so now]. In fact I heard from the owner of our guest house last night that the reason why the road is so bad from the border to Siem Reap is because Thai Airways are either bribing or making donations to the Cambodian Government under the silent agreement that they wont do that road up. That way rich tourists have to fly in to Siem Reap from Bangkok with Thai Airways for $60 or whatever it maybe rather than taking what would only be a 300km journey by road to from bangkok costing a tenth of the price. Crazyness.
Anyways, more Angkor Wat tales to come but this is enough for now.I’m currently in Battambang, a very French colonial town south of Siem Reap and the other side of the Tonle Sap. Off to Phnom Penh tomorrow for some Killing Fields fun.