Musings - Day 30
Day 30 – 25th January 2020
Keep the support going guys, and the donations are coming in from overseas, which is great - you are all marvellous – Thank you for your time.
I knew I was going to get bitten last night when I saw the mosquitos with cutlery! So taking inventory this morning, I counted around seventeen. I joined them together with a marker pen, you know, just for something to do, the end result looking like a highways project through the Andes. I showered, getting most of the marker pen off, before breakfast. I put on a clean T shirt that had been laundered at the hotel in Ho Chi Minh. It was so creased being in the back pack, that I was going to go out looking like a Shar Pei. Also it appeared to fit me rather more snuggly than I remembered. The thing had shrunk! This was one of a number of T shirts that I bought especially for this trip. You know what they say, “You buy cheap – you get cheap!” So I am going down to breakfast wearing a very wrinkled crop top. Each time I go out or come in there are eighty tiled steps over four floors to negotiate.(Fun – huh?) At the bottom of the stairs just before entering the small reception / dining area, there was a shrine to Buddha. What I thought particularly endearing was an offer of fruit and bread to the gods. It did cross my mind I have to confess here and now, that if Buddha didn’t want them, I might have them away for the journey. I obviously didn’t out of respect – what do you take me for?
Breakfast thereafter, became more interesting as it progressed. I was given a list by a member of staff who had handed in his happy gene at reception before starting work this morning. He furnished me a board with ten items on it for me to chose from. The first thing that I had to decipher was the word “Whit.” Did it a.) mean funny, b.) mean with, or c.) mean white without the ‘e?’ I opted for the funny, white bread, whit tomatoes and cheese.
The laboured discourse between Mr Smiley and I went thus....
The waiter with the missing gene, “Wha hugh wan eat?”
Me: "Firstly, my name isn't Hugh, but let's not dwell for too long on that one, shall we?"
Waiter: "Whar yu say?"
Me: “Never mind. Its not important. I’ll take the bread, cheese and tomato option please.”
Waiter: “Have bread, no tomatoze.”
Me: “ So the dish is now, bread and cheese?”
Waiter: “No. It bread, tomatoze and cheeze, but today - no tomatoze.”
Me: “Forgive me I’m English. Is what you are now offering the bread, cheese and tomato option, but without the tomato?”
Me: “So you just have the bread and the cheese then?”
Waiter: “Jus minute, I go check.”
Waiter returning with the look of an impending execution, “Yes.”
Me: “Yes, what?”
Waiter: “Yes please.”
Me: “Oh dear, before my hairstyle changes, just bring me what you have please.” I then showed him my utter dissatisfaction with the appropriate travel guide advisory sigh.
He came back after five minutes with… fruit! - Owwwkay then.
The second course arrived before I had finished the fruit and you’ve guessed it, they had found the tomatoes! All was splendid in the dining room closet of my mind, at least.
The breakfast completed, with a truly marvellous strong black coffee, I waited for my conveyance to take me to the famous ‘Angkor Wat.’ I watched a young girl for a few minutes, while she invented a new game using a pool table, some balls, and a camel. Yes that is correct, although I hasten to add, not a live one. (Good job too because I am led to believe that they are really quite good at the game.) See the photograph to try and pick up a few pointers on the refineries of the sport.
My man arrived and hailed me to his awaiting chariot. Actually it was a Tuk Tuk. He knew my requirements for the journey knowing that I had yet to purchase a ticket. This was especially important because the place of purchase was nowhere near the venue that I proposed to visit. His name was Indent which he had printed onto his crash helmet. I thought that it didn’t sound particularly Cambodian, until I saw other Tuk Tuk drivers with the same name printed on their helmets. It must be a local custom, I remember thinking.
So indent and I happily scootered along to the ticket purchasing building, all very new, modern and little commercial if truth be told. There were many shops where I could have bought souvenirs of the place, or hats, or Ray Bans with their new pink flaming logos aboard. I stood in line to get my ticket, returning to the faithful Indent waiting patiently outside. Pleased to see me, with ticket proudly displayed, we set off for Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat is a Hindu temple complex in Cambodia near Siem Reap, and is the largest religious monument in the world, on a site measuring 402 acres (larger than most golf courses) or162.6 hectares. Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khymer Empire, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 13th century. Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation. It has become a symbol of Cambodia appearing on its national flag and it is the country's prime attraction for visitors. They heavily charge you for the privilege of viewing the temples, but there is an overriding feeling of gratification knowing that just under 10% of the entrance fee is going to children’s hospitals in the country.
Factual stuff over, Indent takes me around five miles to the actual entrance, which is heavily surrounded by security. Parking was not a problem because there was no discernible system for it. He dropped me off at a fruit stall, where I offered to pay him for his services so far. “Oh no sir, Doctor Robert,” (Alright I may have been a little bored and gilded the Lilly for a bit of fun,) “I am with you for the day. I be here when you get back.” After looking myself up and down I said, “But how will you recognise me?”
I left Indent to do my tourist bit, thanking him profusely for his service so far. First thing was to purchase some more fruit. Not for any religious offerings I just thought it prudent to store some energy as it was mind and body sappingly hot! There are times when you see things that your previously noted images will never be able to do justice to. Whether it be through architectural design, elaborate artwork, setting, or just sheer magnificence, sometimes you have to accept that your breath has been taken away. I am very fortunate to declare that I have seen many wonders of this world both ancient and modern, but my mind was truly blown away by Angkor Wat. Let me explain. Not for its beauty, nor its design, or even its religious significance, but for the sheer immenseness of the place. It is huge! I took dozens of photographs but I don’t believe that any of them would convey the incredible size of the site. After I had finished, It took us a half an hour of constant driving just to exit the site.
During the visit, I have seen many sights. Traditional costumes, both from live exhibitors, and tourist visitors alike. I have seen stone monuments to elephants, snakes, monkeys, cows, tigers and a few live examples too.
Monkeys, completely wild would survive on discarded fruit left by the visitors. Some even openly picking the fruit from hampers and bags carried by the people. I saw an old lady, take a small pagoda shaped birdcage, and free its three occupants, in some kind of spiritual homage. They were colourful linnets or warblers and when freed just flew into the trees. Disoriented it took them a good few minutes to understand their new freedom, flying off into the unknown entirely independently. I saw two deer that were way too expensive. (allow me one at least!) Feral dogs that looked a lot like Australia’s famous dingoes, wandering around in small packs. A mongoose type creature, that I only briefly caught a glimpse of, many rodents sprinting from place to place, together with a myriad of bird species. I cannot express how wonderful this experience has been and a great end to my time in Cambodia.
Not exactly the end because I had to find my way back to Indent. There were hundreds of Tuk Tuks, so I mused harmlessly to myself, ‘Is there a collective noun for them?’ I made one up right there and then. From now on in they will be known as a veritable 'Trinket of Tuk Tuks! ' I await confirmation from the Oxford English Dictionary guys.
This is Indent.
Later this evening I shared a beer with a German couple. When I say shared, that wasn’t true because I had my own. Their names were Siegfried and Roy. (Okay you caught me out – her name wasn’t Roy it was Freida.) We swapped many travel experiences over an hour or so, before I told them of my reason for undertaking this huge adventure. They responded by telling me the story of a little four year old boy named Vithu. They had met his grandparents during their travels who told them of Vithu. He was a lovely lad who was growing up normally, being supported in village life by hard working parents and family. He had a soft toy that he carried everywhere with him and was never seen without it. It was a little toy snake. He loved it so much, because he had had it for most of his own memory of life. As a result of this he had not developed a natural fear for the real thing. He picked one up in the village after other kids had run away from it. The snake retaliated by biting him on his arm. Their were no hospitals for miles and he died on the back of his fathers moped, being carried by his mother, as they tried desperately to get help. Siegfried and Freida had met the grandparents, who sadly told them of their loss. Quite an emotional end to the day. It makes you grasp a little of what families from other parts of the globe have to contend with sometimes on a daily basis. Being a father of four grown up kids, I thought about Vithu a lot after that.
Tomorrow I meet up with my old schoolmate, who lives in Thailand, when he picks me up at the border.
Position: 13°21'51” N 103°51'10”E – Miles completed: 10344
Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia 23:42 - 25th January 2020 - Journey 30 days 22 hours