Cambodia - 1

Cambodia Travel Blog

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JULY 27th 2007

Well, I gotta say that it is surprising to actually be here. My friends and I decided to come here last year and since I've gotten here it has been a serious culture change... mostly for the better. It is very peaceful here and the lost temples are a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!! Most people that I spoke to before I left wondered why I would go to "Cambodia" of all places on earth. Well of course we all think of Cambodia as being war torn and the buzz word refugees come to mind. Needless to say the region has changed quite a bit since the dictator Pol Pot lost his power (more on that later). Cambodia as a whole is still very rural and in some ways there are reminders of Indian culture. However, if you get to the heart of the things, I must say that most westerners would be pleasantly surprised.
The people are hungry for western culture. In viewing the temples, I came across two curious little girls who followed me through the different parts of Angkor Wat, the most famous and the most extensively restored of the all of the temples. One of the girls voluteered to carry my tripod. In my conversation with these young natives (ages 7 & 10), I was surprised that they could recite the states and capitals of not just the U.S. cities but most other Asian and European countries as well! After they hung out with me I bought them (and 14 of their friends) ice cream bars - $7. The children were fascinated by my look (dark with locks). There are very few Americans out here as most tend to travel to the more touristy spots let alone African Americans trekking here. I got peered at everywhere I go. This is off of the beaten path for most, but I have to say it was a "must see" destination for me. I am spending very little and eat on 20-$25 a day or less (usually less). Be forwarned of the dangers of sickness, heat and crime in Phnom Penh.

The best part of my trip so far has been my first experience looking at the immense size and wonder of the lost temples themselves. They are simply spectacular! The movie Indiana Jones was loosely based on this area, with the temple facades that have Buddha heads facing all four directions. There are hundreds of them, all varying in size and design, based on the different time periods. The Temples of Angkor are certainly as impressive as the Egyptian Pyramids. Most travellers are not familiar with Cambodia's ancient history. I think people consider it's recent history as being more significant. Not true. I feel completely safe here, unlike I did in Phnom Penh (prounounced Nom-Pen), the major city we flew into. Just like LA or any other big city, you just go where you feel safe. There are no kidnappings that I am aware of or any major violence against tourists here. Most natives are very friendly and eager to help you, sell to you or work for you. However, you should be on the lookout for the purse snatchers on motorbikes. And try not to look like tourists even though it is hard for some of us.

Within the last 2 - 5 years, there have been investors coming to the Siem Reap temple region. As far as business is concerned, there is a lot of commerce flowing to this area. There are many hotels that are being built in record time. Le Meridian (Nice) just sprouted up within the last year and there are several 5 star hotels being constructed as I write this; they are magnificent and jaw dropping. The Hotel De La Paix ( www.hoteldelapaixangkor.com - VR tour) is exquisite! My place at the Golden Banana costs me $45 a night and is a split level townhouse style dwelling complete with pool, air conditioning and WIFI. It has all of the creature comforts needed.
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