I left you all with a day of irony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, but donâ€™t worry sports fans, there is more where that came from.I am trying to go out with a bang with a third volume on this magic trip.Will I follow the line of great third movies such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or Rocky III (Mr. T anyone?), or will it go down as a failure like the Godfather III or Spiderman 3?
It all starts with the usualâ€¦.take your pick â€“ trains/planes/automobiles â€“ how about a 5 hour bus ride to Siem Reap, a Vietnamese visa, some great Khmer fish called Amok, the world of Angkor Wat â€“ the faces of the Bayon, the ruins of Preah Khan, the world of Anglelina Jolieâ€™s â€śTomb Raiderâ€ť (I didnâ€™t play that video game, so, sorry, no pictures of me dressed up as Lara Croft) and Ta Prohm, a goodbye to a mustached Reid, an attempted sunset at the pyramid of Takeo, some cool Argentines, a pleasant sunrise at Angkor Wat, some Cambodian coffee with a frosting type thing that serves as milk and sugar combined into one ultra smooth condiment that rivals the Big Macâ€™s secret sauce, a good view from a hill called Phnom Bakheng, a Korean massage, a Cambodian haircut, Angkor beer, some traditional Khmer dancing, a 18 mile bike ride to a land mine museum â€“ it was closed L, some cool Cambodians and Cannucks that hungout outside the land mine museum and had a few beers with me J, a boy with no arm that hung outside the landmine museum, a family scare that turned out all good, a 12 hour bus to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) â€“ it had the usual karaoke and then showed my favorite movie â€“Snakes on a Plane!
Angkor Wat was enormous and interesting.
Tomb Raider set location.
A grand civilization of the past intermixed with that of 8 year olds sprinting after you:
â€śSSSiiirrrr, you want water?It hot, you need water.â€ť
â€śWhere you from Sir? It hot.Australia?You need water?â€ť
â€śOkay, when you come out of temple, you buy from me, me remember face, you buy.â€ť
â€śI am not thirstyâ€ť
â€śYou buy, it very hot, you need waterâ€ť â€“ at this point, she and her other companions - all attempting to sell the same thing, have walked 30 meters with me.
I enter the temple, check everything out, and as I leave, here comes the girl, full out sprint towards me trying to beat out her competitors, and the whole process is repeated, but this time she says that she remembers me, and that I have to buy from her.After I get past water girl, there is the book salesman, the moto drivers, the tuk tuk drivers, the coconut and banana sellers, and the dreaded â€śboom boomâ€ť vendors.It just does not end.However, you have to admire them.I guess this is part of the reason why their economy is growing 10% a year.I still think that the kids would be better off in school or studying.Some of them even give you the â€śgimme dollar, me need buy books and pens for school, blah blah blah.â€ťEven though it is in the morning on a Tuesday, and school is where they are supposed to be.
So in order to combat the farang/falang/whiteman burden, I concocted a few techniques to sneak away on my quest for the holy grail:
Option number #1 - Ignore them.
Land mine victims playing traditional Khmer music. Note the prosthetic limbs.
Option #2 - Pretend that I do not speak English.â€ś?Yo no entiendo tu?Que?Meâ€¦â€¦noâ€¦â€¦.talkâ€¦â€¦ingles.â€ťTo which they would sometimes start speaking in Spanish with â€ścompra, compra (buy, buy).â€ťHowever their Spanish was very limited.The best was when Reid and I would make up languages with deranged accents: â€śDas unterseebooten en el volkssswaaaggooonnâ€ťâ€śEissha anto an von schliefflenn!â€ť
The young and old little hustlers would look on in confusion at this tactic.
Option #3 â€“ I learned this one from Monty Python and the Holy Grail â€“ RUN AWAY!Sometimes they would follow you for a good 10 meters before realizing how ridiculous we all looked.
A Cambodian Hustler posing as superman. I gave him my Mexican bit and actually had a 5 peso coin to give him.
The best was to combine the run away with me no talk English bit.
I always find it beneficial to write about my destinations a few weeks after I left there.It gives time for my head to clear, reflect/decompress, and analyze.The reason is that traveling as I do is not always easy, and at times little things (visas, bus tickets, trinket sellers, etc) get in the way of the big picture, and obscure your opinion while you are there.However, when you are gone and back to the regular same old of your home, those obscurities disappear and you are able to refocus on the big picture.The fact is, these hustlers are trying to make a buck in developing country.Rumor has it most Cambodians only make a few bucks a day, and if they need to harass at farangs at Angkor Wat, so be it, but they better make sure their kids get educated.
Sometimes while traveling the world I need a good wake up call.
After traveling to thirty plus countries, the rainforests, the ruins, the waterfalls, the religions, the ceremonies, the beaches, the cities, and the mountains all kind of blend into one of the same.The attitude of â€śbeen there, done thatâ€ť easily crosses the mind.I have become numb to the grandness and greatness of the experience.I need some coffee or a kick to the head or something to wake up and realize and appreciate where I am and how I am experiencing things that few get to.I try to get rid of it, but the travel numbness stays, as it is now almost impossible for me to travel without comparing a place to others that I have seen across the world.So based upon this â€“ I am going to be a travel snob and rank Angkor Wat against the other ruins that I have visited over the past few years.You may not recognize the places on my list.But perhaps if you get a little bit gutsy, get off the couch and away from the SUV, the sports center, the sex and the city, the facebook, and the monotonous American life you created, you can see the places on this list for cheaper than a vacation to Disney World.
#5 â€“ Palenque, Mexico â€“ Great Mayan ruins that were lost in the rain forests of southern Mexico.
Great architecture and pyramids.
#4 â€“ Teotihuacan, Mexico â€“ ENORMOUS pyramids located not to far away form Mexico City.Due to itâ€™s close proximity to the capital, it should be combined it with â€śtemplo mayorâ€ť and the AnthropologyMuseum in Mexico City. This cultural immersion will give you a good idea of what rested in the center of what is now the Zocalo in Tenochitlan before the Spanish Conquistadors destroyed it.The Conquistadors that conquered the Aztecs called Tenochitlan the most beautiful city in the world.Mexico City just continuously spews Aztec and Mayan culture, which makes the visit to Teotihuacan more enjoyable.
The Jabba the hut - fattest monkey ever. Tourists, please do not feed the animals.
#3 â€“ Tikal, Guatemala â€“ This is a magical place of Maya pyramids surrounded by crazy jungle noises.You just wander around the jungle, and then out of nowhere, this giant pyramid rests before you.You realize how this place was â€ślostâ€ť for hundreds of years.
#2 Angkor Wat, Cambodia â€“ Enormous and relatively well kept.What sets it apart from other ruins that I have visited is the extreme detail of the Bas Reliefs that have been so well preserved.Theses bas reliefs tell a good deal about the culture through myth and history.
Those are all fish eating skin off your feet. 10 minutes of this before the foot massage - it was ticklish.
However, some of the magic and mystique is taken away by the fact that it was not â€ślost, ruined, or destroyed,â€ťand it is easily accessible by tuk tuk.Some claim Angkor was the biggest city in the world around 1000 AD, but what ruins remain are temples and tombs.I had to do a lot of reading to find out about the everyday lives of the people of Angkor Wat and the Khmer Empire (800-1400 AD).The Khmer learned to master water, which equates to mastering life.They built two giant man made lakes next to Angkor Wat which provided water pressure for irrigation and canals and perhaps even plumbing/piping.More water = more irrigation = more farming = more food to eat = more population growth = more people to tax, work farms, build temples/roads, and serve as soldiers.The majority of the Khmer lived similar to that of the people of the Akha village that I visited in Lao.Most were rice farmers that lived on stilt houses in the areas around the temples of Angkor Wat.The more I think of it, the more I say WOW to Lao.
#1 Machu Pichu, Peru â€“ What makes it special is the 4 day hike on the Inca trail to the ruins of Machu Pichu.
The ink on their finger proves they voted and also helps prevent fraud.
If you take the bus, or do not pay attention on the hike, shame on you â€“ go to Cancun, Mexico or a full moon party in Thailand.The 4 day hike immerses you in Inca culture.You meet numerous Indians that still speak Quechua, live off the land through the cultivation of potatoes, quinoa, corn, and coca leaves.You see them grind grain up with rocks and make homemade cheecha beer with little running water or electricity.You are walking on the remnants of the Inca trail, a marvel in engineering that made this empire so powerful.You encounter numerous Inca ruins on the way, and are forced to learn more and more and more about the culture.The forced build up is worth it, as it all climaxes with Machu Pichu!That immersion in the culture is what makes it special and sets it apart as number one.
I have not been to the pyramids, the great wall, and went to the coliseum as a kid, so did not count them.
Aside from the day of irony and the Angkor Wat, Cambodia was an interesting place despite the fact that I only spent about a week there.Itâ€™s economy is growing at about 11% a year and they are surprisingly committed to their monarchy, despite the fact that they were influenced by the communist regimes of the Khmer Rouge in the 70s the Vietnamese in the 80s.There are pictures of the Cambodian Queen up all over the place similar to Thailand and itâ€™s King.It was election week in Cambodia, and it was cool to see minor political rallies run by the Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP).
Read the sign the monkey is holding - It says to not sit on the rail.
There were numerous houses that I saw in the countryside that were run by the CPP.After people voted, their index finger was dipped into some kind of ink in order to help prevent voter fraud.There was some semi-serious military trouble between Cambodia and Thailand while I was there.There are some Khmer ruins on the northern border with Thailand that the Thai are attempting to claim.Both countries have moved their military forces to the region and set up a small â€śfront,â€ť in order to protect â€śtheir territories.â€ťMost view the whole thing as ridiculous argument and Thailand as the aggressor.However, all it takes is one accident or bullet to fly for there to be warâ€¦..scary!
Speaking of violence, war, and revolution, it is also crazy that Thailand had a military coup only about 18 months ago, and things seem to be relatively prosperous there.
They are still very devoted to their King, and the rumor has it that he still calls a lot of the shots.
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