I've just done day three so am becoming a bit of an expert on my bas reliefs.... Well not really but they are nice to look at! The whole complex is really busy. It's funny how your mind remembers things differently though. Both Ant and I seem to remember the place where you buy your tickets as super efficient with barcode controlled Disneyworld type entrance gates. If that were ever the case I can only assume that it broke down and they replaced it with the usual melee of ticket booths and the scrum of tuk tuks as they wait for their passengers to get said tickets. Certainly not the efficient machine I thought I remembered. And funnily enough walking round the park I seem to be the only person ever stopped to have their ticket checked.... I guess they assume that big tour groups are automatically honest... Or I look like some hippy wandering around on her own, a more likely explanation. The parade of coaches, taxis and tuk tuks into the park is relentless, and the tuk tuk queues forming at the pinch points like going through the narrow gates into certain temples are reminiscent of the Dartford Crossing in rush hour.
And the snake of people going into some of the more popular temples is like the Bejing ring road during rush hour.... I am really surprised by the small proportion of Western tourists about and amazed at the huge number of Chinese. But the sheer size of the place overall and individual temples means that they absorb so many people it really isn't too crowded. So far I have concentrated on the places Swanley Travel will recommend on their forthcoming escorted tour.... Angkor Wat, the main must see, Angkor Thom, the one with the faces and Ta Phrom of Tomb Raider.
Swanley Travel clients are not known for their sightseeing patience, indeed one of the Company's specialities is speed sightseeing, so I think this will be more than enough! I also paid a visit to the National Museum here to see if that was worth a recommendation, but again, Swanley Travel clients base their liking of most museums on the quality of the gift shop, so this one probably won't make the cut... But on my times when I m just wandering the streets in town I am beginning to see where all the new development is. The east bank of the river is filling up, I remember it being empty, with cool new chic hotels and restaurants as is the French Quarter where the FCC is located. They are certainly giving the FCC a run for its money. But I see that the FCC is about to go through a complete renovation as well as an extension with more hotel rooms across the road. It's probably time, it's still very stylish and always smells amazing as the oil burners are always lit but is slightly on the tired side now. There is a new Hard Rock Cafe just opened as well as a Costa Coffee, but both very sympathetically designed so fit in very well. And no sign of any Golden Arches... There are some new, extremely stylish shops and spas too with other buildings still going up. But it looks like none of them are going to be nasty high rises, I hope not.
Yesterday was a very busy day in town. There was a huge procession with thousands and I mean thousands, of people going through early afternoon. Traffic was at a standstill for almost an hour. But a la Thailand if the roads were at a standstill, the bikes just took to the pavement! It started with the uniformed local school kids band, followed by lots of women in white crimplene (never good in this climate...) suits, followed by older school kids carrying the national flag followed by what looked like loads of office workers carrying the national flag followed by hundreds and hundreds of orange and maroon clad monks then followed by what looked like all the women in town in white blouses and black skirts followed by all the OAP women in town in white shirts with shaved heads followed by a mix of other I assume, less mobile people in a huge parade of tuk tuks and cars. There were a few floats in between, one of of flower covered elephant. Everyone was carrying lotus flowers and most had a picture of a man wearing orange monks' robes and glasses.
It was such a big production I assumed every one would know exactly what it was all about. The girl in the bar I repaired to for a cool drink (diet coke, honest) had no clue. The hotel staff when I got back had no clue apart from it must be a Buddhist Celebration... even I could work that one out. The nearest I got was a waiter I asked at the side of the road. His English was pretty bad (but better than my one word of Khmer) but he seemed to be saying that it was a celebration of the guy in the picture wearing the monks robes that everyone was carrying who many many many years ago had discovered the Khmer language. Frankly it seemed improbable, the guy was wearing glasses so it couldn't have been that ancient! But improbable or not he was pretty close. The joy of Google found this:
Samdech Sangha Raja Jhotañano Chuon Nath (Khmer: ជួន ណាត [cuən naːt]; 11 March 1883 – 25 September 1969) is the late Kana Mahanikaya Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia. Amongst his achievements is his effort in conservation of the Khmer language in the form of the Khmer dictionary. Nath's other contribution to Cambodia include the current national anthem, Nokor Reach. Nokor Reach was written to correspond to the motto of the nation, "Nation, Religion, King" as well as demonstrate the grandeur and the mighty past of the Khmer nation. This phrase is on the Cambodian visa.
Amazing what you learn whilst travelling, just a pity most of the locals didn't have a clue! I assume the parade was today as it was the nearest Saturday to his birthday.
And then while trying to understand all about him whilst drinking my Diet Coke, it was all lights, camera and action as what looked like a music video was being filmed in the streets.
And on the way back to the hotel early evening I discover mass aerobic dance sessions. On the next block to the hotel is a big building extolling the virtues of the Cambodian People's Party. Each evening it appears to get taken over for the good health of the people.... while Hun Sen, the long serving leader looks on benevolently...
Prices here are ok too, even with the appallingly weak pound against the dollar. All transactions here are in dollars, with your change, anything less than a dollar is given back to you in grubby Riel notes. No coins circulate here. Interestingly water is much more expensive than in Thailand, but in a balance that suits me, wine is much cheaper and better! I am living high on the hog, eating at the expensive FCC where last night's dinner eaten under the stars was of smoked salmon and tomato bruschetta, FCC Salad of chicken and Parma ham and two glasses of a good Chilean Rose and it came in at just £12.20... Result!
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Location:Siem Reap, Cambodia