Jun 17, 2018

Travelogue - Siem Reap

"No Country for Our People" - lamented the guide as he took our boat towards the floating villages in Lake Tonle Sap. It was a bit weird. As we saw the networked array of boats converted into houses, shops, hospitals and even an orphanage, many questions came into our minds about the background behind this community living in the largest lake in Cambodia.

Floating Village - Orphanage, Lake Tonle Sap
The origins of this floating village date back to the Khmer Rouge times when ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia where pushed out . Post Pol Pot's regime, when they tried to return to Cambodia, they did not have any proof of identity or land ownership because of which they ended up settling in boats in Lake Tonle Sap.  Gradually this settlement grew large and now they survive on tourism and humanitarian aids

Floating Village - Market, Lake Tonle Sap

Cambodia is a fascinating land in many aspects for a traveller. For a country having a very low unemployment rate but very few jobs in the organized sector , it doesn't really have a law and order problem. People value education. Tuk Tuk and cab drivers speak about how they take great efforts to send their children to school.  Being a touristy city near the historic Angkor-Wat, most of the people here speak decent English
Ta Prohm - Tomb raider Temple

Most of the people here are in one way or other impacted by the horrors of Pol-Pot regime. Our guide to Angkor-wat remarked that his parents were taken away by Khmer Rouge regime. He was breast-fed and brought up by a neighbour. I felt memories of this sickening time may be keeping Cambodia relatively crime free inspite of very low per capita income and absence of any major industries. A foundation - Kantha Bope - established by a Swiss expat gives good maternity and health-care facilities for young children.

To me Angkor-Wat wasn't the highlight - It was Ta Prohm - a nearby temple where the famous movie Tomb Raider was shot.  The complex which was abandoned for centuries now has gigantic trees that grew in between the pillars.  This sight was something special. Rightfully preserved by Archaeological Survey of India in partnership with Cambodian Govt, this presents a mystical charm
Angkor Wat @ Dawn
The much fabled sunrise at Angkor-Wat turned out to be a damp-squib on a cloudy morning. The complex is extremely large and really tested our endurance to see it fully on a sunny and humid day. Angkor-Wat shows us a transition between Hindu Mythology and Buddhism. With the sculptures showing both stories, it gives you a perspective of those times.   Similar experiences await you at Angkor Thom / Bayon temple.  Considering the efforts put into this in an age of no machines, the efforts are comparable to that of Great Pyramids

Snake & Scorpion Wine - Siem Reap
The native scripts are similar to Sanskrit and Hindi . The cuisine is spicy , but not hot.  Apparently they eat any creature including Tarantulas . We even spotted a snake & scorpion wine bottle.  Siem Reap is a thriving touristy location.  Just like Salzburg latches on to Mozart's fame, Siem Reap uses AngKor extensively from handicrafts to Spa's.  These locations are actually a solid business case studies as to how to develop an other-wise non-descript location based on a nearby historic sight
Pub-Street - Siem Reap

As we drove back to the airport, I felt Cambodia represents sort of an enigma. A superficial connect with Indian mythology helps us to relate to the people and culture. Yet at the same-time, it gave a feeling that there's much more to to this place that whats seen at the surface.

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