Sunday, February 15, 2009

Trip to Angkor Wat, Cambodia (9)

After a forgettable foot massage, I chatted online for 10 minutes to my bro in S'pore. Now internet access is cheap 50 cents an hour. So have some of that Cambodian money on you or you'll have to pay a dollar. Some places just do not want to give you change at all. Siem Reap is hot, muggy ..humid even in December. There is no cool season there at all. At least here in Mandalay we have about three and half months cool season and its even a bit chilly in the mornings. 42 miles from Mandalay, there is a hill station where it can get a bit freezing at night. But Siem Reap is just plain hot. So if you are ever going there pack those shorts and T-shirts. How long a stay should I stay in Siem Reap? I hear you ask! Well, for those not really into culture / archeology / social work / cooking classes, I guess about three days should be just about right. Two days for the temples and one day for exploring the town. They say there are other places like lake-dwellers communities and faraway temples but you would need about another 2-3 days to visit them all. Siem Reap has a newish shopping mall and I think I also saw about 2 others in various stages of development. When I told my friend Chris when I got back from Cambodia, he was astounded. What? Shopping malls?
Crikey !
Cos there weren't any in 1994ish when he was there. Man, " Only Angkor was open to the public then and we had an armed guard and they were still clearing landmines, so all the other temples were off limits. "Well" I told him "Times have certainly changed." Yes the town and temples and number of tourists has certainly changed.
But what of the people? Especially the younger ones? And orphaned ones? I am sure there are respectable organizations working in those areas, but I saw some very badly written (in English) fliers distributed by 7-8 year old kids who said they were from orphanages with donation boxes in front of the Romulus temples asking for donations. Shouldn't these kids be doing lessons? And I guess so many tourists has sadly turned some kids away from going to school, but starting off careers in tourism by beginning with asking for a dollar for stuff like rearranging your flip flops at monastery door unasked. The "one dollar please" here, and "one Dollar" there can be a nuisance. I had to borrow a pen off one lady tourist in a temple and she sarcastically said, "One dollar" as she gave it to me. But enough of this stuff. Who am I to criticize others ?
But anyway, I advise you to check out credentials in depth / detail, any orphanage anywhere in Asia ( or the whole world for that matter ) as some people try to make a living off being a " Director of so-and-so Orphanage ". You know, kind of like the kids are like the Giraffe women of Burma on display in pseudo villages for tourist perusal in Thailand. I mean the kids are brought (with consent of parents ) from genuinely poor families ( so not technically orphans )and fed and taught badly and then discarded or sent back without the means to make a livelihood when about 15 years old to make way for the younger ones who will bring in more donations and cement the livelihood of the so-called directors or founders of the place.
It's sad.
In the morning as we were off to the Romulus group of temples we saw an on-foot procession of locals, proceeding to the monastery with offerings all carried by hand. The town gentlemen were in smart trousers and shirts, the town belles were all made up, coiffured and in silk sarongs. My mum remarked she was getting a Cambodian sarong after seeing their nice colours.
It was wonderful that customs like that are still in existence.
Written By Mr. Soe Lwin, Principle of BEST Language School in Mandalay.
These posts are relayed from Singapore.

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