Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Day 19: Cambodia—a soft warm breeze

Day 19: Cambodia—a soft warm breeze

We have found paradise, and may never come home! If you never hear from us again, you can look for us in the nearest school, as they are desperate for English speaking teachers to volunteer their time. This is another country that has risen from the ashes of war, over 2 million dead thanks to Pol Pot and his Communist forces, with 30 – 40% of the population still living below the poverty line. They lack natural resources, with the exception of wood, teak and mahogany, which is rapidly disappearing. Their main income comes from tourists, which number around two million a year. This has a significant impact, as the population of Siem Reap is only 50,000, and this is where all the attractions are!
We arrived at 9:00 this morning, and being that it was a much smaller airport and early in the morning, we got through immigration much more quickly.  !  It’s a good thing we don’t plan on breaking any laws, because they took our fingerprints before they let us in the country!
Once they got $50 bucks out of Bryce for a Visa fee, we didn’t see them again. When we came to customs, we were completely befuddled, because even though there was a giant stop sign, there wasn’t a single official around. Eventually, another tourist said, “just go”, so we quickly headed for the exit door, hoping that no one was going to come along and yell at us!
Who needs a minivan?
We had arranged a tour before leaving Ho Chi Minh City, and our tour guide, So, was at the airport with a car waiting to take us to our hotel. He left us there to refresh ourselves, and promised to be back in the afternoon once the weather had cooled down a bit. We enjoyed a swim and a lunch by the pool before heading out to see three of the temples which date back to the 8th century.   We did this within a brand new air conditioned Toyota, complete with a Driver and our Guide, who has a steady supply of bottled water in a cooler and a steady stream of knowledge to keep us going.
 It is astounding to think of the amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into building the temples as labourers carried heavy stones a long way, and carved intricate details into the stonework. It is a madhouse at these temples, as the hawkers aggressively try to sell their handicrafts. We fell in love with some of these kids, and finally broke down and bought a few things.
The Buddhists continue to use these grounds, building modern temples on them and living on the grounds. At 5:00 the local school let out and all the kids came running to the makeshift school where the monks teach them English. This is just a tin roof with wooden tables and benches for about 40 children. The children seem happy and excited to be doing this, and I couldn’t help but think how these children see education as an opportunity and the way out of poverty. As we drove away, Bryce commented on how we took our childhood for granted and complained about being badly treated when we had no concept of how fortunate we were. I can remember the first time that we came to Asia twenty years ago and saw the hardships and poverty that people lived under. I vowed to myself to never complain about my life again after that, and to always be grateful to be born in Canada with a life that is rich in opportunity and blessings.
We hit downtown for supper and a bit of shopping before coming home and collapsing. Tomorrow we are up at 6:00 to see more ruins before it gets too hot and crowded. 

Arlene in Ruins

Tuk Tuk
Bryce with local entrepreneurs

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