Notes from Cambodia

My daily schedule here in Siem Reap, Cambodia doesn’t allow me much, if any time for keeping up to date with my journal. I’m up early then off to the temples right away. I get home after sunset and have to spend most of the time before bed trying (and failing) not to get too far behind on emails, finding food, transferring photos to my computer and scrubbing the dust from my every pore in the cold shower.

So, in an effort to keep things moving here, I’ve decided to do some bullet-point journaling. Just some things that stood out in the last few days and I had time to note before I have to go to sleep.

– One of the highlights, strangely enough for me, is a moment for which I have no photos. Two days ago, I met and started talking with a couple of young Buddhist monks. After chatting for a while, I did end up taking some photos of them. But, the best part was, they invited me to go visit them at their pagoda the following day. When I arrived there, we continued our conversations from the previous day and I was also invited into one of their rooms. It just felt so special to be able to be invited into the room of a monk in Cambodia. I don’t know too many folks with that experience under their belt.

– Angkor Wat really is worth the trip to Cambodia. It’s a phenomenal place. I’ve been on all three days now. Once for sunrise and twice for sunset. Each time has been wonderful. Today, I met a couple more monks and chatted with them for a while. The monks here I’ve talked to have been about the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet. I guess that’s to be expected really. After all, they’re enlightened. I exchanged addresses with one of them so that I could send them a print of one of the photos I took. He also asked for my phone number and I could only give them my parents’ number due to my present homelessness. I explained that I wouldn’t be home for a long time, but he really wanted it. So, mom and dad, if you get a call from a guy with a thick Cambodian accent saying he met me at Angkor Wat, you know the story. Just chat with him a while so he can practice his English okay?

– Visiting a temple called Preah Khan this morning, I had the chance to explore the virtually deserted place for a couple of hours while the sun slowly crept up over the trees. This was what I was hoping for here in Angkor. The birds and bugs rang through the surrounding forest and the stones emanated echoes of that ubiquitous life. Certain places felt haunted. In others, I felt like I was Indiana Jones and the next bend would reveal some long-lost treasure.

– The above was possible because the busloads of tourists had not yet arrived. Now, I love a lot of Japanese individuals, but put them in a group and their collective number is overwhelming. Paths are chocked with people. Silence is shattered. The sense of adventure is lost. When you’re surrounded by middle aged Japanese people, it’s hard to feel like an explorer. I’m no more entitled to be here than any of the individuals in their groups, but I’d like to think that my presence here doesn’t substantially affect the experiences of others in a negative way. One friend of mine called Siem Reap ‘Cambodia Disneyland.’ Just so long as they don’t install any roller coasters soon.

– Siem Reap is the dust capitol of the world. I have never been so filthy in my life.

– Pol Pot was a horrible, horrible person.

– My driver really likes my money and drives a hard bargain. I hope with all the cash he’s taking from me, he buys a helmet for his future passengers on his motorbike. I guess not having a helmet on makes my scooter high fives a bit more feasible though. You need to be able to have good eye contact with the high five recipient before you can really deliver, otherwise, some unsuspecting foreign tuk-tuk passenger would probably get pretty shocked by some hand extending in their direction as a scooter passes them.

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