Thursday, December 31, 2009

No tuk tuk, no sunrise at the temple, no sunset, no postcards, no guide books, no maps, no silly little fucking charms, no cold drinks, no massage. After several days in Siem Reap the milk of human kindness has curdled somewhat. At the temples one is beset by children peddling all manner of crap. They're all over you like rats. One is tempted to swat them off like so many blowflies.

The entire Angkor complex has been taken over by the league of car park re-surfacers and fence-pole-erectors. Bring money; at every turn there's a person with a ticket book waiting take your hard earned cash. You can't fart without a ticket. And it's difficult to take a photograph without 59 other people in the shot.

The irony of the situation is that it's a Vietnamese company profiting from the million or so tourists who grace Angkor's hallowed grounds every day. Not the Kmer. Sad. Our guide speaks in hushed tones of corruption at the highest levels - I think he means the government, not Jayavarman VII. His dad was a victim of Pol Pothead, so I guess he has good reason to distrust the establishment.

Siem Reap itself is a bustling little affair, full of pizza shops and bars. Beer is generally cheaper than water, at 50 US cents at most establishments.

Driving is much the same at is in Viet Nam. There's a vague nod toward the convention of driving on the correct side of the road - but only when absolutely necessary. Vientiene was more disciplined, but not as vibey, frankly.

Anyway, its new year's eve here, and the party down in the French Quarter was beginning to to get quell groovoir last time I checked. I'm off to get sloshed on my 3 dollars and change.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Down in Cambo...

And so now the list of places I thought I'd never get to visit is complete. Cambodia.

Siem Reap, to be exact, in the shadow of the great uncle wat - which I shall visit once Chomaine joins me on the morrow. I'm here with 25 pounds of camera equipment and an open mind. Yesterday I ate something made from pickled fish - a dipping kind of thing - into which I deposited lemon grass, chillies and peanuts, and then dipped (I (I said it was a dipping kind of thing) banana flowers (horrible), long beans, sliced carrot, leaves of varying descriptions (presumable from the surrounding jungle) and fried beef. I've been assured that there is a variety of this dish that contains fried stomach, as well one that has ants in the dip. Hmmm. I'm not sure about that one. I've not seen the fried spiders yet, but I can safely say I won't be trying those either.

A note on the formalities. Getting through customs is a breeze. Visas are available on arrival (same as Laos), but the Cambos have 6 guys to process the thing, licking, sticking, signing, stamping, chopping and taking your money as they breeze through the process at a production line speed that would impress even Henry Ford.

There's none of the stern paranoia of Vietnam, and none of the inefficiency of Laos.

Siem Reap itself is incredibly laid back. In another life I could live here. Of course, having said that, I'm aware of the diabolicalities that have plagued Cambodia's history.

On the other hand there is this:

Internet is quite fast and stable (take note Malaysia) and cell phone towers litter the landscape.

Oh, interestingly, the ATMs dispense USD. And mostly you can get change in the same; unlike Vietnam, where they certainly will accept your dollares, but ten give you back 50 zillion monopoly notes.

The street food is good (what I've had of it, anyway). Contrast this against Vientiene, where greasy, fat-ridden sausages greet the weary traveler at every turn (Anthony Bordain lied when he extolled the virtues of the same). Perhaps more on this later.

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