Wednesday, 8 February 2012

I am certifiably a plebeian

Siem Reap is a very small city. The only thing that contributes to Siem Reap's presence in travel guidebooks and websites are Angkor Wat and the surrounding temple ruins. My journey through some of these ruins today was laden with lots of laughter, reverence, awe, intermingled with plenty of perspiration, weariness and groans due to my painful knee. More surprisingly, I realized I was such an uncultured and uncouth pleb with as much appreciation for the ancient civilization as Joel has of vegetables. I wouldn't bother writing about the history behind these ruins and the Siem Reap travel tips shared by many as this is clearly not a travel blog. So I'll write about my experiences today as I attempted to understand the stories behind the majestic structures of Ta Promh, Angkor Thom and Angkor

My first act as a certified pleb, is to desecrate one of the temple ruins enroute to Ta Promh... unintentionally, I might add. You see, the temple ruins do not have toilets . I wonder where these ancient chaps did their personal business, really. And I desperately needed one. Mr Ratana, our kamikaze Tuk Tuk driver wasn't any help. With his driving skills, I was suffering a near-fractured coccyx and my left kidney possibly dropped about several miles behind our destination. So on seeing a secluded and small temple ruin, I asked him to park his Tuk Tuk some distance away on the pretext that I wanted to take some photographs. I then proceeded to climb into the temple ruins, surrounded by large ancient bricks which had possibly held together the home of some royalty or some revered deity from the 10th or 12th century. In that solitude, I had a pee. David was horrified.

I am also certain that I am a pleb because I was so relieved that I bought a 1-day pass worth USD20 to visit the 3 structures. I couldn't understand how some people could buy 3-day and even week-long passes! By the time I ended up at Angkor Wat, I was exhausted and didn't bother to play Art Director with David's photography and told him " hurry up and snap it will you? Don't bother to wait for the sunset. I'll buy you a drink at the FCC in 30 minutes."

Another reason I am a pleb, is that I chose to visit Ta Promh because I first caught sight of its beauty in the Tomb Raider movie. It was truly magnificent seeing how the tree was swallowing the temple up in a bid to claim it as its own. I swear if it's not for David hurrying me on, I would have had him capture a shot of me pretending to leap over the boulders the way Angelina Jolie did in her movie.

Yet another pleb display of ignorance was at Angkor Thom. I truly dislike Angkor Thom for the hundreds of steep wooden steps built to help tourists access the inner sanctum of the ruins. Also, it was quite like the Mount Rushmore of Cambodia. All that hype about Angkor Thom was the Bayon ruins which were mostly the 4 faces of Buddha carved around the entire site. There I met a Buddhist nun who whispered a little prayer in my ear and tied David and my wrists with matching friendship bands. How very ├╝ber cool! Mr Ratana told me they weren't friendship bands but were for our protection. I certainly had hoped then that it would work because we were about to visit Angkor Wat and wanted our picture perfect view of the ruins to be protected from tourists bent on spoiling our shots.

It didn't. Angkor Wat had thousands of tourists descending upon it everyday and today was no exception. It was still very beautiful and the Apsara carvings on the wall looked so life-like even after so many centuries. However, we didn't venture up the famous dome-shaped structures of Angkor Wat. And we didn't bother waiting for the sunset. Beer O' Clock beckoned.

We ended our day at the FCC, sharing our thoughts of the ruins over a couple of beers and gin and tonic. I was so knackered. I missed Joel at home and I missed the girls in the office.

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