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Monthly Archives: August 2012

I originally set out on this trip chasing summer and beaches.  I’ve been quite terrible at that and have mostly chased fog.  So for my last stop in Cambodia, I decided to spend a few days on Sihanoukville beach.  It has everything I missed by not hitting southern Thailand, beautiful sand and a huge party scene.  So I set out south of Sihanoukville, because party scene I do not need.  I ended up on the quiet and beautiful Otres Beach portion of Sihanoukville.

That’s my bungalow, you can’t quite see the hammock. The bridge in front covers a lovely lily pad covered pond.

I settled into a quiet bungalow across the street from a bunch of bars and guesthouses on the beach.  Instead of drifting asleep to waves and repeated reggae, I prefer this lovely pond setting.  I am pleased that this place is Khmer owned, as many of the more well thought guesthouses are often run by foreigners.  No, the Otres Orchid is a gem of beautiful well built Khmer traditional style bamboo huts with plenty of space and sitting areas complete with hammock out front.  Just what I wanted!  Lucky too since it’s been so rainy I’ve spent more time in a hammock than on a lounger.  Surprisingly, I’ve seen more kindles and e-readers than I have iPods on the beach.  Hooray for reading!  The laid-back rain ridden area was ripe for playing different variations of rummy with new friends over tea and relaxing with some good books.

This is what the weather looked like most of the time I was there. There were moments of sun rain.

Like most resort areas, this area is full of terrible food.  I’m not sure why I stumbled across so many traveler’s blogs talking about how great the food is here, maybe low season brings less fresh food.  I miss the fresh crab of Kep as this is otherwise extremely westernized and lackluster Khmer and western style seafood.  The best of the bunch appears to be Sunshine cafe for westernized Khmer fare and Everything is Everything for non-Californian style burritos and tacos.  Yes, I am cranky that most guesthouses think their “famous” burritos full of salad and dressing are what burritos should be.  I miss my carb rice and bean (and sometimes fries) bombs of California.  I am also slightly amused and terrified of how many giant rats are running around in the latter.  I got turned away the first day for a room there, and was glad when everyone who stayed there offhandedly mentions all the rat droppings and raided snacks.  My insatiable sweet tooth continued but was mostly left unsatisfied.  The closest my chocolate hankering got was a mars bar rice krispies treat at Everything is Everything that reminded me of an elementary school bake sale in the not good way.

Sihanoukville is famous for their persistent touts asking if you want to buy things.  Otres Beach is known to be less annoying but you still get the same characters you see on any beach.  The kids who should be in school selling you bracelets, the women carrying huge baskets of things on their head and for my first sight here, women offering you cheap massages as you chill in a lounger.  Disturbingly, I never saw lobster basket head lady ever sell a single crustacean and yet that pile grew larger daily.  How old are those?!

All over Cambodia I seem to confound tuk tuk drivers, who are the most persistent of those bothering tourists.  They follow you a bit, ask if you want a tuk tuk, and for me, often ask why I do not.  They cannot comprehend that I like to walk, I think they are convinced I just do not like to pay them.  It involves them driving away shaking their heads confused.

Hello empty beaches!  The south end of Otres Beach has beautiful white sand.

I spent my last days doing exactly what I wanted, not much at all.  In the midst of a lot of people trying to make it work, and often badgering the hell out of tourists to do so, it is easy to get annoyed.  But then you see them play practical jokes on each other.  The old market women sneaking up behind each other and popping bags while the other one eats.  The bus stop guy who scares a sleeping driver.  Soon you realize and enjoy the weirdness that Cambodia, a beautiful country crisscrossed by waterways and nice people.

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It is low season in Southeast Asia.  I thought I wanted to escape before then, before the torrential rains.  It is a particularly dry year though, so it only rains for a few hours a day and not every day.  Bad for the rice harvest, good for me.  The low season does mean that business owners have a lot less customers and a lot more time to chat.  For some reason, in Kampot that meant about twice a day I got asked “you are traveling alone?”  It was nice to not be asked if and why was I not married for once, but this felt just as isolating.  A small talk killer about three sentences in.  At one riverfront restaurant I got approached by two separate waitresses who incredulously asked if I was alone before removing more plates from my table.  They later giggled in a group behind me.  Even some tourists looked at me funny, but I think that may have been my enthusiasm at eating the crab I had.

I look odd eating crab? I’m not the one with a huge durian statue in the middle of town! A lot of Cambodians are illiterate so roundabouts have giant statues to give directions.

My experiences in this otherwise sleepy riverside and near ocean town quickly snapped me out of any self pity at my plight.  I’ve had a ravenous sweet tooth that has been insatiable even when I’ve found tasty western style desserts.  It led me to find the Epic Arts Cafe, an NGO run cafe staffed by deaf members of the community.  The NGO also runs a community center that makes the special ed programs in my public schools growing up look unpolished.  To have such great help for people with such things as down syndrome out here was not something I expected.  The city is also full of blind massage parlors, which unlike my experience in China, actually appear to be staffed with blind people.  I visited Srey Chan massage, run by a delightful old woman named Srey Chan out of her house.  I wondered about the futility of changing behind a screen if my masseuse was blind, but the whole operation did face the street.  I still find Cambodian massages a tad soft even if she was proud of how strong I had asked for, and it was a tad much on the butt and breast massages.  However it was pleasant and relaxing, and she seemed like the nicest old lady.  Encountering others with disabilities certainly puts a few bored locals constantly killing conversations by asking if you are alone into perspective.

Everywhere I’ve been in Cambodia has been near a waterfront of some sort and I greatly enjoy hanging out in the evenings watching the locals come out of sun hiding.

Boys everywhere will be boys, and play with guns popping bb pellets into things.

Locals and expats approach me to practice or get to use their English.  Although scams exist along these lines in bigger cities, it’s usually just conversation.  In this particular town I got scoped out by a young looking girl.  It turns out she had just moved back from Malaysia, where she was a babysitter.  Ah this is where cheap foreign help comes from.  Her mother was sick and she wanted to be near her if she passed.  The starting of a scam like story but luckily not.  She at some point even told me never to give money to anyone in Cambodia who asks, she’s been mugged before like that.  This is the second time on this trip a local girl has told me she’s been robbed or mugged places I’ve hung out, stop harassing young ladies bad guys!  Although she spoke decent if spotty English she told me her lack of writing skills meant she was having trouble finding employment with high enough salary to buy her mother medicine.  I hope this girl finds work soon, she sure was motivated.  I handed her my entirely useless to me Lonely Planet Southeast Asia phrasebook and hope it helps her more than the little it’s helped me.

Slow and charming with traces of French architecture, Kampot is a town I could lose myself in for a few days.

The nearby Bokor national park was a bust as my guesthouse staff had not warned me to take enough gasoline in the scooter, so I did not have enough to explore.  The pouring rain and rampant foreign development put a dampener on things as well.  What used to be rutted roads to see foggy ruins is now beautiful paved up to a garish Chinese casino and completely rebuilt structures.   Luckily the rest of Kampot with it’s lovely slow pace was enough to relax me for days.  They had great fruit shakes and friendly hardworking locals.  The proximity to the deliciousness of Kep helps as well.  I highly recommend the Kampot Pie and Ice Cream Palace (and guesthouse), run by a lovely Khmer lady who opened up without knowing how to bake and managed to have one Dutch visitor teach her everything she knows in a matter of two weeks.  She learns fast because she has objectively great brownies and the best pies with homemade ice cream I’ve had in Asia.  It is not a thrilling destination for those doing a rush tour of Cambodia but Kampot is a lovely place to be for those with a few days of relaxation in mind.

What happens when you take a farm producing Kampot pepper, famously used back in fancy French restaurants back in the day.

Pick the pepper and use it in lush, green strands before it’s dried into the peppercorns we know.

Then you go to the next town over which is known for fresh ocean crabs?

You get what may be the best crab I have ever eaten, green peppercorn crab in Kep, Cambodia.  It is why I have come to Kampot and Kep, two towns separated by 25 kilometers but combining to form a delicious dish.  Crab is already my favorite seafood and this similar to Chinese preparation with a gravy like sauce made of scallions is greatly improved by delicious Kampot green peppercorns.

Kampot restaurants leave something to be desired in general. Although I thought it was tasty at the time, I didn’t realize this one dinky crab was a rip off in what had gone from a local to a tourist only restaurant.

Well, at least I can enjoy a beautiful sunset view of the river from this place. Seriously though, as proof inclusion in Lonely Planet kills restaurants, Ta Ouv restaurant is just no good. Go to Kep instead.

I don’t think in my months and months of traveling have I been to a Lonely Planet restaurant that was even good.  The only ones untainted were restaurants that were already famous and well known before being put in the book.

I bicycled out to Kep and decided I wanted to find their blue crab statue before I ate. I failed to find it and found this naked mermaid instead. Guys, I don’t think that scarf is helping her modesty any.

It’s a (crab) trap! Rather, a lot of crab traps and the crab market behind it. There’s a line of crab restaurants next to the market. Locals buy bags of crabs steamed at the market and eat it in the park or near the ocean.

Avoiding the twice as expensive Lonely Planet choice, I went instead for expat favorite Sunset Restaurant at the end of crab row. Now that’s a plate of crab! And that’s a Coca-Cola masquerading as wine.

I got to watch the fine ladies of the crab market next door at work as I ate. Good to know my food is fresh.

A messy hour later, only the crab ladies remained. The crab cracker lay shamefully unused under a plate and a small bit of Kampot pepper lime sauce sat in the saucer.

I was so satisfied and thought the day could not go any better.  Until I turned the other way from the crab market and saw that the next restaurant had their own traps and would go out to them when customers ordered crabs.  Well, I know what I’m doing the next day.

I returned and got my own crab lady!  Although once they brought them in I saw them poking at a black trash bag full of less wiggly critters.  I’m not sure which I got.

They were grilling squid and fish when I got in so I tried some of that too. Good but the crab is definitely better. The lime, salt and pepper sauce is particularly tasty with Kampot pepper.

This plate was as magnificent as Sunset Restaurant’s. There was more sauce, a gravy like the kind you’d find on Chinese chow fun noodles. The kind that is asking to be mixed with the rice on the next plate. On the downside, I seemed to have a lot of missing and loose limbs on this plate. Inferior crab butcher?

Good thing I got food poisoning and went to Siem Reap first.  Otherwise I would’ve realized that Kampot pepper is the real living treasure of Cambodia and might’ve stayed weeks trying every restaurant near the crab market.  I think I prefer the taste of Sunset Restaurant’s crab more than its neighbor without an English name.  Luckily for me, they gave me slightly more crab too.  For $5 a plate for this small/medium plate, I wonder what a large looks like!  This is definitely the best thing I’ve eaten in Cambodia and possibly this trip.

Often bigger tourist towns are full of international food aimed mostly at westerners, so I have better luck finding local food in my smaller stops.  This proved no exception as I hit the town market as soon as I got in.  Cambodian food still isn’t the most exciting thing, particularly after the more strongly flavored Thai and Vietnamese foods but it is tasty and has a strong street food culture.

Like most Asian fried chicken (besides Korean), this was a tad dry fried for my taste. The spicy dipping sauce and extra breast nugget attached to the wing was delicious though. The tourist price per wing was a bit steep.

Right next to the deep fry chicken cart was a deep fry meatball cart. It even comes with slits to not explode, a peanut satay sauce, and a tangy mild chile sauce. Somehow these were even more overpriced than the wings.

All day all over the place you can find people wandering around with carts of instant noodles or these thick short rice noodles and hot oily woks. Good for a small snack anytime or a meal with an egg and drenched in chile garlic sauce.

Common desserts in Cambodia and Vietnam are things made with rice flour and covered in coconut milk. This is a soup dumpling that I was hoping was full of palm sugar but was full of yellow bean instead.

I saw these green beehive looking things starting in Vietnam and finally bought some. Turns out they’re fresh lotus seeds. It also turns out I don’t find them very tasty at all but they make a good high work snack like sunflower seeds.

I didn’t find a papaya cart here but I found a roadside family stall making this bright ruby papaya salad. I’m still not sure what gave it this purple pink hue. The bottom got a bit fishy but it was otherwise delicious.

As for the other restaurants and stalls around town I managed to have probably two fruit shakes a day, some wonderful homemade noodles, and some nice Cambodian soups.  I’m excited to note that Cambodian corn tastes like American sweet corn and not the fibrous old style corn that I found in Vietnam.

The cooking classes were even cheaper in this town so I took another crack at it.  Unfortunately the low season means some classes can’t get enough people (read: more than me) to run a class.  The Smokin’ Pot guys kept giving me the runaround and told me “well, someone told us they were going to sign up, so come back tomorrow morning!”  Yeah, right, I’m not holding out for your flaky plans.  Homestyle cooking with Nary’s Kitchen it is! I realize I may be less amazed than most people who take these classes because I was already making my own Thai curry pastes from scratch before I went on this trip, so this isn’t new information to me.  At least this particular class uses prahok, a super fermented fish paste that western aimed restaurants usually leave out.

Our translator Toot showing us how to use banana leaves to make a little boat to hold amok (curry).

Our fish amok steaming away with a yam. The mousse like texture of a steamed curry is complimented by the drizzle of coconut cream and kaffir lime/dried paprika shards.

I wish we got to pick the dishes as I wouldn’t have gone with the three most western friendly ones, but I’m glad I got to see how to make fish amok Cambodian style. The beef and fried egg was just that, an easy stir fry.

I went back the next day just to get lunch and was excited to see mango sticky rice on the menu. Alas, while the portion was big, the rice was dry and not full of delicious coconut milk.

This class was taught by a homestyle cooking housewife turned chef of the restaurant.  Her rather bright husband used to work as a guide and taught himself English completely by interacting with tourists.  He translate for his wife who speaks no English and cannot even read Khmer.  I like that it is more home cooking than the restaurant run classes where the manager who otherwise does not cook teaches.  I do miss my kitchen and I can’t wait to get back to having one again one day.

Cambodia is covered by a series of rivers and waterways that was key to the ancient Khmer civilization.  It was the transport method, the bringer of more rice harvests, and the road to success and control.  These days I’m finding a pleasant place to stroll and a good way to orient your way around every town I’ve been in.  To get to Battambang from Siem Reap, I took a boat across the Tonle Sap and into smaller rivers.

A pleasant if slow route from Siem Reap to Battambang that is lined with endless rice fields and riverside shacks. Vietnamese cannot own land so many of them live on water.

In modern times, the roads are much faster than the water ways. In this case it is 1/4 of the price and 1/3 of the time to go by bus. You better love slow boats!

Good thing I love waving at passing children and cows. Not an exciting ride for those on a tight travel schedule though.

The Tonle Sap is interesting in that half the year water flows into it from the Mekong, but when rainy season hits, the flow goes the other way.  I’d like to see that exchange.

I sat next to a nice Spaniard from the Canary Islands who told me he used to make commercials with puffy white clouds and loves the ones in Cambodia. I agree, the cloud watching in this country is first rate.

I toyed with the idea of going by bus and then doing some kayaking in town.  I’m sure the locals think foreigners are nuts.  Why would you pay to laboriously row yourself somewhere when you could way less money to get a tuk tuk or motorboat?!  Green Orange Kayak and Cafe 11 km out of town is run by the Feda Cambodia NGO and rents out kayaks and guides to those interested.  They’re a tad hard to contact by e-mail and I had better luck calling organizer Sokha directly.  After a confused motorcycle taxi finally found where I was supposed to be, I set off.

The awesome clouds continued. I particularly enjoyed this lonely puffy one rolling over the dry landscape.

They give you a correctly landmarked but not to scale laminated map.  The curves of the river tricked me into thinking I had made both more and less progress than I realized.  I’ve only been kayaking for maybe an hour or two before at a time as it isn’t cheap in America.  I didn’t realize three hours of kayaking downstream would be such a workout!  This is not for the out of shape.  Usually I enjoy waving to the various small children, but as I have the arms of a T. Rex, I couldn’t get out of range fast enough and they just would not stop waving and saying hello.  It’s more pleasant to exchange fast greetings on a bicycle than screaming hello constantly on the water.  I did enjoy the haunting chants I heard from one of the many pagodas I drifted by.

More beautiful views of brown waterways, rural villages, rice fields and blue skies.

I had a delightful chat with the two young men who helped me get in the kayak and picked me up again in town.  They were not pushy at all and almost forgot to collect money from me at the end.  If an “authentic rural life” scene is what you are after, I’d say the kayak trip is the choice for the fit or time crunched and the boat ride is for those who like to sit for ten hours at a time.   Enjoy it while you can.  As road conditions continually increase, a lot of boats have already disappeared and there seem to only be tourists plying the routes these days.  Going by water is certainly a gentler and more fun ride for me than by land.

I was not thrilled about eating Siem Reap, or the city in general.  It is a tourist town with more to be excited about on the international end of food.  This is great for homesickness, but for the most part and for my tastebuds and wallet, I still prefer local foods.  Luckily I managed to find some local food hidden beneath all the touristy streets.

In Psar Leu, the big local market of Siem Reap I found what I think may be red nom ban chok. This is usually a dish reserved for special events like weddings. It was delicious and involves room temperature fermented rice noodles covered in a lukewarm curry sauce.

Post Phnom Penh illness I’ve eaten in more restaurants. This local number was delicious with saucy fish amok and a warm beef salad. I was looking for a green mango salad at this restaurant recommended by a local blogger but apparently in the week since the post it is no longer on the menu.

Good thing I got my salad other ways. Far from the safer person I was at the start of this trip, now I’m eating papaya salads off of carts. They’re delicious! The surprise pickled crab was more risky but also tasty. While I love crab I think I prefer papaya salad crab free.

After blowing my cooking class enthusiasm in Laos, I’m trying again in Cambodia where it is reasonably priced. I chose to play with banana flowers since I don’t see them in America. Unfortunately it was at a western style restaurant so I found the flavors tame and lacking compared to what I eat in this country. No prahok (fermented fish paste)? Probably not authentic. I do miss my kitchen so it’s nice to cook again and to meet nice people.

Another good place to get more local food are the beer garden like places. They serve delicious bar food, in this case grilled goods.  There’s also women in what passes as scantily clad in this region refreshing your beer and ice.  This was on a street full of bbq places. I enjoyed the family place I went to earlier in the week for grilled beef and liver on skewers more.

I did get a sudden hankering for American desserts that I attempted to fix in a more international town.  I do enjoy the various slippery rice flour noodles and concoctions in sweet coconut milk and custard steamed inside a pumpkin, but it just isn’t chocolate.  Alas it still took me a few tries to get right.  I do love the “pancakes” they serve on the street which are generally roti that they can fill with banana, chocolate, even nutella in tourist areas.  In local areas you see it more with just condensed milk and maybe an egg.

I was craving chocolate chip cookies specifically, a need I still haven’t met. This cakey cookie was more fit for black and white cookies and the tiny chips were unsatisfying. It was sold at an NGO cafe so I wanted to like it but couldn’t.

I went back to the same cafe to try to like it. This cream cheese chocolate cake looked good and even had a good sprinkle ratio but everything about it tasted off. Good thing I didn’t even attempt the cafeteria cake looking brownie.

 

I finally went to a french style cafe that was delicious. The atmosphere was great, the cake (with unnecessary creme anglaise) delicious and alas the prices matched. This could’ve been a cafe anywhere in the world and felt like it.

The best American style dessert I found was a brownie at The Blue Pumpkin cafe chain.  It was rich and chocolatey, everything I was looking for.  So when in a touristy town, I might as well embrace what I can get.  I do still enjoy my savory local foods more though.  Back to the markets!

Let’s start this post off honestly.  I do not much like temples.  I realize this kills about 50% of things to do in any town in Asia as the people are always very proud of their temples.  I had temple fatigue before I even set foot in one.  So when deciding whether I wanted to come to Cambodia at all, Angkor Wat of course factored in.  The truth is I didn’t come because Angkor Wat would change my life with its magnificence, I came because I knew if I didn’t now it isn’t very high up on my priority list to see it otherwise.

I don’t know much about Cambodian history so I started off my visit to the Angkor National Museum.  It was quite informational if a bit dry, and I feel overpriced at $12 USD since you can wander through in a few hours.  The museum does give a good crash course on Khmer history of the glorious past.  Now I see why there is so much that I see in common with Thai and Vietnamese culture, from a time when the borders were not as they are now.

Siem Reap is about 90 degrees all year long so it is a safe bet to warrant that a tuk tuk is always a better idea.  This isn’t exactly a cheap venture though, with a $20/day park ticket, $15 tuk tuk per day, and another $20 if you want an English speaking guide.  I haven’t been one to pass up exercise even in the sweltering heat of the region, so I set off on a bicycle.

Except I came during rainy season. This does not bode well for my weather the rest of this adventure.

The only non-bicycle option I would’ve considered. Na na na na na na na, Batman tuk tuk! First there was one, who did well, so now there are many. Ah, Asia.

Although I got the best bicycles I have seen since in Asia for a buck or two. They had working gears, working brakes and this one even had some rusty suspension.

Well, if I know I’ll get temple fatigued, I’m going to start with the grand ones first! This is Bayon reflected into a giant rain puddle.

The multitude of stone heads facing the cardinal directions really was a sight to behold.

As was the multitude of tourists. The Asian tourists were best prepared for the weather because their umbrellas doubled as sunbrellas.

I just had to duck around a corner off the main path to find silence. I ran into some archaeologists doing some sort of soil study.

Some demons wrestling with a giant naga snake body. The demon heads were apparently not as popular to steal as the other heads.

I really enjoyed just wandering around such a huge national park area. I’d stumble on less man-made miracles, like this heart shaped root collecting water.

Trees grew around and all over temples. It lends an unplanned air of nature and man made mixing together to form beautiful ruins.

I may have gotten as much joy watching this child run around gleefully screaming about her plank on a string than I did clambering around this sweltering temple.

Bad tourism in action on so many levels. There were small kids selling bananas and lotus seeds to foreigners who would then feed the primates.

There’s a whole lot of moats and ponds in the various temples. Angkor Wat’s moat is particularly large.

Piles o’ rocks, stacked by size. Are they bored kids or something else? I thought it was the former til I saw them everywhere, particularly in shrines.

Angkor Wat from the back side, the only one I caught without construction.

The pouring rain meant people were hiding out in random alcoves. I was glad to be enjoying some shallow reliefs at the time. Har har har.

What they meant was, it was a Buddhist holiday. Not that the temple would close in an indeterminate amount of time. Sucks for the one day trippers.

What’s cheaper than a lawnmower? A fleet of krama wearing locals wielding machetes.

Angkor Wat from the front. The construction does not help. The French family trying to time jumping shots into puddles did help. The large amount of tourists kept making me want to photobomb everyone.

It would appear the only things being restored were ones with foreign funding who advertised their help with huge flags, banners, and displays about restoration instead of any information about the temples. I’m all for restoration, but isn’t this a little blatant that one of these isn’t original?

I’m personally OK seeing ruins in general, but particularly here if that’s the way it would’ve been without sudden international tourism interest. I did not see a single temple fully being taken care of by just Cambodian interests. Sad.

While Cambodia exhibits interesting mixes of Hinduism and Buddhism, this is just a little too much for me.

Ta Prohm is the temple famous from the Tomb Raider movies and for the trees overtaking the temple. I overheard some Asian tourists excitedly mumbling about “Ang-cho-lin-ah Cho-lie!”

I went around the back end of the temple and saw where they were just trying to stop the tree damage. Go nature go!

It was packed with tourists on the main track of Ta Prohm. I turned some random corners and ended up running into some local poor children who were collecting recyclables but also playing. Like kids anywhere, there was a bossy one telling everyone what to do. One little boy stopped to extend his hand to help me cross a deep puddle.

I walked by as a guide explained to a bunch of monks in Mandarin that a linda is a sign of fertility. Then he pointed out it’s a very graphic depiction of fertility, you pound an octagonal or cylindrical stone into the female half the linga to make the water come out. The monks giggled for a good five minutes even as they walked away.

I’m not really sure what a triple linga is for, some bizarre triplets-having fertility statue?

I think I accidentally wandered into a work site. It’s hard to tell since I don’t think they work in the wet season when everyone is farming. Apparently a lot of these statues had heads as recently as 50 years ago. Recent history hasn’t been kind to Cambodia.

I spent most of the last day just enjoying biking around shady trees, rice fields and things like these lounging water buffalo. I like seeing them when I only see ears popping out from under the water flapping.

Sunrise and sunset are supposedly spectacular. I couldn’t tell because one was much too early for me to wake and bike for and the other was always so crammed full of people I gave up.

I think the Las Vegas like resort town that Siem Reap has become to support this combined with the objectively high western prices just makes this feel like not Cambodia at all, ironically.  I already  mentioned the bad primate tourism but it just keeps going, with people who have good intentions. Even in the national park I kept running into a lot of fake orphans.  Tourist demand outstrips actual orphans in this country so poor families separate to give their kids a better shot at earning money.  Every temple has female vendors who have lungs like you have not seen before screaming the entire day asking if anyone needs water or food.  I don’t now how they do it.  I’ve seen arguments that it is because there are rules about their farming inside the national park.  However, based on the rest of the region, I suspect these women would choose to do this anyways as it is more profitable than hard labor intensive subsistence farming.

I felt a little guilty as a woman behind me in a temple that could not stop exclaiming “MAGNIFICENT! AMAZING!” for a few minutes.  I am glad I saw such beautiful buildings and I loved the ornament and relief sculptures.  However I think I had enough and I didn’t even go half way around the world to see it.  The temples may belong to the people, but I get the feeling that left to their own devices the Cambodian people would not be rushing to create sandstone new works to replace the crumbling ruins.  This would be a good sanitized version of Cambodia for anyone who just wants a cursory glance at the land.  This was not the Cambodia I came to see, just the ruins of a long gone civilization.