- The size and scale of things is remarkable - ruins extend for miles; each is big and there are so many!
- It's all flat and all the brush is cleared, so it's like a big city park. The locals come to picnic on the grass outside Angkor Wat's moat on weekend evenings. All the houses have been removed so people won't be around to steal the carvings.
- It's a farming area in a poor country - we see 3 women cycling with bunches of long reeds to weave into baskets, a cyclist with a 5 or 6 foot long saw mounted vertically. Lots of cyclists, lots of motorbikes. If a Buddhist (who won't kill) has a pig to slaughter, he puts the pig on the back of his motorbike to take him to be slaughtered. The pig doesn't squeal much on the ride because he's lying on his back. (I think the slaughterer is a Muslim, who is allowed to kill but not to eat pork.)
- Big trees abound. Rang says they're gum trees. General usage was to build a fire at the base to melt out the sap to use as paint and pitch. This is now illegal because it kills the trees.
- It's like the Yucatan. Broad noses on the people and the carvings, steep high buildings in a flat land. But there are big trees here.
- It's like Greece (which is twice as old or more) - lots of buildings in pieces, only a minority still standing.
- It's like Haussman's Paris, heavily restored. (But most is restored by anastylosis, my new word for the trip, meaning taking it all apart and putting it back together like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, using new construction only as hidden support for the old stones.) When the breeze blows, Angkor feels like spring in the Tuileries gardens.
- It's a country town (of 70,000) with a great attraction, a "natural" resource. Money comes in from the tourists, the concessionaires and entrepreneurs from various parts of Asia, the Red Cross (who have planted 2000 gum trees for the millennium,) the Buddhists (who are building a big burial ground), and the Cambodian government, which is paving the roads to the tourist attractions. Seems like there are no Cambodian companies big enough to build a hotel or road.
- It's survived an awful war, with perhaps 1/4 of the country killed by the Khmer Rouge in four years. Monkeys are back; they had all been eaten, as were the dogs and the snakes.
- Kids learn English. Their grandparents learned French until about 1954.
- Most of the roads and town streets are unpaved. New paving undulates and Rang says it will not hold up under truck traffic, which seems true. Angkor Wat is on a main road, so heavy trucks rumble past bringing sand and rocks to the hotels being built near the airport.
A great place! Nice room kept sparkling clean, big bath, balcony, pool to use in the heat of the day, well trained people, great service. Every day when I came back from sightseeing with my shoes dusty, I called housekeeping to get them cleaned, as suggested by the sign in the closet. A man came in a few minutes and brought them back cleaned in 10 or 15 minutes.
The food was reasonable and an immense breakfast buffet was included, but it annoyed me to be charged $3.61 for a glass of juice. The magic words in both Thailand and Cambodia, if you don't want the buffet, are a la carte.
Breakfast buffet included eggs cooked to order, even soft boiled. Noodle dishes are also cooked to order. There are good cakes, cheeses, a separate Japanese buffet with sushi and other stranger things, Chinese food, dim sum, salad makings, yoghurt, meusli, a table of fruit: orange and grapefruit sections, pineapple, papaya (best with lime, which is with the Japanese food), dragon fruit (translated from the Cambodian garuda)(looks like an Edam cheese, but the soft sweet white inside the red rind is speckled with seeds). Rice, congee with slices of two different kinds of hard boiled egg. Two kinds of chicken sausage. Baked beans in the farthest corner. Dried fruit, six kinds of jam and jelly, rolls, four breads to toast. Cold cereal. Skim milk. Good coffee (but bad juice.)
CNN on the TV, though it wasn't in any of our hotels in Thailand.
The Sofitel is about a mile from the town of Siem Reap, but with a driver hired and ready to take us to town any time, it wasn't a problem.
The food on Bangkok Airways was poor in both directions: jellied something for lunch, almost as bad for dinner on the return. In Bangkok, the airline gives you a colored sticker to wear so they can be sure you get on the right plane, since they have several leaving at the same time. I spent most of the flight filling in forms.
On arrival in Siem Reap, we had to stand in four lines, to present our pictures and forms to apply for a visa, to pay $20 and pick up our passports with the visas pasted in, to get our immigration card stamped, and finally to pick up our luggage and get our baggage tags checked (!). Interminable in a hot airport.
The return trip was on a Boeing 717, a first for me.
It was expensive to go in comfort. The plane from Bangkok was $228 each at a discount. Visas are $20. It was $60 for a week pass to the sites, which we needed since we were there too long to use the $40 four day pass. Our carefully researched room at the Sofitel was reasonable at $135 ++ (which means plus 10% service and 10% tax on top.) Add $20 per day for our driver, plus tip. Total $1420 plus food and drink for 4 1/2 days.
It was a bargain to see a world wonder!
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