Stop 15: Siem Reap / Angkor

Angkor Wat has been the place that I was looking forward to the most. The trip is somewhat pre-organized. In order to save some money and get around the outer circle of Angkor a bit easier, I created a post on Qyer (Chinese travel app / platform) to find some buddies to share the cost for a mini van. Finally we ended up being 4 with a girl (let’s call her A) around my age who is traveling with her mom and an other girl (let’s call her B) who is slightly younger doing data analysis for a milk product company.

The major difference traveling with Chinese people is the involvement/interaction with other groups. It is very difficult to get in touch with others since our group doesn’t really speak English. Also because we did not participate in any other tour activities. Our 3 day in Angkor is all organized by a Taiwanese driver who contacted me through the travel platform as well.

I met B first in the hostel. I was bit tired after being squeezed in the first row of the bus from Phnom Peng (Mekong Express is a safe company, the service is very good despite the old bus, the only down side was that I had no leg room, yes, I finally had this issue too … The Australian high school admin beside suffered more though). She very warmly said hi and went upstairs to finish her work in her dorm room (because of AC). We walked around after and bought some pants for the next day and had a chat during a can of Cambodian beer. She has been to a few places in China and mentioned how the traveling has ‘destroyed’ her world/value/life view. However she refused to mention details and I can only guess this goes into the physical attraction direction.

Girl A seemed a strong woman in the chat beforehand but turned out to be quite easy going when we met her and her mom. Her mom smiles a lot and is also very easy to talk to. She would take a break from time to time and then tried to teach our tuk tuk driver more Chinese.

Our taxi/tuktuk driver, named 祁益龙/QiYiLong (I always imagined “peculiar dragon” in my head which sounds exactly the same) is the highlight of the Angkor Wat trip. Coming from a poor village, he taught himself Chinese. He laughs a lot and the laughter is always genuine which comes from deep within. Sometimes he would watch us suffer from the heat and laugh at us, sometimes he would make a joke and laugh at his own joke, sometimes he would mention his boss and laugh a bit about him too, sometimes he would look at us how we eat the bamboo rice and laugh at us.

Despite him not knowing a lot of the history background from Angkor, he was a very fun person to be with. The genuine way of communicating with us just gives us the warm feeling of him being honest with us. When we had a flat tire, he would laugh out loudly as well. In the end, he is just a happy man. You do not sense any annoyance even when the tire broke. Whatever happens, his laughter is always the best answer to any problem. In the night, he would drive us back to the market and said that he would look for a job to drive back, if nobody hails him, he would drive us back home.

YiLong is also quite skilled. He knows how to climb a tree, how to drive a boat, how to distinguish all the plants in the fields. And us, slaves of the modernity, can only watch him and envy.

The last day, we met the Taiwanese boss and another boy from HK who joined for the mini van last minute. The boss seemed very quite and did not talk much. Girl B talked a bit with him and he mentioned that in Taiwan it is not easy anymore to make money and sustain a balanced life, that is why he moved out of the country.  He didn’t introduce much either about the different temples we went to. I wonder how he found YiLong to help him with his agency. The boss himself can’t really speak the local language, YiLong is such a valuable asset to him. The first time he started saying something is actually in the afternoon to say that the Cambodian people are offered a chance to learn Chinese for free when we saw a 4,5 year-old girl selling us bananas.

The HK guy made a very weird first impression. When he got into the van, I asked him whether he speaks Chinese. He just looked up and did not say a word. But after the first stop in a temple, he started to tell a bit more of himself in Chinese. In the end, he seems quite talkative. He is working in the cinema as someone who sets up the film rolls. Now he would even make mean comments within the group chat. I guess the first initial nervousness is something I still experience as well. There are days, where I instinctively avoid eye contacts when seeing new people.

So this is our group, we did have a fun time together, although we could have had more (meaningful) conversation after dinner. I had a beer or two with the HK guy where he told me some of his stories living in HK. That was actually quite nice.

One thing that surprised me on the road is the Cambodian People’s Party buildings. Everything around it looks fucked up and this one was just shiny and freshly painted … They charge now 30 dollars for one day in Angkor. Looking at the sheer amount of tourists there, and all the join funded preservation projects, I wonder where the money has gone …

Otherwise, Angkor Wat is really astonishing with its architecture and the detailed carvings (I missed it the first time I went in, only got to know it after visiting the museum so I went in again on the last day). Every other temple has its own specialty as well, the below one (Banteay Srei) has very detailed carving of the gods. Some temples have wet stones and the trees can actually grow on them.

And on the way to the muddy/dirty lake of Ton Le Sap crossing the floating village.

2 more pictures:

After the first day ofc, there were so many tourists around so that I decided to go to Myanmar straight after. Also to give myself enough time in Myanmar.

me, in Bangkok for 4 days to get a tailored suit.

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