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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cambodia - Laos

(Sorry, this post disappeared into draft for some reason.)

Templed-out in Cambodia.

We climbed the temples that were available to climb, but the vertiginous staircases at Angkor Wat were closed, maybe too many fractured skulls from the giddy adventurous and over-confident adrenalin junkies. We did the jump-meme every now and then. Pulled faces at the Apocalypse Now faces in the Bayon temple, got lost, got found, took photos at the pile of modern bricks, the future's ruins. Were as anti-tourist as possible, made concerted efforts to be in as many of other people's photos as we could, stand in the way of the perfectshoot as long as possible - as they all did to us. Perhaps unintenionally.



We were up at 5am one morning, tuk-tukked to the site, saw Angkor Wat at sunrise, silhouettes mainly, nice but, and we watched the ambitious Japanese use flash cameras to capture the rosy-fingered dawn. By the third day however, when our promised sunset shoot was scheduled (much more dramatic, with the golden-hued temple looking magnificent - E@L can confirm that from last time he was here, in 2000) we were too buggered to fufil our goals, promised ourselves instead to look at the sunset from our balcony, and so we crashed, gin&tonic exhausted, by the pool or back in the room. When E@L awoke poolside, three Melvyn Bragg podcats past, the sunset was in its final radiance, so he went upstairs and knocked on Izzy's room. She came to the door, all groggy and disoriented.

"What?"

"Sunset!"

Pause. "O, fuck off!" door slams.

E@L laughs, good joke.

~~~~~~~~~~~

In the floating village at Tone Loc, I mean at Tonle Sap, we head downstream (towards the lake) in a long-tail boat which keeps breaking down, to the floating house/restaurant that is the canoe trip base, with a, E@L thanks christ, toilet.

But the bilge-pipe spouts smoke instead of water. Not good. Our 12 year old captin hands the wheel over to the 7 year old first mate and leans over the back for the rest of the trip, holding smoething onto something or away from something near the waterline so that the engine can run. Looks of blank-faced concern.

The canoe trip is not as we had imagined it - instead of us paddling yellow plastic things, a strong young lady is doing all the paddling in our creaking wooden canoe. But we weave through the mangroves, dappled in shadow and sunlight, lotus-seated in a spiritual silence, only the plash of the paddle, the soft chirruping call of some waterbirds and the ripping roar of the long-tail boats... E@L sits up front and holds a contemplative buddha pose, thumb to middle fingers on his knees, eyes closed, as his canoe returns across the river to the restaurant/canoe berth.

"You're not fooling anyone," says D.

Heading back upstream, more trouble and we circle back to the floating house at the canoe berth, and our long-tail breaks down completely just as we edge up to it. Our captain is shouting something angrily to the four of five people who stand, unimpressed, watching our approach. He yells again and one of the women reluctantly goes into the back-room, presumably the kitchen, and returns with a meat cleaver. We raise out eyebrows and look at each other again. However, all he decapitates is a water bottle. The upper part is useful it appears, and after some repairs, obviously involving the introduction of some fluid or other, we are off. No more issues. With bumps, grinds and pushes and a great rearrangement of boats already berthed, we negogiate with the other returning long-tails and larger boats into a rare berth on the crowded sand.

~~~~~~~~~

Planes, vans and a rickety "ferry" (another, even less sturdy, but mechanically sound long-tail) and we arrived at Si Phan Don. The road from the airport to the "ferry terminal" was paved but poorly macadamised, rolling with unintenional and ignored speed-bumps. The bridge aproaches were typical for the rural areas here - so sudden and steep and obviously made without the road's height in consideration - and the iPodded, sleeping E@L's head hit the ceiling each time. Melvyn Bragg, in midsentence. The driver had no concerns at this and did not slow except for cattle, broods of chickens (why DO they cross the road?) and dogs. Thirsty, E@L asks up front for water. D passes back a bottle upside down. E@L looks at it, tries to drink from the base, gestures to D for a meat cleaver. Hilarity ensues.

We turn around a small island, first we head upstream, then downstream back into fast moving river which brings up quickly to a "berth" -another beaching, but this time by steps that lead up the bank to our hotel reception.

We are shown our rooms. "Over there," they point. Next to the gibbon's cage.

It is a French colonial villa, although that word is exaggerates the impression we first obtain. The yellow walls are indeed of the traditional French style. The place was built in 1896. Auberge Sala Done Khone. Cool. There are some floating rooms we could have taken, done below the restuarant. They are available on the next night, but hey, we are set already.

The most interesting thing about our fellow adventurers - the average age is about 75. Very few backbacker types. In fact none. We do not expect to see many Happy Pizza places or opium dens.

E@L

2 comments:

Tim Footman said...

At Angkor a few years ago, I was descending on one of the aforementioned vertiginous staircases, when the Korean lady ahead of me suddenly froze in fear. It took about 20 minutes for a guide to gently walk her down, one pace at a time. The nice thing was that nobody who had been inconvenienced by her acrophobic episode expressed any frustration, at least so far as she could hear it. Being stuck on the steps for so long did make everyone contemplate how high and how steep they were; I'm sure I wasn't the only one hoping that I wouldn't have a similar spasm of terror.

dh said...

Ah Angkor Wat. Best I could do was wander off a path. No landmines but I did get attacked by a gang of vicious monkeys.

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