Alright! I'm calling it. It was the basil leaf salad with chicken at Angkor Wat. Yes people, I've been struck down with a bad case of food poisoning, expelling the contents of my stomach with projectile force all over the hotel bathroom floor. Mix in a fountain of diarrhea and broken sleep, and you've got me over the last two days… come to think of it, I'd say half the GAP tour group have come down with these symptoms, and have vowed to lay off uncooked foods for the duration of our trip. So today, I'm taking some time out to relax, upload some photographs and not worry about where my next toilet bowl will be.
We left Bangkok the morning after our GAP Adventures orientation. There are 15 in the group, mostly English, but there is another Australian who understands my need for Vegemite accompaniment. Apparently Vegemite will serve as a repellant against malaria while here due to its high source of Vitamin B, so I don't need to take the pills that everyone else seems to be on. 15 is a good size for travelling in a mini-bus, or splitting the cost of a tour guide when visiting Angkor Wat Archaeological Park - the main reason for arriving into Siem Reap, and the first of our stops in Cambodia.
Angkor Wat does offer a night spectacle, but to be honest, the ruins are phenomenal in their own right, rain, hail or shine. And lucky they were, because the 5am wakeup to see the sunrise would have been worthless otherwise, since we could only see cloud and the gradual lightening of the sky. I found the tour guide's explanation boring, and naturally when drifted away in both mind and feet. I began to wonder about the Khmer people during the heyday of the temples, whether it was a happy and prosperous time, or whether war threatened their survival every day - it was after all a powerful empire back then. Of course, my mind always reverts to animated depictions of suck things, so I thought of Disney's Atlantis movie, and The Road to Eldorado.
What's sad about this place is the poverty of the people. To survive, parents send their children out to hound the westerners to buy postcards, shroals (hehe, Angie), and flutes made out of bamboo. And they bombard you the minute you step off the bus: "You buy two for one dulllaaaaaaaaa." or "Monkey like anannnaaaaas, sir you buy." And that continues over and over, almost without taking a breath. We've been discouraged by our tour leader, Nin, from purchasing anything from them, as the country is trying to get the kids into some sort of an education and if they can sell these goods (mind you, I wouldn't want a flute that has been played by some dirty kid's mouth first anyway), then there is no reason to hope for a better life. As westerners, we really are the lucky ones, although in saying that… I think the Cambodian people rely less on technologies and are happier for it. The kids are friendly though, when you start asking them questions like their name, but otherwise… their English doesn't extend much past: "You buy, you buy."
So we saw the three main temples. Angkor Wat (the most famous), Ta Phrom (the one with tree roots growing over the ruins) and Bayan (the one with all the faces). By the end of the day, you're definitely templed out, but if you're only here the once… you'd want to make it count and photograph everything, even if they do all look the same at the time. I preferred Ta Phrom which found fame in the Tomb Raider movie. The serenity of the tree trunks and moss covering the ancient ruins was sort of mystical and it was a lot smaller than the other two that we saw. Our guide said there is no underground cavern though, like in the movie. "Anelina Holie falls down to a mowie set, haha."
In the late afternoon, a few of us continued along to the floating village, about a forty minute drive away. Our guide So, took us on a longtail boat out across the lake and told us about life on stilts. He said that people go to the markets twice a day because refrigerating items would be too expensive for their wage. It was about then that I started to feel woozy, although at that stage I was already paranoid that I was going to get sick, so I dismissed the groaning in my stomach. It wasn't until later when I was Skyping with Josh back home where I felt really nauseous, and then hurried back to the hotel and… well, I'm sure you can gather what happened next…