Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Quick breakfast of french toast, bacon and potato rosti and we were on the road by 6.30 am. First stop - Banteay Srei: The Citadel of Women. On the way, Me-an watched the Siem Reap episode of the Amazing Race on the iPad. He recognized some of the cab drivers! The Banteay Srei temple has the most intricate stone carvings we have seen so far and is the only temple ruin where tourist commercialism is starting to take hold. A formal souvenir area, pay parking and roped off areas in the temple are a sign of things to come. It won’t be long before all of the temples at Angkor will have some tourist access limitations. We made candy friends with two little girls and bought a souvenir Buddha head from the market before heading for the car. Next stop was the temple ruins at Pre Rup. The views from the top of this temple were outstanding and you could just see the towers of Angkor Wat in the distance. On the way back to Amansara, we saw some school kids playing soccer during their recess at Srasrang School. We stopped the car and went to visit them and their school. The teachers gave us an interesting tour and explained what the kids were learning. A number of the students spoke very good english and they hone their skills selling goods to tourists in the evenings. One of the kids even knew that Stephen Harper was the prime minister of Canada! The school is in desperate need of some financial assistance to buy books and supplies so we made a small donation and will see how we can help them when we get back to Canada. A quick swim at the hotel followed by a snack-based lunch and its time to head out to the floating village on Tonle Sap Lake.

We stopped along the way to buy more crayons, books, balls and lollipops for the kids at the floating village school and we handed them out as we got to the lake. The kids were so appreciative of the gifts they all received. We bought tickets at the Siem Reap harbour and headed out to the floating village in Tonle Sap Lake. The ride out was eye-opening and unlike anything we’ve seen before. Poverty at the highest levels all around as people live in houses on the lake trying to support themselves with fish from the muddy water. At one point a smaller boat zoomed up alongside and a young girl jumped on-board our boat trying to sell us drinks. She startled us! As she jumped back on to her own boat, another boat pulled alongside containing a kid with a python around his neck. I just about jumped into the drink vendors boat! The living conditions of the boat people are pitiful. It’s hard to imagine living your whole life like this. We moored up to a floating restaurant and market and got off our boat to walk around. I couldn’t believe that there were crocodiles for sale on the market boat! The sun was starting to set and we headed back to Siem Reap harbour, passing out the remaining books and pencils to kids along the river bank. As we pulled in to the dock, we were greeted by a vendor who had discreetly taken our picture when we first arrived earlier in the afternoon and was now trying to sell us our photo in the middle of a souvenir dish! We headed back to Amansara where we said our goodbyes to our wonderful guide, Me-an. Me-an was fantastic. We learned so much from him and shared many laughs and special moments. You rock, Me-an! We had another tasty dinner and now it’s time to pack for tomorrow’s  trip to Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand. We will miss Cambodia and the wonderful people here - they hold a very special place in our hearts!

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