August 13, 2012

Siem Reap

"You get to see my country, but I no get to see your country. You lucky, but I not so lucky." my driver Kim reflected, putting things into perspective as I held on tightly to the back of his motorcycle. At the Siem Reap airport, Kim had been assigned to be my driver at the pre-paid taxi counter. Kim was a likable guy, and became my guide for the rest of my stay in Siem Reap.

After navigating the Tonle Sap and before setting foot in the fabled grounds of Angkor Wat, I perused the remaining sights and sounds of Siem Reap. We sped through several small villages and back into town, stopping at the open air War Museum. Row after row of rusting tanks, heavy artillery, guns, bombs, and landmines were neatly arranged in a grassy field. It was a grim testimony to the not too distant past of Cambodia, one filled with death and destruction at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

The Angkor National Museum provides a good introduction to Khmer history and how the temples of Angkor came to be. Nearby the National Museum is a splendidly manicured French garden maintained by Raffles Hotel. Kim was a driver during the day, but a volunteer English teacher to the children in his neighbourhood in the evening. He headed home to fulfill his duties, leaving me to explore Siem Reap by foot. I explored the local markets, sipped coconut milk, ambled along the riverside, and received a haircut, my pace as relaxed as my surroundings.


"The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are." – Samuel Johnson