Chuck Hillig's Travel Blog

Well, I'm going to be doing a lot of traveling over the next 6-7 months so I thought that I'd better re-activate my travel blog. The last time I posted anything here was way back in 2006 when I was traveling through SE Asia. Feel free to read my entries back then about my earlier adventures through India,Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines and Hong Kong. This time (at least for the next six weeks), I'll be traveling through Greece and Turkey.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Around Siem Reap...

Today I decided to take a look at the so-called "floating village" that makes its home in the large lake just south of the city. The 2500 people who live on the water earn their living as fishermen much like they do in the floating villages that I saw on the Mekong River coming into Chou Doc, Vietnam, as well as those around Ha Long Bay near Hanoi. The big difference, however, is in the sheer number of folks who live their entire lives out here on this lake. The homes are made out of anything that floats: e.g. a delapidated boat, or, perhaps, they've erected a shed or some kind of wooden structure on a small rectangular barge. Several of them may be tied together but, more often than not, each one is floating independently of the others. The kids living here have little chance to improve their lives. Since the government in Cambodia doesn't provide public education, their options are definitely limited. The long and bumpy road to the shore of the lake is lined on both sides with run-down wooden sheds...some as small as 12 x 12...and each one crammed with still more families...all with lots of kids. The poverty along here is staggering, and, according to my driver, the average family in this area earns less than US$250 a year.
After spending several hours around the floating village, I got back to town around noon and hired a tuk-tuk to take me out to see Angkor Thom again. My first day at the temples last Thursday was mostly taken up with learning the history of the buildings from a profesional guide and walking through the main areas. However, I wanted to have another look at the larger temples but to do it at a slower pace. Yesterday, I had re-visited Angkor Wat and so today, I wanted to poke around Angkor Thom for a few more hours. There are many large stone carvings (perhaps 40 feet high) on the outside walls of Angkor Thom that depict Buddha with his enigmatic smile. There are so many passageways, stone pillars, and tunnels and you can easily get disoriented. If you've ever stood in line to visit the Indiana Jones "Temple of Doom" ride at Disneyland, you have some small idea of the hallways and corridors of Angkor Thom. I'm quite sure that, whoever designed the Disney ride was familiar with the temples here at Angkor. As I had mentioned yesterday in my blog, the east entrance to this particular temple was highlighted in the Angelie Jolie Tomb Raider movie. Last night, I met a young fellow from Vancouver named Ian who was traveling for a while before he returned to Canada. We both agreed that traveling to other countries was enormously rewarding at many levels. When I was his age (18), you were expected to work during the summer and to prepare yourself to go immediately to the university the first September after graduating from high school. Nobody...and I mean nobody...ever seriously considered taking a year or two off to see the world before continuing their journey into adulthood. Back then, it just wasn't done. Times have definitely changed. On this trip alone, I've met hundreds of fellow travelers in the early 20's who are taking a "time out" before pursuing any higher education. More later...

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