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

Last day in Siem Reap...

Very early this morning, I rented a bike (US$1.50 for all day) and decided that I wanted to pedal through a lot of the side streets and quieter markets around town. As I was going along, I heard a lot of music and discovered that several hundred people were gathered on a patio for some kind of major celebration. Everyone was dressed up in their best clothes and they told me that they were there to help a young couple celebrate their marriage. Because of the soaring temperatures that occur later in the day, all of this party activity was taking place at 7 A.M.! I was cordialliy invited to sit at one of the tables and was quickly offered many kinds of food and drink. Although I had just eaten breakfast an hour earlier, I felt obliged to share at least some of what they were so graciously offering to me. After hanging around for about 30 minutes or so, I took my leave and they gave me a bag of sugar cookies to take with me. Within a few blocks, I saw four young girls and their mother sitting by their wooden shack and delighted them all by handing them the bag of goodies. When I got to the main park in town, I saw that it was crowded with hundreds of young students ...ages 7-14...who were at a rally to stop child hunger in Cambodia. It was sponsored by the UN and was being facilitated be a number of local volunteers and folks from Oz and the UK. Seeing that I was a westerner, a few of them came over to me to tell me what was going on. After several speeches, the kids formed a long line and set off to march three kilometers around town to draw attention to their cause. They were all dressed up in similar uniforms and wore special hats. Since I had to stick with the rented bike, I made a donation to help them out. While I was there, I asked one of the Brits about those strange birds that I had seen several nights ago and which were, in fact, beginning to swarm above the trees as we were speaking. She said that they were, indeed, very large bats and that they make their homes in the trees above the park. When I was on Tonga in 1988, I remembered also seeing huge black bats hanging upside down from trees during the day and looking a lot like gothic Christmas tree ornaments. Very cool and, like bats everywhere, they eat a lot of insects so their presence is most welcomed by the locals.
When I was walking around Angkor Thom yesterday afternoon, I thought that these temples would never be able to be opened to the public in the U.S. without undergoing major alterations. There are just too many ways to get hurt as you're climbing around these structures. For example, there are no guard rails anywhere, the stone-block floors are uneven (and sometimes slippery), and, in the dark tunnels, it would be very easy to twist your ankle or worse. I'm sure that many people get hurt out there everyday because of a single moment of carelessness. In the U.S. (the litigation capitol of the world) people would be constantly suing the operators. Wisely, the Cambodians insist that everyone knows the risks of walking around these buldings, and that they should be responsible for their own safety. (Wow! What an original idea!) I'm taking an early bus down to Phnom Penh tomorrow morning, but who know what further adventures await for me today? After all, it's not even 10 A.M. More later...

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