March 14, 2015

World-Class Banana Pancake, a Frog, and Angkor Why?

One of the things I've been told a few times as I've traveled is that you must see Angkor Wat. People online, a few I've met while traveling...yeah. They pretty much love the place. I didn't.

I got up early this morning, at 5 AM, in order to arrive before the sunrise. I intended to go by foot initially, but was convinced by a tuk tuk driver to exchange money for his services. It's not that he necessarily overcharged me, or his service was bad (neither are really true), but I'm on a pretty strict budget, and spending money on tuk tuks will probably mean I can't afford one or more of the things/trips I'd like to in the next few months.

But as I was saying, I got up early, went out there, and on top of the fee for the tuk tuk ($10 for both ways), the price for entry into Angkor Park (where the various temples and ruins are located) is $20 for one day, or $40 for three days out of a week.

I know, I know. I'm sort of being an entitled little twerp by griping about this, but to top it all off, I get into the park, start walking around, and realize that it's actually not so rare to get up this bloody early.

At this point, I'm kind of wishing I'd just bought the one-day entry ticket.

But...I hadn't even been there for ten minutes. It does get better. That said, I am still not a fan of this site. I expect I'd spend less and enjoy it more if I were to go to some random temple in Myanmar or Thailand. My Son in Vietnam, maybe. But, I spent the $40, so I'll probably be back tomorrow afternoon. The weird thing is the park is only open between 5:30 AM and 5:30 PM. Sunset is at six, so...I don't know. Maybe it's already mostly down by 5:30.

So I continued on. I really didn't want my $40 to be in vain. I walked up the main path toward the temple. It's arranged a bit like a castle, with an outer wall, and then a square made of four towers, with a single, taller tower in the center. There's a little under a hundred feet between the outer wall and the inner temple.

The inner temple is quite large (compared to most pagodas in Vietnam, and most religious places I've seen thus far.

I've largely shown the less famous sort of perspectives on Angkor Wat. The most famous view is straight on from one of the sides (don't really know which), making it seem like there are but three towers, when in reality, there are five.

I keep wondering why I'm so unimpressed with the place. Everyone seems to love it (as evidenced by the number of tourists in the previous photo).

I guess it has to do with the kind of person I am. I get up early in the morning most of the time to sort of encounter with nature, to be on my own in the beauty of God's creation, but in this case, I got up early in the morning and ended up being among a great multitude of people probably much more enamored by this site. It's a pretty impressive architecture, and it makes you wonder where the inspiration comes from. The very steep steps seem to be something shared between Aztec and Cambodian architecture, which is weird, because they're basically on the other side of the world from each other. And I wouldn't say tall stairs are everything that seems similar.

But I should move on, as I know almost nothing about Aztec history, Cambodian history, and especially the comparisons of their respective architecture.
I continued on through the temple, taking the occasional photo (the light wasn't particularly good that early, as it was overcast), and was handed one of these sort of incense sticks. They're a bit like a sparkler (that's what I initially thought they were, back in Hanoi, when I first arrived), but they don't spark or flare or anything. They just smolder. It's a bit like a very thin, long cigarette. Regardless, these are used to pay respects or something. 

I was handed on while inside the temple, and decided not to follow the example of the man demonstrating in front of the shrine. I may be misunderstanding ritual and everything, but as I don't know what the ritual means, I won't participate in it. If I did know what it meant, I'd know whether I should participate or not, as a Christian. Anyway, he seemed a bit miffed, but I'm not worried about it.

As I continued on, I got a few more interesting shots, but sooner than I'd planned, I ended up heading out from the park. I had gotten a few good pictures, but it was difficult to do so in part because of trees, and in part because of other tourists. The quantity of people trying to get selfies in the most absurd positions was ridiculous.

Anyway, I went back, spent a bit of time in the room watching a livestream of a Youtuber playing Battlefield 4 (yes, I kind of miss it out here), then went out to have lunch. I had a pizza, which was merely alright, and an appetizer, which was much better. It was a sort of long triangular crackerish breadish thing. A bit like a breadstick, but also kind of a biscuit. Also included was a small bowl of mashed potatoes, which didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but I ate it anyway. That part of the meal was better than the pizza, but it's ok.

My expectations for pizza in Southeast Asia have remained low for most of my stay here. I expect you can go into a proper, expensive restaurant and come out having eaten a good-tasting western-style pizza, but I don't really care for spending more on food than I already do.

My Japanese host seems to get a lot of Japanese guests to stay with him, which should be no surprise, as his knowledge even of the language eases the stay for anyone not familiar with English.

In the last several weeks, I've slowly realized how invaluable English is abroad; it's not just that it's helpful to learn it as someone in Vietnam or Cambodia or wherever, but as a traveler, it's important to learn English, because it's far more common to encounter a native (particularly in Cambodia) who speaks English than one who speaks, for instance, French.

This is a peculiar position. I find myself enabled by my knowledge of English to travel with greater ease, but at the same time, being American and knowing very little of other languages, I'm also sort of crippled in my ability to communicate while abroad. We have an advantage in that our language is common and desirable, but the fact that it is means that it's far easier to travel as an English-speaker than with solely French, German, or any other language.

This evening, I once again returned to my beloved banana pancake, and this particular rendition was actually pretty excellent. It was a soft, fluffy, sweet pancake with straight slices of banana fried in. I've had rather thin banana pancakes, thick ones, ones with long strips, ones with no cut banana inlaid, and this one is probably in my top two. Anna's were so big, and the banana pieces so good, that its bread part being somewhat odd wasn't really a problem.

This one had an unfavorable sort of texture thing to it, which I can't really describe, but the taste and the sweetness was excellent. I really hope I make it back there.

Ecstatic Pizza is the name of the place. The logo is a bit hilarious. Maybe a tad scary.

Anyway, I enjoyed both of my visits there (had lunch there this afternoon...or was it yesterday...I can't remember).

I remain well, and my guesthouse here in Siem Reap is actually kind of nice. I ended up paying another $1 for breakfast (boo hoo) and $2 for a bike for the day. I'll probably go to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom again tomorrow, but I've already booked my ticket back to Phnom Penh on the 16th, from which I'll hopefully find my way to Phu Quoc and a quiet beach.

Oh, and a lizard accompanied me while I showered.

Thanks for reading!


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