...this is what Taa, our tour guide/driver in Siem Reap, told us. But in exchange for this relative remoteness, we had the privilege of climbing unsupervised over thousand year old carved steps, steeply ascending to smiling Buddha faces and views of the jungle...this place is so amazing. I can't believe the kind of access we had to these ancient treasures. As tourism grows, in a few short years, I'm sure the tourist access will be severely curtailed, i.e. more barriers, actually steps instead of crumbling stones to climb on, more protection of the carvings, etc. -- which is a really great thing -- but I'm glad we were here now. I mean, with very few limits, they basically let you lose to play archaeologist. There is some restoration going on now, to keep more carvings from crumbling, but they let some temples stay as they were, totally enmeshed in the jungle, because some of the tree roots have actually grown into the buildings, like in Ta Prom (Tomb Raider, anyone?)
They grow the cutest kids in the world (besides Sam) here. Besides being incredibly beautiful, this is an extremley poor country with an unfortunate recent past, a point driven further home by our tour guide in the war museum, who had been shot so many times and stepped on more land mines than I can remember -- he literally let us feel the shrapnel in his arm, he was missing a leg, blind in an eye -- his wife, father, mother, sister, brother, etc. were killed during the Khmer Rouge reign...and yet he was so gracious to show us around the weapons that had inflicted these tragedies on him and his loved ones. I can't even imagine...this year alone, in the Siem Reap region, 29 people were injured or killed by mines. It's just crazy.
But I don't mean to be overly depressing, because there are so many beautiful things about this country, including its people. All the children must study a language in school, and many of them choose English -- so Dave and I were privileged to spend a bit of time climbing after some creative and imaginative mini tour guides slightly off the main path near the temples, as they gave us their own version of history. And it was delightful to share some chewing gum with these little kids at Angkor Wat.
Right now we're in Hoi An, Vietnam, in an incredibly cute town which we are looking foward to seeing in the daylight. Sorry for my lack of clarity and lucidity in reflection, but the Tiger Beer is embarrassingly cheap. More later...