Continued from this Cambodia post. We had seen the 3 major temples and escaped only moderately dehydrated. Having had our fill of ancient history for a little while, we drove out of town to see a little more of the country outside of the temple walls.
We purchased some rice cooked in Bamboo on the side of the road.
We walked through a town precariously perched over water. Some villagers make their living fishing, some growing lotus flowers. Everyone but the smallest children working incredibly hard.
As some of these stops were not tourist draws, we were only ones there - and quite the novelty to every passerby that shouted to us along the way. We expected to get the odd look or maybe even a harassed or asked for money. Its hard to describe the poverty level here. These people have almost nothing so I wouldn't blame them for giving rich foreigners with fancy cameras and a waiting car the evil eye. Instead we got the warmest smiles and welcoming waves by nearly everyone.
On our final day there, we visited two more temples on the advice of our guide. The first, Bang Melea, was similar to Ta Prohm in that it was overrun by trees. But this one is not quite as well maintained. It has more of a wild feel than the others.
And our last temple, Banteay Srei, was our least favorite. It was beautiful but it had recently been taken over by a commercial organization that sucked some of the charm out the experience. I hope this group will help preserve these structures and its the price of progress - but I can only hope the other temples don't suffer the same fate.
Our tour guide, who is also the leader of a charitable organization that subsidizes schools (teachers make just $40 per month there!), asked if we would mind making a pit stop at a grade school to drop off some uniforms. Once again, the gorgeous children of this country surprised us with their charm and warmth. If I had known ahead of time, I would have brought pens or stickers but it was a last minute visit. So we purchased a big bundle of candy and handed that out. These children were so polite - the older kids made sure the younger kids had first crack at the candy and even the youngest children would only take one piece and say thank you.
Despite the additional help, the schools are in pretty bad shape. If you'd are interested in learning more about helping or donating, check out the Ponheary Ly Foundation website.
Cambodia is a place I will not soon forget. Both its tragic history and its amazing citizens impressed me beyond words. I imagine it will be quite different in the not too distant future but I'm glad we got to experience it as it is now - good and bad. Hope you enjoyed seeing some of the highlights of our trip.
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