Monday, November 12, 2007

Speak Cambodian; Angkor Wat Day 1

Here are the essential phrases any traveler to Cambodia needs to know:

Kmai: Khmer, the Cambodian language
Tow kah moy: toast you say when drinking, kind of like "down the hatch."
Oy, oy: Like the Yiddish "Oy vayezmeeyer"

Bong: Boy, often used like the French "garcon" in a restaurant
Ohn: Girl
Tom: big (can also refer to big and fat)
Chilli: hot peppers (if you ask for "hot peppers" no one will know what you mean

Same-same: the same (universal term used in South East Asia. Often used when ordering food

Up to you: phrase often used by cabbie or tuk-tuk driver when they don't want to quote you a price and they figure you don't know the price range. The logic being if you don't know the range, you'll pay Western prices and will overpay.

Boom-Boom: Intercourse (same term as every other country in South East Asia)
Ice Cream: oral sex.

Visit to Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is one compound in a huge archeological area that is about a 20-minute tuk-tuk drive ($12 to $20 per day) from Siem Riep. I wanted to get a guide, which probably would have made the whole thing more interesting, but all the guides were busy. (Guide about $20 a day)

Some people want to see Angkor Wat at sunrise. Some want to see it at Sunset. (these make for great photos) Being that I was visiting at the beginning of high season, I wanted to avoid the crowds on either end. I also wanted to sleep till 11:00. And like I've said before, I'm not much of a site-seer. My motto has always been: If you've seen one mossy covered pile of rubble you've seen them all.

To visit the archeological area you can pay the following prices:
$20 for a day
$40 for three days
Note that there is no two-day option, which is considered by most visitors the ideal amount of time. There is such a thing as getting templed out.

The Angkok Wat building is believed to be the largest religious structure in the world. Unfortunately, the main building with the famous belfry-like cones was closed for renovation. You could walk into the smaller structures on the compound. Here are my highlights:
- Once you buy your ticket (they take your photo and seal the photo and ticket in plastic), you'll notice that the roads and roadside are immaculate. Though people still live in shacks along the road, they're very nice shacks, no corrugated metal in sight.
- When you get out of your tuk-tuk you are swarmed by hawkers -- very tacky. After fighting off the hawkers, I went into some of the smaller structures. One of them had a Budha with incense burning. A guy asked me if I wanted to buy a stick of incense. "Jeez, they really need to get control of these hawkers," I thought. I bypassed the hawker and a guy in a uniform came up to me and said I should remove my hat when entering the temple. Then he strongly recommended buying a stick of incense. "Ït brings good luck," he said with authority. I had no interest in being reincarnated as a prisoner in a Cambodian jail so I forked out the 50 cents and moved on.
- Again, the grounds were immaculate, but the buildings, after thousands of years, needed some work. It was hard to tell what many of the carvings were supposed to be. There were some bas reliefs (carvings in stone walls) depicting heaven and hell, various battles -- ok for about half an hour.

Then I was ready for the next major temple compound: Angkor Thom
- the big parts were a little more intact than those at Angkor Wat
- the belfry-like structures had, you guessed it, live bats flying around.

I also saw another smaller compound called Preah Kham. More rubble, time to go home.