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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A Holiday in Cambodia, December 2012 (photo dump!)

So here are my photos from my Asia Tour... 2012. Not the one I just came back from, the one before that. It's possible that I'm behind on blogging, I'll admit.

Hanging out in my hotel room during the hottest part of the day in Siem Reap, December 2012.

During last year's Asian Tour, I visited Cambodia for the first time. I was shooting and staying in Siem Reap for four or five days and got to see some of the ancient temple complexes and sample some local delicacies, namely fish amok, which is probably the best thing I've ever put in my mouth.

Fish amok, served in a banana leaf, my new love.

This was my first time in a developing country and seeing how people live there affected me profoundly. I spent more time crying than I usually would on a modelling trip, usually at the sight of barefoot children paddling around in the dust trying to sell cheap bracelets to tourists or outright begging for bottled drinks, and so on.

Before I get too heavy, here are some photos of a couple of the temples I visited, including the one that Tomb Raider was filmed at.

Time for a photo dump!

Being greeted with jasmine corsages at Siem Reap Airport. Siem Reap officials of all kinds dress like they're in the army

 Ancient carvings in the temple

 Pretty pink water lillies

 These are stone lions, guarding the temple!

 Monkey! And baby monkey!!! :D

 View from the top of one of the huge multi-storey towers. It felt like a skyscraper! It sounds crazy, but this temple is something like 1200 years old and built without any kind of cement to hold the bricks together. Makes me wonder if we have the wrong idea when it comes to building over here!

 I was a little distracted by the quite spectacular cleavages that the ancient Cambodians apparently had, hence all the photos of the carvings.

 Ancient twins :)

 I stumbled into one of the many tiny rooms in the maze of complex tunnels in one temple, and this was going on.

 Apparently this ancient king had his face carved all over this temple so he'd never be forgotten

 Freaky old temple

 I didn't do anything to this in Photoshop, the Ladies' Temple really looks this eye-burningly detailed!

I think this was Cambodian Cry #1... seeing a band busking at one of the temples. Every single member lost their livelihood due to landmines blowing off limbs or permanently blinding them. Cambodia has no proper hospitals or medical care, let alone an NHS :'( Listen to their music:

 My favourite temple (of the ones I visited- there are something like 1500 in Siem Reap alone!), with an absolutely enormous tree growing out of the top of it. That doorway is about human height, to give you an idea! This is where the movie Tomb Raider was shot.

Headless Buddha in a lost temple. This was one of the ones that had no restriction on what you could wear- short skirts, strapless tops, nobody cared anymore. It created a spookier atmosphere than the temples that still felt a little holy and in use.

I also had time to go on a horseback ride around the local villages, outside of the city and among the rice fields, which were being tended by guys in conical straw hats and the odd water buffalo attached to a piece of string on a stake. My guide explained that he too had once been a rice picker, but now earned a whole US$2 per day as a tour guide, much to the envy of his non-English-speaking friends. Can you believe people survive on this sort of money? Many in Cambodia earn $1 a day in the fields, and they can't even do it all their lives, because being bent over all day, every day cripples their backs by their late 20s.

I was bought a pair of pink "Puma" trainers from the local market for the horseback ride for the princely sum of US$8, probably a comically high price in Cambodia. This is the sole!

The presence of rich tourists is also encouraging shops and estate agents to jack up their prices, making life even harder for the locals. It had never occurred to me that spending money in a poor country could be anything other than a positive thing. The Sex Pistols line "Cheap holiday in other people's misery" was going round and round in my head for the whole trip.

Cambodia is very beautiful and has an incredibly rich, historic culture, friendly citizens, and delicious local foods. If you do decide to visit, please check out this guide, which includes lists of recommended accommodation (from hostels to 5* hotels), restaurants and so on that channel money into the local economy and help out the local people, as well as general guides to dealing with local attractions and the many beggars. It's incredible to think you can actually do damage by spending your money in the wrong places in countries like these.

I think if I were to return for a holiday, I'd book an extra week to do voluntary work. It's the only thing that could really make the experience bearable for me a second time around. But I'm really glad I went; I think it was a life-enriching experience, and it certainly put some of my home worries- not having time to redecorate the lounge, not having enough closet space for all my clothes- into perspective when I saw families living in handmade huts on stilts in the jungle near the rice fields, with almost no clothes at all, and the silence only once broken by a transistor radio playing American pop songs that surely no-one in that world could ever relate to.

Anita xo