Alex the Frenchie, Chad & I hired a Tuk Tuk to take us around Angkor Wat for the day. Angkor Wat, known as the 8th wonder of the world, is an ancient Khmer empire that stretched out miles around. It is possible to explore all of the complex by foot though renting a bicycle may be a bit wiser as there are dozens of temples to see. I was very honored to see such magnificent architecture, and impressed by what has remained. Many sculptures of kings/monks’ head were cut off and sold in the past.
As with other touristic attractions who’s local economy relies heavily on foreign money, Cambodia was no exception. Touts and sellers of all ages crowd the arriving area of Tuk Tuks, the entrance of sites and all throughout the area. This includes toddlers on mother’s backs, and 7 year old witty children, fluent in English, selling postcards. As soon as we got off the tuk tuk near the entrance, mounds of women, children came rushing selling us water, postcards, small figurines and everything you can think of under the sun. It can become overwhelming but remind yourself the dire need of many who need to feed their family.
The hustler children here are VERY street smart. And among the wittiest & most CLEVER kids I’ve ever met. They are funny too. I find people in Cambodia are hilarious & enjoy their humor. But under these light conversations and interaction with them, there is a much deeper and darker root to this epidemic. Most of these kids are not attending school. In poverty, many parents, uneducated and often illiterate, are short sighted. They are desperate to put food on the table and are not able to see the bigger picture of what education can bring. Which means that as tourists, we should definitely not give money to children, or even buy from them. Many of them are also controlled by pimps and gangsters.
Here are some random memorable conversations:
1) While we stopped to eat this afternoon for lunch, 3 girls came to our table trying to sell us scarves, postcards, key chains, bracelets, blah blah blah. They would NOT leave us alone, but they were so adorable & funny, I didn’t mind them around. One girl who was around 14 asked where we were from, we told her USA. “Ok, if i tell you the capital of US, who the first president is, the national flag, when the country was found, will you buy something from me?” As we politely said no & no again.. Then she persistently asked “Name any country in the world and ask me what the capital is, and if i know, you buy. If I ask you a country and you dont know the capital, you have to buy.” She did it in a flirty but cutesy way.. I adored her. Then our food came and the 3 girls said, “ok, i let you eat ur food, but as soon as ur done, i will come back and u will buy”. Wow, considerate they are, although they stood from a few feet away eyeing us to finish the food.
2) Chad was buying water from a little boy, no more than 9 years old. Some other girl said, why dont u buy more water, so u can give your driver? the boy replies “your driver cannot drink water”, chad asks why, “because your driver does not have a mouth.” Its retarded funny but we all laugh deliriously, and for moments to come I find myself laughing at their remarks.
3) (just a note: most we’ve encountered in Thailand & Cambodia are very very fem.. i cant tell if they are gay. So one of them asks Chad to buy from him.. blah blah, typical hustle. Chad says “no thank you” which he always politely does (I usually ignore them and run off, let them haggle chad & frenchie).. and after politely refusing a few times, the fem guy looks Chad dead in the eyes and says in a thick Cambodian accent, “You fucking guy”. gaaldjfalkdjfadjfgagagagagagagag
4) On the way from where we got dropped off yesterday, into our Tuk tuk to find a hotel.. a local guide jumped on our tuk tuk for the ride and learn about where we came from (they are very interested in learning about where travelers are from, because many of them cannot afford to travel out of the country.) We asked him if he recommends getting up early to catch the sunrise at Angkor wat which is known to be beauuutiiful.. He says that it’s been cloudy so we may not see the sunrise. Chad asks “Well it seems that I can buy my way around anything here in Cambodia, so can you make it happen?” He replies “Yes, I will make a call to the sun.”