Christmas in Angkor Wat

December 24

After sleeping very well I get up that christmas morning to enjoy a cute and amazing breakfast which is included in the room rate. When I finished eating I take one more coffee and go down to smoke a cigarette with it at the entrance to the hotel. Before I can even light my smoke a Tuktuk driver who is waiting there start talking to me. As I hadn’t even finished breakfast then he has an easy game and we arrange a temple tour for the next morning starting at 5 am. One think less I need to organize today and go out to get some real breakfast at the place where I take the pictures of the dragonfruit I posted already yesterday. On the way back to the hotel I buy a walking stick to make me feel a little saver after what had happened yesterday, Its already lunchtime then and I spend the hottest time (more than 35°C and humidity of more than 90% make me sweat from every pore) in the room writing my blog entry about the journey to Cambodia.

In the afternoon I get a sim to call my mother for Christmas. I believe to get the Cambodian word Hello – Huan dhalaa very quickly. Seam Reep is a tourist place and the only purpose for its existence are tourists. It lacks a little of authenticity as all restaurant serve food from all over the world – I even see one advertising Weiner Schnitzel – Vienna kitchen but dont feel tempted to test it. As I find out there are little tourist scams on every corner. The good thing is that tourist haven’t been coming here a long time and those who come are mostly of the “south east asia in two weeks” kind – easy victims. According to that the people here are not very skilled in scamming and with a little experience in thing like this easy to come by.

Evening time I go back to the barber/massage shop to get the shaved I had paid for yesterday. I get one of the most gentle shavings ever but when the face is done she says “finished!”. I ask about the head but she makes big eyes and says “OOoohhh this no possible!” I smile and tell her it is possible and we have a little very nice disdussion until she says she has never tried it before and she is afraid – “skin on head much more thin, I afraid hurt you”. The next customer is already waiting and I don’t want to make him wait much longer so I explain her its no problem, if she puts a knife on my throat she can put one on my head to where it is much less dangerous. The customer who is waiting agrees with me, I like her and so I tell her it is first time for everything one time. I give her one more day to prepare mentally telling her that she will do her first headshve tomorrow. She looks a little scared and smiles. I smile back more and she says ok. So I already have something to look forward for tomorrow.
When I get back its already pretty late. I downloaded “killing fields” – a movie about the youngest Cambodian history but fall asleep after ten minutes.
December 25

I get a cruel wake up call at 4.30 am. 20 minutes later I am downstairs meeting my Tuktuk driver. I tell him to go to the temples in a way so I am not in the middle of a million of tourists. He repeats it in his own words and tells me there is only one temple to go for sunrise because the others open later. We make a quick schedule for the day including sunset and of we go. Our first stop, Angkor Wat emple drowns in tourists but what to do if the other temples open later. Still I enjoy a stunning dawn and go back to the Tuktuk minutes before sunrise. My driver of course recognized me buying a 3 day ticket so I agree when he asks me to take me the other two days too. I stop the Tuktuk for one picture for sunrise and then hurry through Bayon temple to make some time good having the flood of tourists in my back, The temples are incredibly amazing.

I love symmetries so I adore these stunning temples in the middle of the jungle. Its possible to move pretty free and I feel really bad climbing around on the ancient buildings every now and then to get a good perspective. I take good care nobody sees me not to make any other tourists do the same. Again it gets incredibly hot during morning already. I had seen signs “temple opens at 5:30” all over the place and when we pass a place that looks great AND lonely for sunrise I stop him to tell him I want to be there for the next sunrise. He suddenly starts discussing the afternoon schedule – obviously he wants to move me exactly with the masses so he can chat with his friends when we stop.

He offers then to bring me to Angkor Wat at noon “all tourist go to town for lunch, nobody will be there” – I have seen him reading the lonely planet and exactly that sentence including a recommendation for the main temple (=Angkor Wat). After the main temple he suggests to bring me to the sunset temple which is the another flood of tourists if going there in the evening. He wants to be there earlier so it will be empty. In the same moment he asks me if we can go back little earlier tody because he wants to celebrate Christmas (…). I hardly believe that Christmas means anything but money to him but I am very respectful about religion so I tell him if he needs to celebrate with his family we can go back early (and miss the best light for taking pictures today ). I got a ticket for 3 dusks and three dawns which was not cheap. He does not want to go down with the price too because “only a little earlier, 3 or 4 clock”.

Next we stop at the Prea Khan temple which is another amazing site. I stop hurrying to run away from the masses as masses spread pretty well in between endless temples. I don’t go in the axes of symmetry like all the other tourists but a little more around. Inside the temples look like many I have seen anyway – outside and around its lonely, stunning and quiet! One time I nearly get lost because all the temples have to axes of symmetry which still mirror amazingly. I turned to the left and feel like I have turned around for some time. Everything looks extremely similar and makes me believe I suffer an ancient spell maybe because of climbing on the walls. But ten minutes later I totally impressed find out that it had just been the architecture playing a trick on me.

I come back to the Tuktuk and the driver says “one more temple, sunset point”. Its half past ten so what about main temple I think but smile and say ok. Its damn hot and I had thought about renting a motorbike to do this on my own already. GPS had been tracking all the way we went so I can easily find the way alone. I quickly visit Phnom Bakheng (sunset temple) and then we go back to town. When we stop in front of the hotel at quarter to 12 I give him 10 dhallaa instead of 15. He starts complaining then I tell him he had promised to go to the main temple at lunchtime because tourists would go to town for lunch at 12 (even though there are approximately 100 restaurant inside the temple area). Now it is 15 minutes before twelve and I turn around to go inside not listening to what he is saying. He seems to accept that he had been way too impudent to me. He gave up before the door had closed behind me which was pretty much what I had expected to happen the day before.

Nevermind, after finding out motorbike rental is illegal I rent a small electric scooter for the afternoon and go back to the temple to enjoy the amazing atmosphere around dusk. I even meet a tourist couple with a real scooter who tell me where they had rented it. The electro scooter is a funny toy but to be honest very dangerous – driving up to 40km/h making not much more noise than a bat, being extremely instable, small and insecure even though it is brandnew. I decide to get a motorbike tomorrow.

In the evening I get my head shaved and both of us are very proud she did not even cut me. Even though she had not expected any money (which here really means something – by the way Huan Dhallaa does not mean hello, in fact it means one dollar) I give her a nice tip and promise to come as soon as I regrow a little hair. All her colleagues know me by now and everybody is proud of her shaving my head so well.