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Siem Reap

Cambodia

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Angkor Wat & the Khmer Ruins

The Khmer ruins of Angkor Wat and the surrounding area are remnants of an ancient civilisation that collapsed under its own weight. The surrounding land could not maintain the growing population. Deforestation and water shortages led the majority of inhabitants to abandon the area for hundreds of years. This echoes similar environmental problems that we are currently experiencing on a global level.

Whatever the reasons for the rise and fall of the Khmer empire, the ruins are surreal. You can almost imagine people going about their daily lives amongst the grand temples and intricate bas-reliefs that decorate every square inch of many temples.

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Our tuk-tuk driver, Jimmy, took us through all the sites in and around Angkor Wat. Enroute to one of the oldest and more remote temples, we passed through the local villages. While the temples were cool, the village life had a bigger impact on us. People here don't measure their well-being based on what percent of the population has health insurance. Poverty here is real. Kids run around naked and people sleep and live in thatched bamboo huts on the side of the road. Still, you hear laughter and see smiles on their faces. The community comes together in ways unseen at home. They take care of each others' kids and help build their neighbors' homes. Their bonds and their humility, even if out of necessity, is something our own country can learn from.

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Our tuk-tuk driver, Jimmy, made our experience all the more memorable. He was a genuine and charming man. While most backpackers and tourists, including ourselves, have come to regard tuk-tuk drivers as annoying pests (we are accosted by them every 5 minutes while walking down the street), we now understand their reasons. Most of these guys live in huts outside the city. They are the sole breadwinners, often for a family of 4 or more and rely on tourist business to provide for their families.

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We had the honor of being invited into Jimmy's home to meet his wife, two children (David & Monique) and mother-in-law. In all, 6 people share a space of about 20x15 feet, a simple, thatched bamboo hut without running water or electricity. You learn that the things we take for granted back home are luxuries here: e.g. privacy, electricity and ice cream (in increasing order of importance). If you are interested in hiring Jimmy during your visit to Siem Reap, send me a message via Travellerspoint, and I will gladly send you his contact information.

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Posted by edcastano 03:03 Archived in Cambodia

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