February 01
Welcome to Cambodia

The flight from Taipei to Cambodia was uneventful, but a sort of "time travel" in addition to the "space" (or place?) travel that I had been doing. Soon, I would be amongst ruins that date back over a thousand years. While getting off the plane at Siem Reap, the city nearest the Angkor complex, it was still the twenty-first century, you didn't have to go far to see the way life might have been dozens or even hundreds of years ago.

Unchanged by Time

If you're willing to overlook the odd anachronism -- a bicycle here, a transistor radio there, logo-emblazoned clothing, and so on -- you can readily imagine that this is how people might have lived here for hundreds of years. This is a house along the road to Tonle Sap.


This catch is bound for the bottle: fish sauce, a pungent condiment found in Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Thai cooking.

Bottling plant

All manner of bottles are pressed into fish-sauce duty; here the empties are being dried prior to their being filled.

Pungent Vats

The culinary brew is allowed to ferment in these wooden vats, a common sight (and smell!) along the side of the road...

Commerce Abounds

If there's one way to characterize the Cambodian people, it is as "entrepreneurs." This is not to say that every home is a tourist trap -- that's just not the case -- but there's a thriving economy. Not constrained by the idea that a store is three walls and a sheet of plate glass, it's hard to go more than a hundred feet an not find somebody seeling something. In this case, refreshments to passing locals.

Smoked fish

Here a woman turns a flat of fish that are being smoked...

Floating Village

Tonle Sap Lake is the largest lake in south-east Asia, and that doesn't take into account the fact that depending on the season, it changes size considerably. Being at the heart of Cambodia, it is also at the heart of Cambodian life, and there are many that call the lake (and tributaries) their home. Many of these homes float, and move with the shoreline through the seasons.

Floating Market

Here's an open-air market long the Siem Reap tributary...

Angkor What?

Hmmm... that looks familiar, but we're dashing by to "make the sunset" at another location, so looks like this glimpse is all we'll get... for now...

Solar Pilgrimage

It's the end of the first day, and we've just climbed a short, steep grade up the hill to this specimen of 9th Century work, Phnom Bakheng. It's also the "designated" sunset spot, and had become quite crowded. I was a little concerned that the entire Angkor site would be overrun by tourists like ants at a picnic, but happily it wouldn't be. It's just that most of the people visiting on any given day become concentrated at this site as sunset approaches.

Topping Off the Day

Once the sun crept closer to the western horizon, the sky put on a wonderful show, bathing Phnom Bakheng in a warm saffron glow. And later still, it offered this little visual treat. But once the sun is gone, it's a mass exodus back to the waiting busses, scooters, and bicycles at the foot of the hill.

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All text and images Copyright (c) 2005 Thomas M. Tuerke 2005
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