Sun Rise, Light Flies

Sunrise over Angkor Wat, Cambodia

We woke up this morning before the birds. A 4.45 departure time wasn’t particularly welcome considering the long travelling day to Siem Reap, Cambodia from Bangkok yesterday combined with the fact that I’m still on the wobbly side of full health! However, the aim was to see Angkor Wat at sunrise, which seemed worth the effort. The only problem was that every tourist and his dog seemed to have the same idea. Apparently it’s the ‘thing to do’. Unfortunately it does rather diminish the experience being crammed in with a pack load of tourists, ravenous for good photos. It was still spectacular and calming nevertheless.

Sunrise over Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The crowds didn’t die down after breakfast. We headed first to ‘Angkor Thom’ (Angkor simply means ‘city’) which was a vast collection of ruined temples – like the rest of the site they were originally built in the 12th century as largely Hindu temples but being renovated into Buddhist temples in the late 13th Century. What was striking to me was how much the site reminded me of the various Mayan ruin sites in Central America. The blatant difference being the crowds of people and the hype! Don’t be fooled by my photos – I painstakingly tried to avoid snapping random tourists. There were a lot more people than it seems!

Entrance to 'Angkor Thom'

Angkor Thom

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Traditionally dressed Khmer children

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Angkor Thom jungle

‘Ta Prohm’ was similarly breathtaking but, again, rather obscured by excessive tourists.  What was so beautiful about this temple (where tomb raider was shot, I’m told) was how the jungle was interwoven with the ruins. Colossal, twisting roots and trunks clung to the walls – simultaneously holding it together and breaking it up as the roots made their way into the gaps in the structures.

Ta Prohm

Monks visiting the top of 'Angkor Wat' (City of Temples)

Monks visiting the top of ‘Angkor Wat’ (City of Temples)

I think you’d have to give up around three days to properly explore the complex as just whizzing round the highlights took us eight hours! A long time when you’ve been up at 4 am!

After heading back into Siem Reap for lunch, a couple of the girls in my group and I decided to visit the local ‘Acodo’ orphanage. It was shockingly small, with just two small buildings for the 76 girls and boys to sleep in and only a couple of English classrooms. However, the people running the place seem to have a clear set of aims and objectives for the project and are doing remarkably well with the money donated to them. Again, I made a comparison in my mind – this time with ‘Goroka’ school in Papua New Guinea where the money isn’t so much the crucial issue as how it is used – with large sums frittered away on teacher’s parties and gifts etc. Here they’ve built several structures including a kitchen, water filter system, a couple of class rooms for English lessons and have separated the boys and girls dorm rooms. They also send the elder children in their free time out to the Acodo farms to learn useful farming techniques whilst helping to reap the benefits of the land to feed themselves and the rest of their fellows.

If you’re remotely interested in volunteer work in this part of the world then I really think Acodo orphanage would be a very worthwhile destination, instead of volunteering through a travel agency. They do take on volunteers on a regular basis but are often short and the results are immediately visible.

We tried to make ourselves useful by bringing along some treats and bits and bobs for the kids and helped some of the older girls to practise their English. The younger children were pretty entertained with our cameras for a while which was amusing.

Acodo Orphanage Siem Reap

Acodo Orphanage Siem Reap

Acodo Orphanage Siem Reap

Acodo Orphanage Siem Reap

Acodo Orphanage Siem Reap

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”
 – Mother Teresa

 

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Monkey On My Back

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Proyecto Asis, across the border now into Costa Rica, is a small wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre where it’s possible to ‘volunteer’ for a day. On our way through from the capital, San Jose, to La Fortuna I was dropped off the Bus at the nearby town ‘Javillos’ and made my way over to the project. The experience wasn’t quite what I had expected. Although we had a fantastic introduction to the animals in the centre, the actual volunteering consisted of solely the preparation of the food and the feeding of the animals. Great for seeing some of the local wildlife but not giving you the feeling of being particularly useful! If you want to get familiar with the animals and have a more ‘hands on’ experience it’s certainly necessary to volunteer for at least a week or two.

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The majority of the animals in rehabilitation had been confiscated from homes where they were being kept as pets, for example the white faced monkeys which I introduced you to in my previous post, spider monkeys, a lazy Kinkajou, Macaws, A young boa constrictor, White-lipped Peccaries, Parakeets etc. My personal favourites where the two orphaned baby white-faced monkeys, who desperately clung onto each others backs and tried to suckle from your fingers! So adorable.

The spider monkeys were also very fond of human company, even running over to hug the permanent volunteer worker when he walked over to their cage!Image

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http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g309226-d1231711-Reviews-Proyecto_Asis-La_Fortuna_de_San_Carlos_Arenal_Volcano_National_Park_Province_of_A.html

Mango Tree

Thomas and Verena’s house is fantastic – I feel really secure here. Thomas is the kind of man who commands respect whenever he enters a room. He’s very tall, broad, with dark hair and an impressive scar on his upper lip. Verena in contrast is a very warm and friendly woman: blonde hair blue eyes, like Thalia, and a tendency to laugh at pretty much everything. Thalia seems a bit of an anomaly with a strong American accent amongst the German – very impressive how they dip in and out of three languages! Recently Thomas brought back 120 Mangos from a visit to the coast so we have had a complete glut: Mango smooties, milkshakes, dried mango etc it’s pretty much the staple food here at the moment. Not that I’m complaining – I love it! Mangos aside, we’ve been eating traditional German meals every evening which is all very new to me. It’s completely bizarre that my introduction to German culture is taking place in the middle of PNG.

 However, Wendy (the lady who set up the arrangement for me to volunteer here) has been receiving messages from Mando telling her that I’m still sleeping in the village. I’ve been noticing some fairly strange behaviour developing: They are very concerned about keeping the support of the rotary club of Australia. I am to them merely an object that must either be looked after well or, failing that, Wendy must believe that I am being looked after well! A little bit of an awkward situation. Wendy and Verena have both suggested that I should teach at a different school for the remainder of the time but, as none of the teachers at Mando seem to have the slightest interest in the children there I would like to persevere, even if it does mean waiting around for PMVs for 3 hours to get home (like today). For example, today I seemed to be the only teacher in the school. I took three separate classes simultaneously all day. Not easy.