Monday, November 07, 2005
Monks relaxing during a visit to the Angkor Wat complex
Last week Idul Fitri was celebrated marking the end of Ramadan; the month of fasting in the Moslem calendar. The city of Jakarta gets real mellow as the effects of the fast (and lack of sleep - the prescribed time for the first and only meal until sunset is in the wee hours of the morning) begin to set in. Also many leave the city for their hometowns and thus traffic tends to be light which makes a huge difference in Jarkata life. While a week in a mellow Jakarta was enticing we opted to venture off to Cambodia via Singapore.
Singapore is always a pleasant and orderly respite from the craziness and chaos of Jakarta. There are many who criticize Singapore as too sterile, rigid and boring and praise Jakarta because it is not, but I enjoy the change. Its the simple things like a stroll through the city on an actual sidewalk without having to worry about dodging a motorized vehicle or maneuvering in, around or over a pothole, street vendor, cat family, garbage pile, parked truck, sleeping bajaj guy, and/or a number of other random and often curious objects which do make Jakarta perpetually interesting and yet rather taxing at the same time. Actually there are very few working sidewalks in Jakarta and those that do exist tend to disappear at random and often very inopportune times. For example, a supermarket might have a very nice and completely navigable sidewalk out front but it disappears at the end of the supermarkets property depositing the walker directly onto the street to fend with the madness of Jakartan traffic - which is traumatic enough in a vehicle let alone on foot. Or perhaps the sidewalk leads the foot voyager directly to a giant muddy field or maybe into a construction zone, again both quite exciting experiences, yet perhaps not the type of thrill one is seeking while out for a simple shop. A ride on the Singapore subway is a similarly simple yet soothing experience to the Singapore sidewalk stroll. The Jakartan answer to the subway, the bus way, just doesn't cut it. Maybe when they get the monorail up and running..... if you ever need to use the idiom "pipe dream" in a sentence, here is a good one: "The planned completion of the monorail in Jakarta is a pipe dream". I like Jakarta and I like Singapore and both for what the other is not.
After Singapore we headed off to Cambodia - a wonderful country with beautiful people - and I am not just writing that because that is what you are supposed to say about the people of such countries that tend to be off the beaten track and thus hold a certain mystic. Althoug our contact was limited in time and place, the people we met were incredibly helpful, genuinely friendly and simply pleasant to be around. Perhaps they are just happy to be rid of the horrors of their recent past and glad to see people from the rest of the world again or maybe it is just they way they are - anyway it was a special week.
The places we went are the typical things most tourists due - the temple tours, a visit to the Ton Le Sap (big lake), sites from the Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge nightmare. I think these were experiences that are represented well through images - so I am going to post a few from the bunch we took. One bit of advice - if you are planning on visiting Cambodia and have a rather detailed, busy and time sensitive itinerary, and have a baby who is just starting to crawl and is making up for months of immobiltity by trying to move around as much as babily possible - DO NOT miss the last plane of the day flying into the Cambodian city of your primary destination - it can really set in motion one serious butterfly effect. Some day, after time allows the mellowing mechanism of my brain to work its magic, I will see the experience as a funny little travel tale ... some day.
Cambodia: Temple Complexes
Ta Prohm entrance way
Ta Prohm - a tree flowing over the temple wall
A secondary building at the Angkor Wat complex
Emmerson making friends with some monks visiting from Korea