Saturday, April 04, 2015

Snippets: Siam & Siem Reap

I really ought to blog about a trip soon after the trip -- when the scents are fresh and the images are yet to fade. When the experience seems worthy of a narration. With the weeks passing by, and as the mundane routine engulfs the days, it also infects the memory of the trip and strips it of the excitement. When years pass by, all that is left of the trip are some photos which hadn't been viewed more than once, credit card bills as evidence that the trip actually did take place, and a fridge magnet (which I unfailingly try to bring back as a souvenir) fighting for space on the old grey metallic almirah.

Lately, of course, I have been known to be taking the easier way out and just posting a collection of the photos on facebook to serve as my online record of the trip rather than compose a coherent blogpost out of the experience. The new year trip to Malaysia to welcome 2014 had fallen victim to precisely this.

The subsequent annual trip to Thailand and Cambodia to ring in 2015 has looked to be in pretty much the same danger. Until now. So here are some snippets!


£ It felt good to see the wide roads and the fancy bridges named after my name :D Their monarchy is in possession of excellent taste indeed ;)

£ The Grand Royal Palace premises are pretty big, and seemingly covered in gold. And while the locals are allowed to exit from any of the many exits, foreigners are allowed to leave only through the final exit, almost as if they don't want us to miss even a little of all the glory. True story.

£ Taxis are ubiquitous, well serviced and cheap. And very colourful -- red, green. white, yellow, pink! My companion even began to develop a preference for a particular colour with time. Somehow, she felt that red was more equal than the others :P

£ The charge of the metro for two people is likely to be more than taking a taxi. I thought that was weird until I began using the A/C buses in Bangalore. Mass transport in the "B"-cities have their own economics, perhaps.

£ The floating markets around the city have become more of a pier and stalls on the riverbank than actual boats that are mobile.

£ The weekend markets are a crazy place. Heaven for those jostling for fake goods :P, bizarre for me.

£ Standing in the queue for an hour for the best Pad Thai in the city (and consequently, the world?) is perhaps worth it. I am not sure, we just went for the takeaway and had it in the hotel. The memory still lingers. Aah, prawn oil!

£ Local Muay Thai is raucous. In the first round, there is more sizing up and less action (unless they are kids - who start going at each other right from the outset). But it picks up speed in the subsequent rounds, and finally, the 5th aka last round results in quite bloodied faces and torsos.

£ There might exist the most expensive clubs and the most lavish hotels in the city, but the place for the night life is the backpacker hippie area of Khao San.


$ Travelling in the third class section of the slow trains makes you feel like a local. Except for the fact that the real locals are better prepared for the long waits and delays. They bring their food and buy their drink.

$  All heritage ancient cities should come with scooters like this one. Best means of sight-seeing and the most fun too.

$ The destruction of the ruins makes one wonder whether .... .... well, just wonder.

$ Som Tam salad has to be prepared just so. Even when we ordered three, the lady made each one individually. After all, her measurements were precise; a precision attained over years of training and experience perhaps.


% The better beaches are not accessible. The walking street is too crowded to even walk. The traffic density is horrendous; at least on new year's eve :P.

Siem Reap

& The visa officials at the airport immigration have turned the visa process into a lesson in assembly line. They are seated in a row and each one has his specific task. Your passports goes in at the beginning of the line and is handed back to you with a freshly minted visa page (and your name entered by ink) at the end of the line.

& The town exists solely to service the millions of tourists descending upon Angkor. The tourists are mainly of two kinds -- backpackers and families with kids.

& The smooth, pollution-free and scented air of the town, with its vast empty stretches of lands, forested growth and vacant roads is a marked change.

& Angkor must have experienced more transitions from Hinduism to Buddhism and back than the number of reincarnations possible in either of those :P.

& The Bakong pyramid temple is more of a 3D trapezoid. (The above pic is of Bayon temple, not Bakong. Bayon makes for a prettier picture.)

& The non-primary and not so well-maintained areas of the Angkor are the more fascinating of the ruins. They have an all-together different kind of ambiance.

& Angkor Wat is beautiful. But the much heralded view of the sunrise is marred by the hoards of tourists who had trudged up at 5AM just like you, and click with their cameras, just like you, and all the flashes going off, just like yours. Almost feels like you are at the entrance of Madame Tussauds!