Monday, 8 July 2013

After Thought: Visit to Siem Reap, Cambodia

"Cool" monk at Angkor Wat

This article was actually written in reply to my traveling companions-Bayee and Tet after they wrote to me and thanked me for planning and arranging such a meaningful trip for them. My cousin Bayee, an IT guru requested the wall reliefs photos from me. He was making an application that could create 3D effect of the wall relief photos. The money make would be contributed to the poor at Cambodia and I thought that was a really cool idea. This trip has triggered a lot of thoughts and I would like to share them in a replied mail format with all of you here.  

Hi Bayee & Tet,
no problem. I have looked forward to this trip for the longest time. I did not think I have the inspiration and motivation to overcome the "mountain temples" without your companionship.  It's not easy to find someone with the same interest to travel to Cambodia. Rest assured it is always my intention to bring my daughter (when she is bigger) to these kind of places to see how lucky we are. We cannot take for granted what we have today.
The ride through the hidden path where we saw those people living in "kampong" (slang for village in my dialect) has brought back many memories. I used to live in this kind of condition also. Life has been hard but I think I was most carefree on those days. We were happy and easily satisfied despite not enjoying what we have today. Cambodians have been thru hell and I think most of them are much happier than those days. But I felt the influence of the richer tourists (people like us) have in a way or another exposed them to the outside world which caused their greed level to go up and their satisfaction level with their current life to go down. Sadly, the monk with the sun glass and mobile phone at Angkor Wat has reinforced my belief that something is really going wrong with the external influence there. 

Much as I like to put up a brave front, the urge to give money to all the small children was actually very high. It's always more difficult to turn away and resist giving them some money than to give them some. Much as I like to help them, you and I know it's not possible to help each and everyone of them. In my younger days, I thought I could play god by giving them big fat tips or money so that I could make them happier. But as I grew older, I was also thinking about that whether I have corrupted them and make their greed level higher. My inclination to Buddhism has something make me wonder is Buddha putting a test on these people based on their past Karma. The Khmer Rouge period has killed many people. Is this a punishment to the Cambodians based on their past life and misdeeds? But the Cambodians have been strong before. The era of the grand Angkor Wat is a good reminder of their glorious past. What has caused all these to collapse?

Some may think I am being petty of bargaining with the locals on things that I could easily afford. I was wanting to blend into their culture where bargaining was a happy practice. You could see our happy faces after we struck a deal. I think that is the most important thing. In this way, I think their satisfaction level has gone up. I personally feel that being poor does not give you excuses that you do not need work hard and earn your keep. When you work hard and earn your due keep, you shall be a happier man.       

All of us have their own perspective of thoughts after this visit. I think it is a matter of acceptance of who we are. We may have the common belief that Cambodians are poor people and that makes them unhappy and without pride. Will money actually makes them happier, prouder or greedier? We are no god and really cannot judge on this.

Of cos, all these are my own opinions. No problem on the requested photos. Give me sometime to download and select the good ones. Let's hope we can do our bit to improve life for the Cambodians :-).

Thanks & Best Regards,
Paulo Tan

Simple old lady at a lesser temple
Related Posts: Prelude-Visit to Cambodia, Siem Reap, Temple Run at Siem Reap Cambodia

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  1. How I wish I can book a travel to Cambodia at any time now. I wanted to visit my family and friends there.

  2. Cambodia is definitely in my list, Paul. I'm still not used to seeing monks & nuns in fanciful gadgets & designer stuff. It's so strange finding them in Apple stores or those designer boutiques. Lol!