Except for the financial markets which are really rocking the world (in a REALLY BAD way) and lawsuits slapped here and there, it has been a slow month for news and gossip. Maybe people have been too busy losing money if not their minds.
I am ALMOST through with my Turd World Tour (Delhi is next in less than 2 weeks) but let me update you with what I've been up to. A lot of good, I must say. Not very glamorous, I'm afraid. I had to check my cattiness in the litter box at the entrance to the temples.
But I think Delhi will be glam because I'm going for a wedding.
I went to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat and of course, being a world heritage site, I HAD to FORGET my camera. But not all was lost because this was my second time in Angkor and like reliable haute couture, it gets better every time you visit and you see things that you missed the first time. Like Elizabth Taylor (despite her yoyo dieting), the beauty, fabulousness and drama are still there.
I first visited Angkor around 2003---what I would classify as pre-Tomb Raider---when Angelina and her director just packed up out of the Raffles Grand Angkor and the crew just packed up out of the Soffitel.
At that time there were only two hotels---the Raffles Grand Angkor and the Soffitel. There were also no tuktuks (open-air carts attached to a motorcycle) and if you wanted to go around town you had to 'hitch' a ride on a motorcycle for a dollar. We had to 'special order' a tuktuk to accomodate my husband who can't even fit into a phone booth.
There were also no good restaurants. You had two choices: the street next to the river or the street NOT next to the river. Needless to say, w ate all our meals at the hotel.
There was only one market in town--aptly called "The Market"--which has not changed but it is now called the Old Market since there now is a night market. "The Market" may not have changed but everything around it did. It seems to have the same fate as the Angkor ruins what with everything around them changing while the ruins sit there lording it over the whole town, unchanged for centuries.
Today the main road is lined with every conceivable monstrosity of hotels and bars including an Aman mysteriously hidden behind solid black gates and white cement walls which reminds me of the Russian Embassy in Manila. (But I heard that they have a great restaurant)
Meanwhile, the Singapore Embassy in Phnom Penh is so beautiful and swish it looks like an Aman!! (maybe even better because it will have hi-speed internet and 24 hrs airconditioning)
There now LOTS of GREAT restaurants in Siem Reap! I have to say that although my Cambodian trip was very humbling, we DID NOT, NOT ONCE, have a disappointing meal.
The last time we were in Siem Reap, tourist visits were estimated at 500-700,000. Today it is at 1.5-1.7 million.
Despite heaving with tourists, I love the way Siem Reap has developed. The locals know they have a cash cow in the ruins (aside from Angkor Wat, further out is the less visited and more beautiful Rollos?? which was the blueprint for Angkor Wat) and nature reserves like a bird sanctuary. Crime by locals and tour operators is low because they know that their behaviour will reflect on their town and will affect their income.
If ever you get robbed in Siem Reap, it will probably be by a foreign backpacker. Siem Reap's situation is the opposite of Phnom Penh, which is like Manila, where you fear for your life and risk your patience and sanity if not your wallet.
Of course you can still get blown up by a land mine but I believe you can also just as easily get killed crossing the street in New York or Ho Chi Minh. (Oooohh....I saw a three cycle bang-up happen right in front of us in Yogyakarta!! Waddaya tell ya???)
I enjoyed Siem Reap so much that I want to move there--perhaps rent a house for extended periods. I found out it is cheaper to rent than buy. Although my husband thinks it is not a good idea because of landmines (this coming from a guy who goes to disease-ridden India every other month), I should probably do it in the next three years before 21 December 2012, when we hit the end of the 5th world of the Mayan calendar (www.mayanmajix.com;www.december212012.com). Exciting times, this end of the world business....
Siem Reap reminds me of Manila when I was growing up but with better restaurants and nicer people. There is a gay bar (we MUST have those to qualify as a real city!) aptly called Linga (the ancient three-part phallic symbol of Shiva found in most temples) across from the very chic One Hotel (Hotel One??) and Ahaha which has cute waiters and a GREAT wine list (where the overrated Cloudy Bay costs 100 USD while the yummy new find, Villa Margarita costs a mere 55 USD). Never pay retail for Cloudy Bay or Chateau Neuf-du-Pape. Both good but overrated and overexposed. The Selma Blair or Proenza Schouler of wines.