Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tourist Sightings

All set for that perfect 6:30AM sunrise photo op
The money shot again and again at Angkor Wat Cambodia
You can't escape the old worn line "I'm not going there, it's just a tourist trap!" which has been the credo for so many travelers that wish to savor the pure, untouched, unaffected, never been opened, new in the box, mentality. To ignore these wonders such as the Roman Coliseum or the Parthenon I feel is cheating yourself but you can train yourself to adjust schedules and tune out the throngs of vendors as you exit your transport though in Cambodia the vendors and Tuk-Tuk drivers have taxed even my patience.   Occasionally in this shrinking world you can maybe have that "got it all to myself" experience.  I ponder about the French and British explorers that tripped upon ancient sites in early 1900's such Machu Pichu, Tulum,  or Angkor Wat for the first time since the primitive civilizations occupied them. I do know the discovery of these sites wasn't a walk in the park to get to them and these adventurers earned every ounce of virgin amazement for persevering through the unwelcoming elements. Most of the ruins of ancient metropolis were reclaimed by the aggressive jungle trying its hardest to reclaim what man had erected. We've seen great examples of this in the last two days from an ancient Khmer site named Ta Prohm. The tree roots have wedged into the structure and over time will pulverize the building materials back to dust.

So back to the "Tourist Trap" issue, I don't understand how some people punish themselves to view some of the most incredible man made and natural wonders of the world just because many others, thousands of others wish to join that same day to marvel at such beauty or incredible feats of engineering. To experience the size of these early feats and to touch the texture of the stone can't be interfered by sharing it with so many others. You just can't discount the importance of such creativity. Lately we've been visiting the "traps" with throngs of professional cultural tough tourists that specialize in traveling in groups the size of Bisbee. But as quick as the enormous human wave comes, they leave retreat much like the Tsunami.  To visit these sites without being injured you have to study and observe the site-seeing habits of most tourists. First, early morning is a great choice. Most tour company organizers can't herd their clients from the hotel to the tour bus much earlier than 10AM which means you don't have to meet the crack of dawn to enjoy peace and quiet for at least an hour or two before the big wave arrives plus the photography light is better. Same goes for the late afternoon. Most tourists don't possess  the physical stamina to sight see much past four. The only draw back is for where we are and the time of year it is, the heat and humidity isn't friendly.
Waterfall just outside of Luang Prabang

About a week ago we left our guesthouse early to hike to a waterfall just about 30 minutes from Luang Prabang, a town we loved in Laos. This seemed like a popular spot so I was prepared for the worst but the photos we saw of the tall falls and the turquoise water seemed like a must see plus we heard they encouraged you to swim in some of the pools. It sounded perfect. Our driver got us to the entry within a short time and we a little perplexed because we seemed like the only ones entering but within minutes realized we were in the right place but totally vacant of others. Walking up the pathways viewing small cascading falls into the brilliant blue pools and continued back to the main falls that measure about 250' high. Sharon and I spied a trail off to the side of the falls that seemed to go to the top of the falls so we hiked up the very steep trail, got to the top and looked out over the falls. This trek to the top of the falls now had us beckoning for the pools below. We scampered down the trail and passed a couple people on the trail and finally decided on a pool to swim. Both of us stripped down (to our bathing costumes) and entered our private beautiful paradise pool with incredible falls to massage our necks and backs. We couldn't believe it was ours alone. We enjoyed this pool for about an hour and then the crowds arrived as we dressed and returned to our driver and retreated to town for breakfast.  

Our private paradise for an hour. Luang Prabang, Laos

Yesterday Sharon, Barbara Haar a vivacious traveler we met in Laos and I decided to catch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. This experience has been touted by many others as "the" time to experience this Khmer temple at it's most holy hour. This means I had to pry myself out of bed at 5:AM, dress in appropriately dress for the heat, flag down a tuk-tuk driver, negotiate the price ( a whopping $15.00 for a half day), climb in the Tuk-Tuk only to discover we have chosen the slowest Tuk-Tuk in recorded history which isn't all that bad but the slow speed was attributed by drivers concern over a extremely worn wheel bearing and the wobbly wheel beneath Sharon and I. Fortunately it was on Sharon's side of the cart so I sat back and prayed we'd get to Angkor before the sun crested behind the Wat and get us back to Siem Reap.

Traffic in Cambodia is wild no matter what time of day or night but to turn the heat up on this crazy experience, ride in the slowest vehicle with hundreds of impatient drivers behind you taking insane chances to pass you, flash you the stink eye, and gun their engines as the rocket by our struggling little cart pulled by an underpowered motorcycle.

I released my breath when I saw the reflection of the bridge that leads to Ankgor from the moat that surrounds the complex. There was still at least 30 minutes to find the perfect place. Finding the perfect place at sunrise wasn't to difficult. All I had to do is follow the hundreds of others to the reflecting pond just off to the left of the main building. The crowd was quiet and patient with anticipation to get that incredible money shot to impress their friends and family. I had to chuckle after looking at the LCD displays of the cameras all pointed towards the same target. It was amazing how many of the same image there was and it didn't matter if you had a Samsung point and shoot, an iPhone, or a $20,000.00 camera kit set on a tripod, the images all looked good.

The sun rose, the camera shutters all released and the crowd wondered off in different directions. Another great photo op notch on the old camera bag.

PS For those who haven't figured it our yet, click on each photo for a better view of the image and click on the upper right "On The Road Again Images" for much more photos.  Til we meet again!

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