One of the difficulties in exploring the Angkor Wat and allied temples is that they are spread out over a large area. So one of the first things I did when I got to Siem Reap was to ask around for any sort of organized tour of a couple of days that I could join in touring the temples. Unfortunately I could not find any.
I was therefore left with no option but to ask the right-hand-man from Part 1 to find me a tour-guide and a tuk-tuk for couple of days. Thus for the next couple of days, my tour Guide was Thoeun Moeun – his first name is pronounced like “thun” in Mithun. Don’t ask me what the extra vowels are for. You are right to wonder how on earth do I remember that name, it is by no means and accident: I’ll come to that shortly. My tuk-tuk driver for the next couple of days was Kea.
The very beginning of my guided tour involved my tour guide speaking of the magnanimity that the king Jayavarman the IV displayed in one of his idols. This was the first time, since I left Bangalore, had I heard any English word with more than a couple of syllables. I was impressed. I didn’t need to do half-English half-sign language that I did so far to get across, I could speak English with this man of stupendous vocabulary!
So I began to speak normal English. To my surprise, however, I was having trouble getting across! Must be my Indian accent, I thought. Now, I’ve seen enough Hollywood movies to be able to speak a somewhat “neutral American accent” which must be more intelligible to foreigners. To check this theory, with renewed vigor, I began speaking with my fake American accent awhile. Alas, to no avail. I fell back on the english-pidgin-sign language for the rest of the day. Although throughout the day he continued to impress me with his vocabulary – With a twist however, the Cambodians have a habit of eating thier final syllable. So if they say “Elephan Terra” they really mean “Elephant Terrace”.
This mystery was to be solved by a depiction on one of the temple’s wall that he was trying to explain. He said that it involved Krishna and Rama dueling. I, through my awesome powers of deduction, decided that it ain’t right and the depiction should really be of Balarama and Krishna. The next day, Thoeun validated my account. He handed me a mighty tome and Lo and behold, I was right – it was Krishna and Balarama. Guess how the book began? “This idol depicts the magnanimity of the King Jayavarman”. Ah.. So our guide was a man of awesome memory power rather than awesome vocabulary!
Thoeun wanted to know how to build websites the first time I told him that I worked in the technology sector. He also proudly gave me his e-mail id, although he had never bothered to check for new mails after setting it up. I tried to tell him that he ought to check for new mails. However the concept eluded him as I failed to communicate effectively, once again. His interest in the website remained. He wanted to market himself directly to tourists visiting the area through his website.
I explained to him that he’d have to pay 10$ a year for the domain name, anywhere from 20-80$ a year for hosting. An unknown amount of money to develop a website and then some to search engine optimize it before he can see any substantial business come his way. I’m not sure how much of it he got, but he definitely got the dollar figures and he didn’t like it. I told him I could set him up a blog like page for free. He was not to expect any business from it, but he could hand it out to his clients for them to send their friends to him. He was elated at this proposition. So I set him up with a Tumblr account which you can see here: http://thoeun.tumblr.com/. That solves the second mystery of how I remembered his name 🙂 By the way, do give him a call if you are travelling independently and need a guide. He’s a good guy and a good gui!
The next day Thoeun went out of the way to help me in all aspects. He bought me water at local price to prevent me paying the tourist price. Advised me on how much things cost and how much I can safely bargain it down to etc. However, as mentioned in Part-1, I was getting bored of temples and decided to give it stop and head elsewhere. I told so to Thoeun, who then crammed as many things to see as possible in one day.
I tipped Thoeun and Kea an additional 10$ at the end of the day. Kae asked me about the “website” I had built for Thoeun and was incredulous that I had done it for free. He asked me what my next plan was. I told him I was undecided, but perhaps, I’ll head towards Phnom Penh. He then told me that one of his friends is getting married in his native village near Kampung Thom. He added that he is going to attend it and would I be interested in joining him? I readily agreed.
The map above shows: from left – Bangkok (starting point in Thailand), Aranyaprathet (border town in Thailand), Poipet (Border town in Cambodia), Siem Reap (Angkor Wat et al), Kampong Thom (Wedding location) and Phnom Penh (My next stop: capital of Cambodia).
This is how I ended up attending a marriage in rural Cambodia! I sense that I have taken too much space describing how I got to the point where I was invited to wedding of a random stranger. Hence, I”ll write about the wedding itself in the next post!