With the limited timeframe of my visit to Cambodia, I opted to focus on visiting Ankor Wat and its surrounding temples and ruins. Some might be able to only afford one day ticket, but it's well worth getting a 3-day if you wanna experience these wonders, which I did. I also suggest going to Angkor National Museum, maybe even before visiting any of these sites. The exhibit itself is huge and rich with the information about Khmer history and culture in general, you might not even need those tour guides. My humble homestay was only a couple of miles away and came with a free bike rental that allowed my to explore the entirety of Angkor Archaeological Park, about 8-10 square miles in 3 consecutive days, in the excruciating heat and the merciless sun.
At the ticket office that opens at 5am (to serve the hordes of tour busses for "the sunrise tour") you see a towering info board that lists all the DON’Ts; no short shorts, no smoking, no loud conversation etc, all of which is also repeated at every site. And in case you’ve been living under the rock, this basically is intended for mainland Chinese tourists; no other groups equal the volume level that Chinese converse at, either in person or over the phone (even when the signs clearly prohibits the cellphone use). No other groups equal the volume of tour busses Chinese bring in. No other groups tell others to get out of their frames while holding up the long line of others waiting to get in/get a move on, regardless of the language barrier.
The fact that they're the superpower that none can live without has fueled much anti-Chinese rhetoric especially in Japan; then the overload of half of their land and now a major destination only a few hour flight away from Shanghai. Their seeming lack of basic decency and respect for the places and people they visit has raised the annoyance among those who accept them. Even here in Siem Reap, in spite of the amount of business they bring in, I heard the locals often complaining their rudeness and above all, the stinginess. I for one could not dare to haggle the folks that live off 15% of our average income, even knowing they often overcharge, but maybe that doesn't enter the minds of new middle class that they themselves have to scrounge for funds to travel. I digress.
I actually met the now-viral-star who speaks 10 languages. He spoke maybe at 2 or 3 languages at this point, and quite aggressive with his sales. It was him who threw me the line above as I was walking through the gate of Ta Prohm; You buy, you friend. You no buy, you tourist. Even before meeting him, I knew that being a tourist in these regions is a tricky business. Every purchase you make or refuse, the consequences are much more grave for the ones that don't get to leave. And every time I try to stick to what UNICEF or any organizations tell me, it breaks my heart. Seeing him go further than the rest of his contemporaries gives me a sigh of relief, but with even heavier sigh of helplessness.
I could have shrugged all of these off and moved on, but I then remembered him saying how he wanted to quit catering to tourists, move to the states, get a job doing anything to fund his study. Might've been the case of "stripping to pay for college," or might've been that he was just being inconsistence in his logic by denying my hiring him. However, he could've ripped me off by giving me a ridiculous quote. He could've come pick me up the next morning for extra cash. I doubt that he enjoys this life. I bet that he knows the importance of education. He came off just like any of us, feeling stuck in a familiar routine and not quite able to realize his ambition.
I try to be a friend, but all I could be was just another tourist.