Me and Chairman Mao
  Dawn patrol.
We're back from Cambodia and the Angkor temples, and I'm currently sitting in our hotel room in Bangkok waiting to jump a flight to Singapore, where we'll stay for a few days, then it's what's sure to be a fun and exciting 16 or 17 hour flight back to Seattle through Tokyo that I'm already looking forward to, as you can imagine. The goods news is that half of it is in business class; the bad news, of course, is that only half of it is in business class. Truly, my life is hard.

Anyway, moving backwards: Cambodia. This was my second time to go to Angkor in the last 14 months or so, and it was interesting to see how much it had changed already in just that short of time. The main strip--bar street, of course--has fancier bars (natch) and restaurants, there's a lot more shopping, there's a seemingly endless number of new hotels opening up, and--of course--there's a lot more people. A LOT. (Most of them backpackers, so the place kind of smells as well. C'est la vie.) Anyway, last time we were there in May, which might have something to do with it since school wasn't out for everyone, but I was shocked at how many more people there were in July. Last time, we would pull up to places and sometimes there would be a few vans there and occasionally it would just be us, but now everywhere we went there were tour buses just sitting around, mostly full of Koreans, Japanese, or Chinese--where there's one there's bound to be about 50 more. It was actually sort of demoralizing. Well, at least in terms of picture taking. At one temple I had the perfect shot lined up, and I knew I had to take it fast because there were so many people around, and just before I pressed the button a Korean lady walked into the picture through a nearby doorway and I knew I was in trouble. Five minutes and about 40 people later, I gave up and moved on.

(Side note: Yesterday we were at the Grand Palace here in Bangkok--with about 10,000 other people, I'd guess--and this woman was giving me a dirty look because I was in her picture, apparently. She was trying to take a picture of this big statue and I was standing near it--not in front of it, but near it--and I could tell from the look on her face she was trying to get me to move so she could get a picture with no people in it. Naturally, I was a bit annoyed, since in a place that is as overrun by tourists as the Grand Palace was you just can't expect to get a picture with no one in it if you show up at 11 or so in the afternoon, which we did. Nonetheless, as I am such a kind and Christian soul, I would have been happy to move if she would have asked nicely. But she didn't. Instead, she scowled at me repeatedly and didn't say anything. So what did I do? Why, what any normal person would do--I backed up a few steps so that I was directly in front of the statue. Was that wrong? Possibly, but it made me feel a bit better--scowl at me, will you? And really, I was doing her a favor by teaching her it's better to say please than to give people dirty looks. Yes, if nothing else, I'm a teacher. Like Jesus in that way, I suppose, but with less hair. And more comfortable sandals, I'd reckon ...)

But back to Angkor and the crowds. If you've ever thought about going there, I would say go now--I can't imagine how crowded it's going to be there in a few years. And if you go, you should definitely get up early (we left our hotel at 5 AM) to go see the sunrise over Angkor Wat, which was the coolest thing about the trip. I was a bit worried when we showed up at about 5.15 and the parking lot out in front was already filled with tour buses, but for some reason the big groups of tourists all stopped right through the main gate--possibly either to take wide-angle shots or, more likely, listen to their tour guide--which meant the closer we got to the temple, the less crowded it became, which in turn meant we could take pictures like this:

Hopefully that looks okay; the resolution on this computer isn't great, so it's hard to tell. Anyway, if it doesn't, there's a lot--a LOT--more where that came from. I'm not sure how many pictures I've taken the past month, but I know the 1,000 picture barrier has definitely been broken. You all want to come over for a slide show when I get back to Seattle, right? Shouldn't take more than, oh, six or seven hours to get through all of them. What could be better?

Anyway, I guess that's about it. I'm looking forward to Singapore--and not just for the Singapore Starbucks mug (I've started collecting the mugs from all the big Asian cities we've been to), although I'd be lying if I didn't say that had something to do with it. And yes, I think that's sad, too, for the record. So that's that. I'll write some more about Vietnam and all the other places we've been once I get back home. There will, I'm guessing, be some pictures involved. But don't worry, I'll try not to put up more than, say, four or five hundred ...
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