31 March 2013

Armoured Elephants

It has been a day of new experiences and I have had several so far. I ate a spider today - a fried one. I am aware that many of you who know me will doubt that I ate it so here are the photos to prove it. My guide Johnny witnessed the eating and took the photographs with my Blackberry camera.

You will see a sequence of images captured on my Blackberry camera. There are spiders cooking and a picture of the spider that I ate and one of me actually eating it.

Here they are:

The other new experience I have had is the discovery that I can upload photos here into this blog. I have taken many on my Blackberry. I am going experiment with visualizing things a bit now. For a while anyway.

Eating the spider wasn't that bad. It was like eating crispy noodles fried in a bit of chilli. I only ate the legs though. I wasn't game to eat the plump body as I suspected it would be full of cooked spider guts juices and I imagined in my minds eye that such juices would be warm and yellow or green and would feel like pus in my mouth. I did not think that I would like the texture or experience at all so I just ate the legs. 

There were eight of them.

I also saw a very large dead pig being carried on a motorcycle this morning. I hadn't seen that before either. Here is the photograph for you to also see this. I am fairly certain that the pig was dead. Or else he was a very good sleeper.

I anticipate having several more new experiences both today and in the two remaining days that I have left in Cambodia. It is a very interesting place.

The French have been in Cambodia for a while and their influence is visible in some of the architecture in the cities. You could well imagine you are in an early twentieth century Parisian back street in some sections of both Siam Reap and Phnom Penh. The French impact on Khmer cuisine is also tastable as much as it is delectable. On street corners of Phnom Penh and Seam Reap local children sell fresh-baked and still-hot baguettes to passing motorists in the peak hours of the early morning. The motorists devour them. 

As would I.

The French Protectorate of Cambodia was established in 1863. The then King of Cambodia King Norodom asked the French government to move in and protect them from potential military threat from their neighbors. Particularly Thailand.

In ancient times Cambodia and Thailand and some parts of Vietnam were once merged as a mighty kingdom called Siam. They split apart a long time ago. Angrily and Bloodily. Siam is mostly Thailand now and the Kingdom of Siam has shrunk and all but disappeared. History has shown us that such splits are rarely amicable. Ask the Soviets and the Bosnians and the Serbs and ask the Yugoslavians. These disputes inevitably end in conflicts and tears.

They end in Wars.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the fighting factions that constituted the Kingdom of Siam rode armoured herds of elephants into battle against each other. They blew on trumpets made from elephant tusks and were ridden by fierce tattooed warriors armed with sharp and wicked spears and swords. Territorial rights to land and boundaries were disputed and settled in great battles and carnage. They nearly always are and they still are. Ask the Israelis and Palestinians or any of the Northern or Southern Irish. 

They will tell you.

Battles of charging herds of war elephants ridden by tattooed and screaming warriors would have made for a pretty spectacular sight and I am surprised that more Hollywood movies haven't been made with this scene.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the French helped the Cambodians out in their separation from Siam. The French had always wished to establish a French Indochine trading region in south east Asia and they supported it with their military and naval forces. The French cultural influences still survive and in fact still flourish in Cambodia and in Vietnam. Trade agreements between Cambodia and France are also still very strong.

Despite the long and strong French influence the US dollar is the main and preferred currency in Cambodia. Not the Euro and it was never the French Franc. The local Cambodian currency is the Riel. At the time of writing this there are about four thousand two hundred Riel to one American dollar. I asked my driver Johnny what was the smallest Riel note is and he told me it was a fifty. He told me that the biggest note was a 100,000 Riel.

I asked Johnny what you could buy in Cambodia for 50 Riel and he told me that you could buy nothing. He said this with a raucous laugh. Johnny then told me in all seriousness that Cambodians like US dollars the best and he also double checked that I was going to pay him in dollars. I assured him that I was. Johnny told me that Cambodians still like US dollars the best even though they know they are not worth anywhere near as much as they once did.

They may never be.

Here is a picture of a 50 Riel note. The building that is printed on the note is the Angkor Wat:

This is a photo of the actual Angkor wat and it is where I am now.

Here is a picture of me standing in front of a bit of Angkor Wat. I am adopting the spiritually influenced pose that I typically assume when I am in front of the camera and am in ancient and holy places of any faith or religion. I have been photographed in this pose in many holy temples of Kathmandu and Delhi and Bombay and on the banks of the Ganges and I have also posed in this manner in such Christian enclaves as Lourdes and Notre Dame and in pagan places like Stonehenge and Lindisfarne Island. 

My pose is a respectful one I think and is intended to be nondiscriminatory to any faith or religion.

I think that you would agree that from where I am standing it is a million Riel view.

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