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Angkor Wat and the Holy Romans

Posted by Mei on April 18, 2012 Istanbul and Angor Wat made feel a little like stunned mullets. Australia’s history is so short. It was hard to imagine how much work was required to build these cities. Istanbul has two huge footprints on the continents of Europe and Asia. It really feels quite Asian too. For some reason Kevin has been targeted as the person most likely to buy a carpet. He must fit the demographic. So everywhere we go the touts say, “ Where are you from?” then when they figure Aussie we get “Aussie Aussie Aussie …….”. It is freaking tedious. I get; “ you don’t look Aussie…?” We flew almost directly from Siem Reap Cambodia to Istanbul. Angkor Wat was magnificent at dawn and sunset. We loved the ruins and started to get a glimpse of how the Angkor royalty might have once lived. We walk or scramble up the stone ruins that are 1000 years old. What remains is only the stone bocks and stone carvings. Many of the Buddhas have been decapitated by looters. The Buddha heads fetch astonishing prices in the antiquities market, (Bastards). It would be interesting if we could see a diorama of what the interiors might have been decorated with. Apparently there were frescos and teak ceilings. The Ta Phrom was the wildest temple we visited and had giant tree roots growing through the ruins. Jan and Dave told us that Beng Meleia was wilder and hardly restored at all but as usual we ran out of time and puff. We saw pictures of Preah Vihear Temple that was the cause of border unrest between Cambodia and Thailand (2010), and no wonder, the temple is on a very high escarpment and is really quite big.  Looks fantastic. Siem Reap is full of scams, lies and misinformation. Mothers come up to you with babies and a plea for milk. Jen decided to go to the shop and get some and was horrified that the tin cost 44 USD. She knew it was a scam. We were besieged by kids under 6 coming with sad little faces trying to sell us postcards, bangles and anything. The Cambodians have an add campaign, “adults work, children learn”, i.e. keep the kids in school, don’t give them a cent. These kids were so visible and front and centre that I feared for them. Our guide told us that downside of tourism was HIV and the highest group were the tuk tuk drivers. The Cambodians use “Where do you come from?” but thankfully no “Aussie Aussie Aussie …….”. They were perplexed by me. Also noticed they rarely targeted me for sales. Apparently the Chinese groups were a dead loss for the hawkers. Scungie crowd. We were approached by people selling books on Angkor Wat and the Pol Pot era. The Tuk Tuk drivers we met in the tourist areas were happy to lie about a place you nominated to eat, and direct you to places where they got free lunches. Jen and Cam wanted to get an express bus out and were assured that the buses were express. But when they did the journey the bus stopped everywhere. In Istanbul we noticed wandering hawkers selling books and shoe shines. We sat down on a park bench and immediately a shoe shine guy came by. Kevin shoe had split from the leather and the guy took the shoe and suddenly ran off with it. He gestured that we wait in sign language. He came back with glue and proceeded to glue the bits together. Whilst sitting there his brother turned up and picked my shoe up (foot attached) and plunked it on his shoe shine box. I tried to pull my foot back but he grabbed it tight. Kevin’s shoe shine man hissed at his brother I think to tell him to go away but he then proceeded to clean my runners. The glue didn’t take to the leather and rubber. My shoes was marginally cleaner and we were 12 Turksih Lira (about 6 USD) behind. We decided to keep moving. Maybe right out of the tourist area. The Grand Bazaar is almost a small suburb with its lanes covered with a vaulted roof. It is the original mall concept but the execution is much more organic and less sterile. The lanes are not straight or flat. The vaulted roof allows natural lighting in and is high enough to keep it feeling spacious. Later as we were walking near the Grand Bazaar, a shoe shine man dropped his brush and kept walking in front of us, Kevin informed him and he pledged his undying gratitude and insisted on cleaning Kevin’s shoes. Upon hearing that Kevin practically grabbed my hand and jogged away. A couple of days later we noticed another shoe shiner drop a brush, but this time we kept walking very fast up towards him and pointed at his brush and before he could look back at us we were gone. In the Grand Bazaar we came across a shop sign that promised they would not hassle us in that shop. Did that mean they would totally ignore us like in Australia? What bliss. You can’t really stop and examine the items, because they are all over you like flies, and they don’t let you look at what you want to see, they make you look at what they want to sell you. In the Grand Bazaar we met a guy slouching on a stack of carpets, he used the unusual line, ”Can I help you spend some money, I have a lot of beautiful junk you might want to buy.” He got a laugh but no sale. We went through the Spice Bazaar and it was redolent with many spices. The people there were predominantly tourists. Do tourists buy spices? Not really.. maybe a bag of pistachios. The locals don’t seem to be there buying up for their kitchen, they can buy it in their local markets near where they live. On Saturday we noticed a huge surge in locals going to the spice market. Outside they sell birds, rabbits, kittens etc. I noticed little girl gripping tightly a paper bag that chirped, she looked trilled. We spent seven days in Istanbul and stayed in the old town called Sultanamet. It is walking distance to the Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, innumerable mosques. We caught a ferry to the Asian side and had a look around. There were very few tourists and it was a normal working class neighbourhood. The fresh food markets looked very clean and inviting. I am normally not a fan of fish markets but this one was not far from the one in southland. We visited the archaeological museum and discovered that Troy really existed, and it is in Turkey. The original Troy is 3000 BC. It was in this museum that we discovered the Lycians, who on earth were they? Apparently democracy was their initiative centuries before the Greeks. We went to the Hagia Sofia, it was built in 537AD when Constantinople was the lead city of the Holy Roman Empire. it is a magnificent domed building. It had lots of marble, and the ceiling were decorated with tiny mosaic tiles by a few scripture stories. The church was subsumed by the Ottoman empire and grew four minarets and a pulpit for the mullah. Have a look here http://www.3dmekanlar.com/en/hagia-sophia.html. We visited the Topkapi Palace, http://www.3dmekanlar.com/en/topkapi-palace.html it was used from for 400 years from 16 century. It’s the palace you think of when you imagine the Arabian nights. Mosaics, splendor and big black eunuchs. On the other hand the Dolmabahce Palace (http://www.3dmekanlar.com/en/dolmabahce-palace.html) was built to impress the holy hip western Europeans, yes and in the style favored by wealthy dictators of any color, creed or religion; Louis the 14th interiors. Built in the 19th century when the Ottoman star was waning. Apparently they missed out on the industrial revolution, and instead became the buyers of these cheap goods, which in turn destroyed the local market. The Ottoman’s traditional revenue sources were drying up and they didn’t have a clue how to fix the problem. Yep innovate or die. The Blue Mosque, http://www.3dmekanlar.com/en/blue-mosque.html was OK, and is still being used as a mosque. It was free to visit but I was annoyed at the guy out the front barking out “donate” like an order.  He was obviously unfamiliar with the altruism concept. We visited the Kariye Muzesi http://www.3dmekanlar.com/en/kariye-museum.html the mosaics here are really fantastic. Bring all your knowledge about the scripture stories and you will be able to figure what the scenes are about. No guide required. It was wonderful not to visit a shopping mall (something yachties usually get excited about.) We are now in Marmaris waiting, waiting for Whisper to arrive. Marmaris is surrounded by mountains. The town is on a plain and there are few views of the water. The beach looks like garden soil, and we heard that thousands of tonnes of white sand is trucked in and spread on the beach for those lounge lizard tourists. The water looked a murky dark brown. We caught up with the other yachties living at yat marin. The ones who arrived on the previous ship about 6 weeks ago. The marina costs 230 E per month. Lunch in the staff canteen 3 AUD per person. They were really happy and snug and didn’t look like leaving any time soon. Since we’ve been land travelling for almost four weeks the whole marina lifestyle started to look quite claustrophobic. Yat Marin has a supermarket, chandeliers and workshops. It is about half an hour outside of Marmaris. The city is 1.5 AUD by Dolmus (twice the size of a bemo, 15 seater with some standing room). Interestingly Dolma is a verbal noun of the Turkishverb dolmak, 'to be stuffed', and means 'stuffed thing'. Usually used in the food context but now a metaphor for the “human in a sardine can”. We visited Tlos, a Lycian ruin. We were dropped off at the town of Tlos and the Dolmus driver pointed up a road and showed 4 fingers. We guessed 4km to the ruin. We started to walk and a man on a scooter asked if we wanted a lift. We hopped on and were extremely happy we did when we began to climb up a very steep winding road for 4 km. It was about 20 degrees and very comfortable. No wind blue sky, my favourite weather. Tlos was quite a big ruin and was quite interesting. The setting was on an escarpment surrounded with snow clad mountains. The escarpment overlooked a big valley that was entirely farmland. They were growing olive trees, hothouses with tomatoes, vegetables. There was a strong smell of cows and goats. All very earthy. Spring flowers were the lovely poppies red and orange. The ruin had a lovely huge amphitheatre. But it was fenced off. The Lycian tombs were on the cliff edge and were interesting to scramble around. The area had the Lycians, Greeks and Romans plant their mark. Now only the farmers have the land. I have noticed something that detracts from every house. It is clear what the turks cannot do without. It is the satellite TV dish and the large solar hot water collector on the roof. Also like Malaysia the ubiquitous split system air conditioner adorns every hotel room exterior and some houses. The price of petrol or diesel is 2.22 AUD/litre. So power must cost a heap. The food here is curiously very limited. But I heard they have 200 ways to prepare eggplant, it is really bliss Suzanne.
  • There are the kebabs which tend to be minced meat or chicken on skewers with salad, and rice.
  • The doner which are slices of meat or chicken on a skewer rotating vertically with radiator surrounds. This comes with salad in Turkish bread, flatbread wrap, baguette or without bread.
  • The casseroles, chicken with potato; chicken goulash; meatballs with potato; vege with eggplant, onions, capsicum and tomato; eggplant with minced meat, minced meat with egg; all served with rice and or bread.
  • The deserts are the usual bakclava etc. But there are these curious puddings, very nice and simple rice pudding, milk, vanilla and sugar with sprinkling of cinnamon. Yum.
It looks like our current plan is to scoot up as far north on the Turkish coast into the Aegean sea, if we have enough time into the Black sea then come down south into the Greek islands then back to Turkey as we sail down south towards the Red Sea. Very busy 6-8 months.