Ta Prohm is one of the most popular temples in the Angkor area. Huge, gnarled tree roots hug 12th century temple buildings many of which are green with lichens. Rainwater drips through just about everywhere and the whole complex is surrounded by thick forest. It is a wonderfully atmospheric and mysterious place. Its cameo in the Tomb Raider movie was a fairly accurate representation.
I’d arrived early to try and beat the crowds. It opens at 07.30, I had 15 minutes to wait. Of course this left me at the mercy of the souvenir vendors. The youngest, with trays of trinkets around their necks, wasted no time homing in on their prey. First on the scene was a girl of about 10 years old. Her command of English was eclipsed only by her business acumen.
“Hey Mister, buy a fridge magnet, only a dollar.” Er, no thank you, I replied. “Why? Only a dollar.” Because I don’t want a fridge magnet, thank you. “I’ll give you three for two dollar.” What on earth am I going to do with three fridge magnets? “Give your friends.” No thank you, I want to keep my friends. “Oh, help me. No have business today!” Well it’s only 7.15, I reminded her. The temple isn’t even open yet, you have all day.She proceeded to pull a very unladylike face at me. What a pretty expression, hold it right there. I said, lifting the camera. “One dollar,” she giggled, covering her face with her hands.
When I asked why she wasn’t at school she pulled another face and told me she sells souvenirs to help her family. She learned English by talking to tourists. Her young colleagues were not as fluent but they all gathered round for an impromptu lesson. “I hope I can go to school one day,” she said.
I hope she can too.