Children are the blessings of god, we literate ones are fortunate, born in homes with resources with memorable childhoods. But there are many who are not, my trip to the Angkor temples reminded me of this. My first afternoon was spent in the Rolous cluster which lies a few miles to the east of Siem Reap, my tuk tuk had barely stopped at Preah Koh that a group of these young children, started running along us. One Dollar Sir, they all spoke in chorus, following me all the way to the temple entrance where the Apsara staff checked my three day pass.
Coming out they were there again, but were distracted by a big tour bus of falang tourists. I made a quick get away to my next stop at the mighty Bakong temple. I spotted them from far away at the entrance, Here they were selling banana’s and the usual postcards, all priced dollar one. As photographers we chase subjects, here was a case when the subject chased me, convenient. So the idea of doing an essay on them came to life, the One Dollar Children of Angkor. Last stop for the day was Lolei, where there was another group selling flowers, I really needed to read up why there were different items being sold at different temples, something to do with the deity perhaps.
Next morning, my first stop was the Bayon temple. Here they were strangely missing as our guide dropped us right on the entrance. The extreme humidity made a break necessary before we attempted Ta Phrom, aka Tomb Raider temple. Here we stopped at the stall next to the entrance for some coconut water. A young lad selling bamboo flutes appeared followed by a girl with postcards. I asked my guide to translate a few questions for me on their background and trade. Who do they work for ? how old are they ? where are their parents ? while I got a few pictures of them patiently waiting for me to part with my dollar.
My decision not to buy the flute disappointed the boy and he wanted me to buy some hand made bangles instead saying in his broken english, “mother”. Okay .. let me have them. Time to get inside Ta Phrom. Here another gang was selling curios and paintings, including this bald fella with his little dog.
Last stop for the day, the main attraction Angkor Wat. We made a quiet entry through the deserted east gate. You can’t really gauge the size from this route but it is quiet with almost no tourists around.
Next morning I was here again for the sunrise, it had rained the night. The sunrise came and went and with it most of the tourists back to their hotels for breakfast, we decided to hang around a bit. I got into position near this little wonder selling, you guessed right.. postcards. Look left, look right, tourist approaches and she swings into marketing mode. Her brother is seated a few feet away, with his bag of goodies taking a break.
Day 3, we head to one of the furthest temples- Banteay Srei. Beautiful carvings, lots of water puddles and more children. Nature’s call at one of the beautifully laid out restrooms and they are there to greet me on my way out. Tired, dehydrated of tempting, I decide to end the last afternoon early, and get some rest before exploring old town and the markets in the evening. One more temple we can cover my guide says, very small. Okay let us do it, Pre Rup in East Mebon. Here I am surrounded my a ladies gang and the only time I got a few curses. I kept waking off and they kept coming back and I told them if you keep coming back I will keep taking more pictures. My mantra for handling them, if you can ignore their innocent faces, please do so. If you have the spare dollar, then make them smile.