Le Grand Détour

Temples d’Angkor – Jour 2, grand circuit

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[19 décembre 2015]

france_french_flag Un autre jour, une autre aventure. Nous voilà partis vers 8h30 avec Chanra, le même conducteur de tuktuk qui nous a ramené hier soir. Notre programme aujourd’hui consiste à visiter les temples d’Angkor dits du grand circuit et avec les béquilles : Preah Khan, Preah Neak Pean, Ta Som, Easter Medon et Banteay Kdei et Sa Srang. Rien que ça !

En chemin nous passons juste à côté d’Angkor Wat et nous traversons le Bayon que nous visiterons tous les deux demain. Ouah, ça a l’air énorme ! Avec énormément de monde aussi ! Par contre il fait un peu frisquet ce matin… Je ne pensais pas que ça arriverait au Cambodge mais nous devons sortir le sweatshirt ! Juste pour la première heure cependant car le soleil a tôt fait de monter la température de cuisson…

Comparativement aux abords d’Angkor Wat, c’est beaucoup plus calme à notre arrivée à Preah Khan. La visite n’est pas simple pour Susie mais elle parvient à se jouer des obstacles avec ses béquilles et à visiter tout le temple, lentement mais sûrement.

Mais alors que nous débouchons sur l’entrée Est pour photographier l’une des images emblématiques d’Angkor, à savoir des arbres géants qui ont complètement pris possession des pierres, nous voyons débarquer nos amis Gert et Lisa ! C’est énorme ! Après le bout de chemin ensemble en Chine, nous les avions laissés au Laos à Vientiane, puis nous les avions croisés à Niong Khiaw, puis brièvement à Huayxai. Entre temps nous avons visité la Thaïlande tandis qu’ils mettaient le cap sur le sud du Laos et le Cambodge et voilà que nous les retrouvons à Angkor, parmi des milliers d’autres touristes. C’est quand même une sacrée coincidence. Ils sont accompagnés de deux de leurs amis belges venus faire un bout du voyage avec eux.
Nous n’en revenons pas tandis que nous nous racontons nos aventures réciproques. Eux préfèrent le Laos que le Cambodge qu’il trouve plus sale et dont les vendeurs sont trop insistants. Lorsque nous nous quittons, nous prévoyons de nous revoir, cette fois-ci de manière planifiée à Hanoi si possibe dans un mois…

Preah Neak, le second temple est en fait tout petit temple au milieu d’une pièce d’eau. Sur le chemin du retour je nous fais une grosse frayeur : je n’ai plus mon portefeuille. Je suis persuadé de l’avoir eu avec moi ce matin. Soit on me l’a volé, soit il est tombé de ma poche. Heureusement ça n’est *que* de l’argent mais quand même : ça veut dire que nous n’avons rien pour acheter à manger ou à boire, ni pour payer le tuktuk pour le moment. Dernière possibilité, je l’aurais laissé à l’hôtel. En attendant nous poursuivons nos visites. Tans pis pour le déjeuner et tant pis pour l’eau !

Ta Som est plus impressionnant que le précédent, avec un autre arbre aux racines lovées autour des pierres de l’entrée.

Easter Medon quant à lui ressemble à Pre Rup (le temple où Susie s’est tordue la cheville) mais en plus petit. Enfin Banteay Kdei est un énorme temple-monastère où nous croisons de nombreux moines. Ils nous parlent d’une cérémonie le lendemain réunissant plus de 3000 moines venus de toutes les Cambodge. Nos appareils crépitent. Je termine la visite en laissant le regard se perdre sur les reflets du Sa Srang, le bassin royal, tout comme les statues de lion qui veillent ici depuis des siècles. Dommage que des rénovations soient en cours.

Pendant nos arrêts, nous en profitons pour discuter avec Chanra que nous donne son point de vue sans appel du roi du Cambodge, qui, tout comme les officiels, sont toujours là pour inaugurer des évènements mais qui au final ne font pas grand chose pour le peuple. Il nous parle également de la corruption qui mine le pays. Il nous dit cela sans pathos et nous apprécions son recul et son honnêteté.

Il est maintenant temps de retourner à l’hôtel car nous sommes littéralement assoifés. Et surprise, mon portefeuille était dans la chambre ! Soulagement…

Après le déjeuner non loin de l’hôtel, nous terminons l’après-midi tranquilement : la cheville de Susie a déjà bien travaillé, même un peu trop. Nous en profitons pour planifier la suite du notre séjour cambodgien. Après moultes tergiversations, nous optons pour passer Noël à Phnom Phen et le réveillon du nouvel an à Sihanoukville si nous arrivons à trouver un hébergement correct encore disponible…

Beatocello et l’hôpital Kantha Bopha

Le soir, nous nous rendons dans un hôpital pour enfants, le Kanta Bopha, pour une conférence/concert du docteur Beat Richner ou Beatocello. Une rencontre très émouvante qui va nous ouvrir les yeux sur la véritable situation sanitaire du Cambodge et plus particulièrement sur celle des enfants.

Le Dr Richner est l’homme à l’origine de la réhabilitation et de la construction de 5 hôpitaux pour enfants où les soins sont prodigués gratuitement pour tous les enfants du Cambodge. Quelque chose d’unique au monde, dans un pays totalement pourri de l’intérieur par la corruption à tous les étages et qui lutte difficilement contre les épidémies de tuberculose, dengue, encéphalite japonaise, etc.

Le Docteur Richner était déjà connu en suisse dans les années 70 comme chansonnier et amuseur public sous le nom de Beatocello, accompagné de son violoncel. Puis il est parti au Cambodge pour travailler comme pédiatre jusqu’à ce qu’il soit forcé de partir lorsque les khmers rouges sont arrivés au pouvoir. A son retour, le précédent roi avec qui il avait tissé des liens et qui était conscient de l’urgence sanitaire, lui demande de restaurer un hôpital, une mission quasi-impossible dans un pays qui n’a plus rien et où les enfants se meurent par centaines toutes les semaines… Franchement, à l’entendre nous raconter son histoire, celles des hôpitaux et tout le courage et la pugnacité pour tenir bon dans ce pays à la situation politique extrêmement compliquée et tendue, je réalise que le gars est un sain moderne, rien de moins. Depuis qu’il se bat tous les jours pour faire fonctionner ces hôpitaux, former des médecins, trouver des fonds, ce n’est pas moins de 7,6 milions d’enfants qui ont été traités et sauvés dans ces établissements. Les chiffres sont éloquents et effrayants à la fois.

Il donne quelques statistiques entre 2 morceaux de violoncelle dédiés à la paix et à l’espoir… 3000 enfants traités par jours et plus de 400 hospitalisations quotidiennes dont il estime que 80% d’entre eux ne survivraient pas sans traitement, 284 encéphalites et méningites par jour, 400 admissions de femmes enceinte, plus de 2500 cambodgiens formés et employés. Il nous explique également que la tuberculose est l’un des plus gros problèmes sanitaire du pays depuis sa prolifération dans les 300 camps de prisonniers des khmers rouges. Aujourd’hui presque tous les cambodgiens sont porteurs de la tuberculose qui se transmet de la mère à l’enfant.

L’autre revers de la médaille ce sont les fonds nécessaires pour faire fonctionner ces hôpitaux car ceux-ci dépendent à 85% de fonds privés. Beat nous explique aussi que le ministère de la santé est l’un des plus corrompus avec 90% de son budget qui se volatilise mystérieusement chaque année. Il critique violemment les crédos évangéliques de l’organisation mondiale de la santé qui préconise que 1) les patiens doivent payer par eux-mêmes les soins et 2) que le niveau des soins doit être en accord avec le niveau économique du pays. Or dans un pays où 80% de la population vit avec moins d’un dollar par jour personne ne pourrait se payer des soins… d’où la lutte qu’il mène pour garantir la gratuité de l’hôpital dans un environnement sain et sans corruption. Il nous parle des experts de l’OMS justement qui ont failli faire fermer l’hôpital à cause de cette gratuité des soins qui n’est pas en accord avec les principes… Ces experts qui restent au Sofitel à 300 dollar la nuit là quand le coût moyen d’un enfant qui reste 5 jours en soin est de 240 dollars.

Un film est également projeté après sa prestation musicale et j’en ai les larmes aux yeux plusieurs fois, d’une part de voir la réalité de la situation des enfants cambodgiens mais aussi de voir ces hommes et ces femmes qui changent le monde tous les jours et qui soignent des enfants. Quelle rencontre ! Du genre de celles qui vous chamboulent des heures et des jours après et qui remettent la vie en perspective.

english_flag Temple Run (or hop in my case) – day 2

Chanra, our tuk-tuk driver, was waiting for us when I went downstairs at 8:25. He checked with us that we’d got our tickets (as we’d bought 3 day access to the Angkor temples on Wednesday — which luckily are usable within a week after purchase)…unfortunately he didn’t check whether we had our wallets though and we later realised that we’d both forgotten them and didn’t have a dollar on us to buy water or lunch…!

The drive to the temples of the big circuit took us past Angkor Wat (where hundreds of people were filing in over the bridge across the large moat), Angkor Thom (with its arch topped with a face) and Bayon (a temple that looks like a heap of rocks from afar, but from which dozens of huge faces appear as you approach) to get to Preah Khan temple. Chanra dropped us off at the East of the temple and told us that he would be waiting at the West gate for us. He explained that there was a great tree in the ruins of the temple at the west side that we shouldn’t miss.

Due to my crutches and still fragile ankle, I took a fairly simple path through the middle of the temple while Stéphane went off at strange angles to explore more of the temple. It was pretty stunning and there were a lot of monks everywhere.

We’d agreed to meet at the other side by “the tree” which we did and as we were waiting for the group of schoolkids to finish taking their photos next to it we saw a couple of familiar, smiling faces coming towards us…Gert and Lisa!! Wow!!!

We’d last seen them at the Gibbons’ Experience when they were heading off back to Luang Prabang (link to article), we’d first met them in Kunming in China where we’d visited the Shilin stone forest with them (link to article) and we’d also crossed their paths albeit very briefly in Nong Khiaw (link to article). Now here in Cambodia we had a bit of a chat to catch up! They were there with a couple of other friends from Belgium before heading to Vietnam for New Year. We worked out that we might be in Hanoi at about the same time and agreed that it would be good to organise a meet up for a meal or a drink as that would be the last time our paths would cross (as we’d be heading to Oz shortly afterwards and that’s not on their itinerary).

It was so random, out of all the temples and amongst all the tourists here…destiny!! They were both looking really well too and very happy, as always!

When we eventually made it back to the tuk-tuk we explained to Chanra that we’d met our friends — he didn’t seem surprised. Our next stop was Neak Pan temple which you cross a large lake on a fairly narrow, wooden pier. The temple is a little disappointing considering the effort that I had put in to get her…a lot of crutch-work and trying not to fall in (as there is no barrier on the wooden path.

On the way back we passed another group of landmine victim musicians and Stéphane said that he wanted to give them some money as he wanted to film them. Suddenly, a look of panic crossed his face as he realised that he no longer had his wallet in his pocket…big panic! Did he have it when he left the hotel, had it dropped out of his pocket in the tuk-tuk, in the temples, had it been stolen, was it still in the hotel? I suggested that we ring Tina and ask her to check the room but Chanra told us not to ring the hotel as they might just nick it and say that they didn’t find it. Luckily in the wallet there isn’t much other than the money, but unluckily we’d taken out a lot of money the other day to pay the hospital (before we realised that the hospital accepts credit cards). It was also getting near lunch time and I knew that I’d left my purse on the desk in the hotel this morning, so I had no money either.

We were also running short on water!

We agreed, with Chanra to visit a few more temples before he’d take us back to the hotel and we’d call it a day for the Angkor temple visits. So, next stop, Ta Som, where we met Gert and Lisa and their friends again. This temple is fairly small and also has a large tree growing out of the arch at the rear of the temple. Stunning!

East Mebon temple (described by Chanra as a miniature Pre Rup — which is the temple where I hurt my ankle). I let Stéphane go up on his own whilst I stayed around the lower level.

Bantaey Kdei was a beautiful Buddhist monastery, but by now my ankle was starting to hurt again and we were both of us starting to get hungry…time to head back to the hotel. On the way out of the temple there is another group of monks on their way in. One of them stops to talk to Stéphane and asks “What has she done?” looking at my crutches and my leg. Stéphane explains and then chats to the monk a little more. He’s from Phnom Penh and is in Angkor for a large event that is taking place tomorrow with more than 3000 monks from around Cambodia…no wonder we’ve been seeing a lot of orange as we’ve been visiting!! ^_^ He ends the conversation by saying that we should come before wandering off behind the rest of his group, but we didn’t catch where or when.

Stéphane nipped over the road to take some photos of the Sra Srang royal bathing pool and so I chatted to Chanra in the tuk-tuk. I said that it was amazing that there were so many beautiful temples in such a relatively small area and said something like “How powerful the King’s must have been”. He agreed and said that they were creative kings who constructed things, unlike today’s King who just cuts down the rainforests and puts the money in his pocket. Stéphane arrives just as he says this and we chat for a while about corruption, the foreign businesses that come here and make money but that give nothing back to the Cambodians. He mentions the corruption in government, saying that other countries, like France, lend Cambodia millions in order to advance, but that none of these millions gets as far as the real Cambodians, it’s all absorbed by the government, paying for new cars and nice houses for the politians and their families. He tells us that there are elections, but that most people who vote don’t really know what or who they are voting for. It’s a depressing vision of Cambodia and it’s hard to see how they can get out of this rut as the money sent for this to happen never makes it far enough to make a difference…maybe it’s not just money that they need!!

In any case, he smiles and apologises for telling us that…we thank him for his honesty and for sharing his thoughts and his views!

Back at the hotel, Stéphane found his wallet (and mine too) whilst I sat outside with Chanra who told me about his daughters. He has two seven year old twin girls and said that he took them to school in the tuk-tuk this morning. He was so happy about it. Only later did I learn that he doesn’t get to do this very often as he’s usually left by then to try and find some tuk-tuk clients in town. He can only do that when he already has a booking and that it starts fairly late like ours (8:30am!). We pay him the agreed amount for today and he says that if we need him again today then give him a call (as we’ve paid for the whole day and only used him until early afternoon).

We go to a nearby café for lunch, opposite the “Future Bright” school where the children were screaming in the school yard until the end of playtime when a deadly silence descended!!

We then went back to the hotel so that I could raise my leg and have a little snooze…while Stéphane looked into hotels for the following few stops. When I woke up we chose from his shortlist together. We decided to go to a concert, called Beatocello, this evening held at a nearby Children’s hospital.

Beatocello concert – Kantha Bopha Childrens Hospital

Dr Beat Richner is a paediatrician. He also plays the cello. He worked in the Kantha Bopha hospital in Phnom Penh in 1974 until the Khmer Rouge made it impossible for him to stay in Cambodia. After the Khmer Rouge, the King invited him back to rebuild the Kantha Bopha hospital and since then he has been working and opening more “Kantha Bopha” hospitals in Phnom Penh and now Siem Reap. The hospitals offer free emergency treatment and hospitalisation to children and also maternity services. He’s now knocking on a bit, but he’s still working hard for the cause. He plays the cello in a concert for the tourists every Saturday night in Siem Reap where he asks for donations to the hospital — both financial and blood.

During the concert, between the pieces of music he explains some facts and figures about the hospital and about Cambodia. Below are a few of them…I hope that I’ve noted them down correctly!

The Kantha Bopha hospitals treat 3000 children per day in their outpatients’ clinics and are therefore now capable of spotting epidemics as the children arrive in larger numbers (bird flu, dengue fever, etc).

There are 400 hospitalisations per day. The hospital requests that the mothers stay with their children in the hospital. He says that T-cells are very important in the recovery process and any patient who is depressed or alone will have a drop in their T-cell count.

600 expectant mothers are treated in the ante-natal clinics each day.

80% of the children treated would not have survived without medication and care provided by the hospital.

23 years ago when Kantha Boppa hospital was rebuilt and restarted there were 68 Cambodian staff and 3 permanent foreign staff; today there are 2,500 Cambodian staff.

There are 75 operations a day.

There are, on average, 284 encephalitis and meningitis cases per day.

80% of Cambodians are poor, earning < $1 per day. They cannot afford to pay for treatment upfront and most cannot afford it at all. The average stay for a patient admitted into the hospital is 5 days (37 hours for a lady giving birth, unless caesarean in which case it’s 5 days; 7 days for someone needing surgery; etc). The average cost for these patients is $240. The average annual salary in Cambodia is $240 per year…this makes it nearly impossible for any Cambodian to pay for the treatment needed by their child and this is why the hospital needs to remain free for the children.

Currently the mortality rate is 0.25% (in the 1970’s it was 60%).

He repeats “Without justice there will never be peace” before playing “Le Chant des Oiseaux” by a Spanish cellist who escaped to the south of France where he composed this piece of music.

He states that there is huge corruption in Cambodia, that 90% of money received by the Cambodian Health Service disappears. No-one can prove where it has gone.

Tuberculosis is a big problem here are during the Khmer Rouge control there were more than 300 prisoner of war camps which were breeding grounds for TB. He says that 65% of the population is currently infected by TB or hosting TB and that it can be passed on from mother to newly born child in the breast milk (or the amniotic fluids just before birth). He also said something that surprised me about the BCG jab being proved ineffective and even that, if you’ve had the BCG jab and get TB then it will be harder to treat or worse for you than if you haven’t had BCG…does anyone know if this is true or not?

He ends with some more financial facts: the average salary for the hospital employees (8 years ago) was $250/month; 85% of funding for the Kantha Bopha hospital comes from private donations (10% from the Swiss Government; 3% from Cambodia); his concerts earn about $5m from tourists per year.

It’s a lot to take on board and as we leave we put our donation into the collection box too. I suggest to Stéphane that when we get to Phnom Penh and I don’t need my crutches anymore that we head to the Kantha Bopha hospital and give them as a donation (they are adjustable and should be ok for an older child needing them).

We head across the road to a nearby restaurant but it’s just closing…so we end up heading back to the hotel and the restaurant around the corner. We order an aubergine pizza and something else. The portions are ridiculously small, but it’s enough for the evening and with a noisy group of ageing Irish tourists and a couple of musicians at the bar we decide to head back to the hotel…rock’n’roll Saturday night!

2 reflexions sur “Temples d’Angkor – Jour 2, grand circuit

    1. Steph Auteur de l'article

      Merci Yvette ! Nous te souhaitons également une très belle année 2016 dans les belles Pyrénées ! Plein de bisous et de soleil !