Where Life Imitates Video Games

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This blog entry about the events of Friday, January 28, 2005 was originally posted on February 02, 2005.

DAY 468:  “It looks like a movie set,” I overheard one British girl saying to her friends.

“It is a movie set,” her companion replied.

The raîson d’être in the former French-occupied Cambodia is Angkor Wat, the UNESCO World Heritage Site known the world over.  The ancient grand Hindu temple is one of the world’s great wonders, so great that it was used as a location for the 2001 Hollywood blockbuster Lara Croft Tomb Raider (starring the beautiful bosomy, full-lipped Angelina Jolie), which as everyone knows (or should know) was based on a wildly popular adventure video game of the same name, which featured a bosomy, full-lipped virtual character named Lara Croft.

“WHAT TIME DID YOU WAKE UP?” Louen my motorbike taxi driver asked me in the darkness of the pre-dawn morning.

“Five,” I said.  “Then I went back to sleep and woke up at 5:10.”  Ah, the snooze button.

Ten passed five was still “stupid o’clock” in the morning, but waking up at that time was not without a reason:  to join the hundreds of others to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat.  We made it there just before the crack of dawn and joined the others with their cameras all pointed eastward, waiting for the display of colors behind the famous temple.  It was this vibe that not only attracted the Hollywood crew of Lara Croft Tomb Raider, but of an ultra-low budget independent film crew we saw set up nearby with kitschy costumes and no clapboard.


ANGKOR WAT, THE CENTERPIECE OF ANGKOR PARK, was built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the 12th century as a funerary temple and a model of the universe.  Its perfect symmetrical construction of laterite and sandstone is based on the Hindu legend, The Churning of the Sea of Milk, in which all the gods and deities of Hindu lore got together and used Mount Meru as a churning stick to extract the elixir of immortality out of the sea.  They pushed and pulled the churning stick with Sesha, a giant sea snake, until Lord Vishnu recovered the potion, which is a pretty amazing thing to do, even for a Hindu god.  The story was depicted not only on a grand-scale in the creation of Angkor Wat, but in a more obvious way on the famous bas-relief on the east wall surrounding the temple towers. 

While Noelle was admiring the intricacies of the wall reliefs, I was admiring the fact that Angkor Wat’s interior was very reminiscent to scenes in the Tomb Raider video game that spawned the Hollywood movie.  (Leave it to me to immediately think of a great worldly temple in terms of PlayStation.)  With stone textures that inspired bitmaps and right angles that were in perfect alignment with north, south, east, and west (I brought my compass to confirm), I felt like we were in some sort of adventure video game.

“You have to pose for Tomb Raider pictures,” I requested of Noelle.

“Okay.” 

I posed my Blogreader-turned-travel partner in Tomb Raider-esque areas in Tomb Raider-esque positions (centered in the frame with her back turned at varied distances, picture above), just like I had seen when playing the video game until the wee hours of the morning in the mid 1990s. 

“I’m glad I could entertain you,” Noelle said.  But that wasn’t the end of it; it was just the beginning of an entire day of video game-inspired photography.


WE TOURED ANGKOR WAT, inside, outside, through the hallways, up and down the stairs to the other tiers.  It was simply amazing — except for the rooms that reeked of bat guano.  We went around more shooting Tomb Raider-inspired photos where they seemed fit, as well as some the regular touristy kind of photos with and without the famous towers that represent Mount Meru.

“What do you suppose this [structure] was for?” Noelle asked me.

“It’s a pool.  The stairs are over there,” I said.  “That’s what it is in the video game at least.”


AFTER A QUICK BREAKFAST OF BREAD AND RAMEN at a nearby food stall, Vebol and Louen took us on the two motorbikes to the other side of the Angkor complex to see more.  Passing us on the bikes was a motorcyclist with a live pig strapped to the back of his bike.  “Did you get a picture?” Noelle asked me as our bikes rode side by side.

“No.”  Sitting on the back of a bike didn’t really give me easy access to my camera for quick, spontaneous photos like the one I had taken just before of the two naked kids by Angkor Wat.  “Catch up to that bike!” I told Louen.  “I wanna take a picture of the pig.”  Louen revved the accelerator towards the pig on the bike, which went not down the road we wanted, but down the road to exit the park.  Louen sped down faster before the exit in time for me to snap a semi-decent shot and then turned back to catch up to Vebol and Noelle.  Soon, we were stopped by police.

“What, for speeding?” I asked.  The cops were already asking for money.  It was for backtracking on the one-way road.  I gave Louen money to pay off the cops (about 75 cents US) and soon we were back on track to explain our tardiness to the others. 


NOELLE AND I WALKED THROUGH THE BAYON-ESQUE GATE OF BANTEAY KDEI, the Buddhist temple of Jayavarman VII with a promenade through the jungle that set itself up for a Tomb Raider-esque series of photos (1 2 3).  We wandered in and around the unrestored Banteay Kdei temple, which, unlike in a video game, was “more a spot for calm reflection than active exploration” according to Let’s Go book.

From there it was off to Ta Phrohm, the Buddhist temple by Jayavarman VII built in his mother’s memory.  Let’s Go says it “competes with the Bayon and Angkor Wat as the most awe-inspiring of Angkor’s treasures and is the most authentic ‘jungle’ temple.”  Vebol also said it was what he believed to be “the best one,” and I had to agree.  A crumbling temple of extreme disrepair, it was the temple that time forgot — perfect for a level in Tomb Raider — a mass of crumbling sandstone overridden by giant jungle trees.  Surveyors from India were on site to assess a renovation effort, but from what I saw, they would have a long way to go.

While I was off taking a photo of the old man of Ta Phrohm whose claim to fame is being the guy on the cover of the Lonely Planet Cambodia guidebook, Noelle encountered one American tourist who was wondering about the American renovation effort of the Angkor temples. 

“‘The French are here, the Indians… The Americans have got to be here somewhere’,” Noelle restated for me.  “Yeah, I don’t think so.”

One American doing her part (other than the hundreds of tourists paying money) is none other than the real life Lara Croft Tomb Raider herself, Angelina Jolie, who fell in love with Cambodia and its people during the shoot of the first Tomb Raider movie.  Since then, she had donated much of her Hollywood A-List money to development projects in the country, and has even adopted Cambodian orphans — which of course, makes any guy jealous as that kid gets to be fondled near Ms. Jolie’s bosom.


VEBOL AND LOUEN HAD ME CONVINCED THAT one nearby temple might be more awe-inspiring than Ta Phrohm, so they took us there.  Pre Rup was nice and all, but had no ethereal vibe for me, and with the heat of the pounding sun, I merely fell asleep there.  With that said, we were Angkor templed enough, ended on a high note, and rode back into town. 

After a day of Tomb Raider-inspired photos in Angkor Park — including action shots of “Noelle Royer Tomb Raider” attacking and climbing — it was fitting to have dinner and drinks at The Red Piano, the restaurant/bar in town that was the headquarters for the Hollywood Tomb Raider cast and crew.  It was just one of several trendy-looking spots on the corner of the main tourist drag (which included another bar called “Angkor What?”), and it was there that we dined on fine food and cocktails like the “Tomb Raider” (Cointreau, lime, and gin), which was described on the menu as “Lara’s favourite” next to a picture of Angelina Jolie. 


WITH ALL OF THE DAY’S REFERENCES of the Tomb Raider video game and movie in and around Angkor Wat, it must be noted that Angkor Wat has a striking resemblance to the big temple used in the Mortal Kombat movies, also based on a hugely popular video game series.  After I did some research, I discovered that Mortal Kombat and its sequel were not in fact filmed at Angkor Wat — they were shot at Ayuthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand — but that didn’t stop me from taking another kind of video game-inspired picture

SAVE THE DATE; DAY 503 IS COMING.  MARCH 5, 2005, NYC.
THE TRAILER GOES ON-LINE SUPERBOWL SUNDAY






Next entry: The DAY 503 Trailer

Previous entry: The Smiles Of Angkor




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Comments for “Where Life Imitates Video Games”

  • TRAILER UPDATE:  Most likely I won’t have new entries up until the WHMMR, but the DAY 503 Trailer will still be released just after the coin toss on SuperBowl Sunday.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/31  at  07:00 PM


  • MORE TO COME…

    Flawless victory.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  08:19 AM


  • At least I can pretend to kick some butt in video games!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  08:26 AM


  • All I have to say is “Get over here”....

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  12:12 PM


  • I’m so sad for that pig.  :(
    But the video game pics are hilarious.
    “Get over here!”

    Beautiful pics, I think I’d like to see Cambodia for myself now.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  12:31 PM


  • Jinx

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  12:34 PM


  • hahaha that mortal kombat picture RULES!!!  holy shit that is funny

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  01:19 PM


  • WAHAHA. that last pict was awesome!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  01:34 PM


  • too funny with that pic….but imagine angelina jolie and talisa soto (from MK1)....mmmmmmmm

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  01:52 PM


  • I’m REALLY sorry I didn’t get to Angkor. Thanks for rubbing it in!! You deserve the K-O! hahahah FINNSH HIM! (or was that Street Fighter?)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  02:07 PM


  • Ankor What !?! coo luv it, I was done after a one day pass .. don’t know how ya’ll two are doing 3 !! ahhhh Talisa Soto vs Agelina Jolie ?
    winner would be me .. already seen them in a KY Jelly wrestling match in my dreams ... Blue you my boy !!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  02:24 PM


  • Hey Erik,

    Classic photos! Can’t believe you’re actually nearly finished on your trip… still, hope the rest of Cambodia and wherever you go turns out well!

    God bless,
    Chris

    Posted by Chris Hillcoat  on  02/02  at  02:39 PM


  • Erik,

    Greetings from Middle Earth!  Too bad you can’t make it to NZ - it is gorgeous here!!  I’m off for 5 days of biking/camping/hiking.  Hopefully, my office butt will not die while hiking.

    Cheers,

    Meg

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  04:18 PM


  • E.

    FINALLY all caught up… its only taken me 3 months.  Is there any place like the Thailand locale in Street Fighter?  i’ll take my video games with sprites please, no motion capture or pictures!  Capcom forever.

    Hope all is well… and hope to see you on day 503.  Is day 504 in Teaneck?

    D.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  09:05 PM


  • haha, that mortal kombat pic is hilarious.

    Posted by Alyson  on  02/02  at  11:27 PM


  • Cool pic’s.  Especially that last one!  Good thing you trip is nearing the end or you would have to buy a new hat!  That one has seen way too many miles!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/03  at  01:57 AM


  • no one seems to be noticing the big 69 on top of the mortal kombat pic?

    Posted by Alyson  on  02/03  at  04:32 AM


  • great site you have here.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/03  at  11:19 AM


  • Alyson: This is TGT Blog… that kind of thing goes without saying.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/03  at  11:55 AM


  • I 2nd the TDOT comment…

    haha…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/03  at  12:00 PM


  • ‘bad boys, bad boys..wut u gonna do when they come for u’

    COPS IN ANGKOR WAT

    next on FOX

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/03  at  02:51 PM


  • Great photos… of Noelle’s pig-tails. Teehee. That place is really amazing, I’m so glad you filled this entry with so many pics. So, exactly WHAT TIME will the trailer go live?

    T: -30:00:00 and counting….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/03  at  09:39 PM


  • CHRISTY - you’ll have to wait and see…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/03  at  11:05 PM


  • Td0t/markyt: ah, i should’ve known.

    Posted by Alyson  on  02/04  at  04:14 AM


  • DUAINE:  DAY 504 most likely will still be in NYC, since I’ll probably have a suite reserved somewhere.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/04  at  04:41 AM


  • ALYSON:  Glad you noticed the 69…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/04  at  04:46 AM


  • i have this strange uncontrollable urge to play tomb raider now.  hmmmmm.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/04  at  01:49 PM


  • Oh, I was so far behind… I’ve been offline for a week because I had visitors.  Phew, all caught up now ... only to do a mental countdown and discover there is only one more blog month??!!! Wah!

    Noelle - nice to put a face to a name smile

    White bakery rocked!

    Ankor looks awesome.  Loved the MK pic.

    Erik - thanks for the Cambodia postcard!

    Posted by Liz  on  02/04  at  03:09 PM


  • Great posts! I feel like playing tomb raider again too now!  Ankor what posts and pics were great!! gotta get there one day! 

    Can’t wait to check out the trailer!  Damn, almost over now…how time flyzz…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/05  at  12:13 AM


  • waiting for the trailer . . . wink

    after the coin toss is so late here damn :/

    but i am rally looking forward to it

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/05  at  04:06 PM


  • indy 3 is on tv, really helps waiting, apparently i am the only one waiting here wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/05  at  06:33 PM


  • ::waits for trailer with dennis::

    Posted by Alyson  on  02/05  at  09:39 PM


  • they are playing yet, arent they?
    since i am from germany i am not really into all that heh

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/05  at  09:57 PM


  • Wow! The trailer is absolutely maaaarrrveeellllous!  In true AR style!  Reminds me of an old Hank Williams song:  “I’ve Been Everywhere Man”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/05  at  10:51 PM


  • hi, got wind of your blog thru lonely planet’ thorntree.  wild effort on your part.  note: i’m now reading don starkell’s “paddle to the arctic”  a rough 3000 mile kayak ride - he too managed to go thru his adventure and write a precise diary…you’ve heard of it?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/10  at  04:48 PM


  • IAN:  Heard of it, but not read yet.  I only try and read travel stuff at home so I can pretend I’m travelling; on the road, I just read a lot of Dave Barry and Dan Brown…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/11  at  01:41 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
The DAY 503 Trailer

Previous entry:
The Smiles Of Angkor




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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