Siem Reap: it’s what you’re supposed to do
Did the obligatory temple-hopping with some Operation Smile pals over the weekend. Arrived on Saturday night after a super-A/C’d minibus ride up. We split up for lunch andI wound up at the Indian place for my special veg thali with the Indian Contingent (and the Vietnamese and Kiwi attachées). I guess the boys from Mumbai etc. didn’t believe me before when I said I loved Northern Indian food! Managed to impress them with the fact that I make paneer at home, can identify pretty much any veg curry (or chutney or other sauce) that crosses my plate and love a good chai masala.
Our merry crew rented a big wooden boat with an angry motor to check out the floating village on Tonle Sap lake. It was a unique experience for me. Felt a bit silly likening it to Water World but that’s the only thing I could draw for comparison. When you see photos, you’ll understand. Except, nothing can prepare you for the pit of crocodiles that awaits you at the end of your journey. Honestly!
Siem Reap was a bit more relaxed than Phnom Penh; the night market was clean and beautifully arranged, the Khmer food pretty decent and the Engrish ever-amusing. Woke up at the 4$$ crack of dawn – actually it was 4:30am, and there was no dawn to be had – in order to see Angkor Wat in the orange light. It was okay, but the highlight for me was watching the artificial sun – a yellow hot-air balloon – floating above the gates. [insert spectacular photo here]. Our day got hot. We had a knowledgeable guide who shocked me as he used words like ‘”iconoclast,” but despite his enthusiasm, I got templed out pretty easily. You can see in the photos where I started to look with wonder at the ants on the ground, people’s American-sized butts going up the steep stairs and so on. Ta Prohm- the last temple on the shorter route – was well worth the day in the sun. Overwhelmed by nature, much of the structure was cordoned off due to collapse. Gnarly, giant tree roots grabbed like sea monsters at the remaining walls, ready to tear the stone apart for dinner. Gorgeous. Oh, and this is the Tomb Raider temple just FYI.
Managed to race tuk-tuks at a fair clip back to the guest house. Part of the group, including my bubbley roommate Zhou, were flying off and the rest of us were just flying off the handle. Okay not really. We just wanted to chill out. Andthat we did! Had a Khmer/Shiatsu massage for 5$/1hr by a blind man at Seeing Hands, the charity that trains andemploys blind masseurs. Eating dinner (a lime popsicle which dripped all over me), there were two bull frogs” sitting by the door of the convenience store. A moto driver came along andgave them a little poke with his foot until they got angry and puffed up, resembling friendly muppet monsters. I wish I had a video of that, and it only got better when an even bigger one came along and climbed over the pair!
Thought there were some language barriers in negotiating it, we managed to get tickets out on Monday morning. Took the bus back to Phnom Penh and dropped David the Kiwi Dentist off in Kampong Tong, where he’s extracting teeth from prisoners, guards, and the guards families for another week. Yikes! I wonder if the government sees the dental volunteers as providing a degree of punishment to the inmates. Anyone who is afraid of the dentist would probably agree.
I made it back quite late, but managed to get a 5th floor room (up ~9 flights of stairs anda metal ladder with my 15kg pack) in the heart of the city. I’ve since moved to the 2nd floor, bought some groceries which are quickly expiring on my counter, did some Operation Smile follow up, had a slow day in the office, watched a hydrocele explode, andwitnessed my first Cambodian baby birth (C-section). Tomorrow my preceptor has the day off so I”ll try to go to the eye clinic instead.