Monday, November 22, 2010

Slow day in Siem Reap

I finally have a couple of hours to slow down and relax. 

And that's only because Eddie's condition has deteriorated from EBD (Explosive Butt Disease) to EEBD (Extreme Explosive Butt Disease).  Last night, he shit all over town until we dragged ourselves home around midnight.  And then I think he shit again.  Imodium isn't doing the trick; I think it's time for a cork. 

So, yesterday was a temple day.  I've been trying to mix up the days; do the touristy stuff one day and the next day go to the orphanage or do some humanitarian work.  It's been a lot of fun but it has been quite exhausting.  Like Eddie indicated after our last trip to Cambodia, we need a vacation after our vacation. 
I had wanted to go see the Roulos temple group after my last trip back in April.  These are very old temples that are just outside of town.  They are smaller, less visited by tourists but they have a certain charm and the red bricks that they used for the construction (especially at Preah Ko) are quite beautiful.  After breakfast, we got in our tuktuk and headed out.  We visited the three temples.  I took lots of pictures.  Sweated a LOT.  Had some fresh coconut water.  Got bombarded by girls selling silk scarves.  Dodged the Korean tourists with their visors and umbrellas.  Sweated some more. 

Then I wanted to go out to one of the most beautiful temples in all the Angkor area:  Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei is much further out.  It takes over an hour to get there by tuktuk but the drive isn't a bad one (although at times, it can be quite bumpy).  There are plenty of sights to see in the countryside; water buffalo submerged in their muddy water, palm sugar boiling in big steel pans, waving children and the general quiet hum of country life.  You have to pay an extra $5 from Siem Reap for the ride but it is definitely well worth it because Banteay Srei has the most incredible carvings.  So intricate that they call it the women's temple since it is believed that the carvings are too fine to be carved by apparently clumsy men.  The temple itself is quite small, especially when carved to the massive structures of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.  It is surrounded by a moat and most of the temple is in great condition.  We made it there in the early afternoon and spent a couple of hours mulling around. 

There are two people that I have seen on previous visits to Banteay Srei that I really wanted to see on this visit.  One is Toi who was a boy of about 7 when I first met him a couple of years ago.  He had the saddest face when he tried to sell me his Angkor DVDs and I have a great picture of him near my tuktuk. I saw him again during my visit in April and already he looked a lot taller and much stronger.  He spoke very little English, especially for someone who was always around tourists.  On this visit, I looked for him but couldn't find him.  I hoped he was at school but who knows?  Any number of things could have accounted for his absence. 

The second person that I wanted to see was a girl who is terribly disfigured.  I don't know how old she is but my guess is that she is in her late teens or possibly early twenties.  It is difficult to tell because her face is so badly altered.  She barely has a nose and she doesn't have a tongue.  The only sound that I have ever heard her make is a low groan which I have heard when she approaches a tourist and begs for money.  My guess is that she was a victim of an acid attack although another type of burn could have happened.  As we were coming out of the temple, we saw her and she looked much better than she had on my previous encounters; her hair was relatively clean and tied back in a ponytail and her clothes weren't dirty and torn.  Eddie whipped out his wallet and gave her $20 and her eyeballs nearly popped out of her head.  She bowed down her head with enthusiastic thanks and then she held up the bill for all her friends to see.  With her immobile face, it was impossible to tell if she were crying or just really happy.  That much money was quite possibly more than she would get for a full month.  We decided to take some pictures and the girl was happy to oblige with the support of all her friends.  She held my camera with her twisted fingers and I scrolled through the photos.  I have no idea what was going through her head when she saw her face looking back at her.

We made it to the Bayon for sunset.  The Bayon is a large Hindu temple that sits at the exact centre of the walled city of Angkor Thom.  It is famous for it's large smiling faces carved into the rock and is a great temple to see at sundown as the dramatic lighting highlights the faces well.  It is also less crowded at sunset because most tourists flock to the hill temple of Phnom Bakheng, and I'm really not sure why.  Tradition perhaps?  You can ride an elephant to the top.  We stayed at the Bayon for about an hour and then headed back to town.  If you're in Siem Reap, then a trip to the Bayon should be high on your list.  Just try to avoid the morning hours when you have to battle all the other tourists who have the same idea. 

For dinner, we went to Picasso's which is a very Western tapas bar which has great food and drinks.  I drank a carafe full of sangria which made me appropriately drunk for my first ever fish massage. 

A fish massage is not a massage for fish.  And it isn't really a massage.  But there are fish involved so I guess they got that right.  For $2 which includes a beer or a glass of wine or a bottled water, you get to stick your nasty stinkin' feet into a pool of fish for 20 minutes.  During this time, the fish eat your dead skin and according to the sign, make you "happy and funny".  When I first stuck my toes into the pool, I could barely stand it.  I have ticklish feet and the sensation of having 20 small mouths chomping on my extremities really took me to my sensory limit.  The best part was watching other people.  There were two Japanese girls in the same predicament and one could barely keep her feet in the water and the other just shook her head and screamed.  If you're in Siem Reap, you have to try it so that you too can be happy and funny. 

Then it was off to do some shopping at the night market where I bought 10 t-shirts for $16 and I met a girl who wanted to show me how she makes handmade scarves.  At this market, there were plenty of opportunities for massaging your body parts.  For $4 you could get a real hour long foot massage which made me re-think my opinion that a $2 fish massage was a good deal.  The vendors at the night market are all very friendly and they are not hard bargainers.  They smile a lot and I fall for their sweet natures.  Typical Cambodians.  This is why I have been back to this country three times. 

We went to a bar later that night and tried to teach someone how to play Blackjack which was, for the most part, unsuccessful.  Eddie had to go to the shitter on two different occasions and his pathetic face told me that it was time to leave earlier than I had hoped. 

This morning, Savong picked us up and we went to the new market.  We bought $300 worth of medical supplies for the clinic (that lasts for only 3 days!) as well as shoes, blankets, mats, bowls, plates, spoons, chickens, eggs, fish and soap all for the orphanage.  Savong said the kids will be very happy with all the great food and new household items.  Looking after 33 children is apparently a lot of work and expensive, even in Cambodia. 

And now it's now.  I just had a conversation with Ponheary about the disaster in Phnom Penh during the water festival.  345 people died because of trampling and drowning.  Ponheary is very sad because she is a very empathetic person.  She has a tour to do this afternoon but she looks tired and I don't think she wants to go.

This evening, I hope to go to the orphanage again and Eddie needs to pick up a beautiful carved Buddha head he bought at the night market.

Time is passing TOO fast.  We leave tomorrow at midnight for the long trip back home. 

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