CAMBODIA - February 2005

Angkor Encore

chum reap sour (rhymes with floor) from siem reap cambodia!  steve and i are now in the homestretch of our two-week thai/cambodian extravaganza.  while i can honestly say that it's really time for a new part of the world for me (look for susie & seema's massive moroccan adventure, coming to an email near you in april), it's been very fun to re-visit cambodia.  angkor wat/siem reap continue to be as amazing and other-worldly as ever, although í cannot believe how much cambodia has changed since i was here five years ago.  

siem reap (where angkor is located) must have 3x the number of hotels it had in 1999 (we're staying at a $35/night guesthouse run by two french families).  and there are so many more tourists, and traffic (despite it being astoundingly, blazingly, humidly hot right now) and chi chi restaurants/hotels.  the ticket taking booth for the temples is now in a paved parking lot, with multiple lanes and a bank conveniently located across the lot since they only accept US dollars).  

and  the phnom penh airport is brand spanking new (so much for the atmospheric old one which had its control tower blown up in an aborted coup attempt in 1997), however, happily, it looks like they have the same uniformed men sitting in the same row, passing visa applications from person to person.  they're just sitting behind a nice new formica partition now instead of a wooden one.

and we did see an elephant walking down the causeway while in phnom penh!!  first thing in the morning, just strolling along the causeway, while his mahoot putt-putted alongside him on a motorbike.  they stopped so that the mahoot could spray the elephant with water from a hose and it made for a wonderful photo op).  i'm having a hard time convincing steve that that's truly the first time i've ever had an elephant siting like that.

and today we saw monkeys.  a lotta monkeys.  a whole troop of them (with bunches o' teeny, funny babies), alongside the road to one of the temples outside of siem reap.  boy oh boy, of all the times for me to have a soda can (complete with straw) in my fanny pack bottle holder...those monkeys can jump!!  (duh...)  they were just flying through the air coming at me trying to grab the straw - very funny and very interesting sensation as they tugged at my fanny pack as they went sailing past!  (thank heavens for my rabies booster shot a few months back...)

and, speaking of medications, happily, the allergy notes which steve brought with him (written in both cambodian and thai - a fabulous idea first successfully used by art kessler - thanks art!)have proved to be hugely effective (although for some reason, almost every cambodian we show it to giggles...) - so far we haven't had to use even one of his epi pens (i had promised him that if he had to use two of the three he brought, it would be okay for him to return early to the states).  having read the instructions as the most likely administrator, i am quite relieved not to have had a firsthand experience so far!  (ewww.)

oddly, while steve's seafood/fish allergy hasn't been a problem, his camera battery charger almost did him in a few days ago.  i was washing my face and he was in the other room when i heard him yell quite loudly in surprise, followed immdeiately by a thump.  i rushed into the other room to find out that he had just electrocuted himself - that darn asian electricity...fortunately he is fine.  (220 extra volts later...)

some other quick random thoughts:

- we saw some poor children yesterday playing with little homemade pull cars made out of water bottles.   the wheels were bottle caps and the bottles were partially filled w/pebbles to weight them down.

- there was a cambodian wedding party at angkor wat this morning having elaborate photos taken.  first in western dress (everyone, even bridesmaids, in white), then amazing traditional cambodia dress (this time all the women were in pink and gold).  apparently it's not uncommon for the bride and her attendants (who must be unmarried) to go through up to 10 costume changes for wedding photos.  it was really fun to watch, but we left after the pink outfit - time for lunch!

- this evening when we were at our final temple, we heard many voices chanting.  we walked towards the noise and saw hundreds of monks and nuns with candles sitting at a temple.  once a week they celebrate the phase of the moon.  it was a wonderful, serene spectacle (nuns all in white, monks in saffron robes - separated, of course).

okay, that's all from asia.  happily, no food poisoning, no epi-pen episodes, no sunburn, no monkey bites, no electrocutions (well, serious ones, anyway).  we're heading back to bangkok tomorrow afternoon for one last day in thailand and then heading home on tuesday (alllll day tuesday - it took us 27 hours to get here and will be just about as long coming home).

i hope you're well - 


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