We went down to Pub Street for dinner Saturday night. Not many highlights from that, save the banana/pineapple shake I got before dinner and the dragonfruit shake I got for dinner. Those were a little piece of heaven. I thought I would miss shakes while I was overseas again, but Cambodia does fruit shakes and smoothies like no one else. I tried someone’s avocado shake and also a mango shake. These things are delicious.
I also got fried ice cream for the first time. It was…pretty good. I got oreo and if I do it again I’ll get a fruit flavored ice cream because I think it will make the cream more flavorful.
I did get two scarves to wear since I can’t wear my usual bandanas or hats in class. Originally, I was going to get a new hat here and begin filling it with buttons like my other two, but this place, this culture, doesn’t really fit a hat. So I’ve decided I’m going to get scarves. They’re beautiful and I didn’t realize until I already bought the two scarves, they’re both silk.
The next morning we had to be up kind of early again, not 4am, but 8am so we could leave at 9. We had one more temple to stop in before starting the long trek back to Phnom Penh. As we were leaving several people said they wished we were doing out classes in Siem Reap instead of Phnom Penh. I have to disagree. Siem Reap is a really nice city. The streets are swept clean, there are sidewalks, the traffic has a much more familiar Western flow to it. And that I think is why they liked Siem Reap. Siem Reap is a tourist town and drowning in Western influences. People rarely ride into oncoming traffic, there were more cars that scooters. This city has molded itself to make happy the Westerners that come to visit Angkor Wat. Phnom Penh is a Cambodian city. This city is Cambodia. People drive on the roads without any real discernible pattern, there aren’t really sidewalks, store fronts are right on the street, cars are a rarity and scooters rule the road. Siem Reap was a very nice vacation destination, but if I’m going to live in a country for a month, I want to live in that country, not some offbrand Westernized version.
Two hours in to our drive we reached the last temple, Beng Melea. This temple isn’t as well known as the ones in the immediate vicinity of Siem Reap and it’s really out of the way from the main road. I loved it. You walk down this really long causeway that somewhere beneath the shifting sands has a stone walkway just like the others. This temple is in more disrepair than even the jungle temple. I didn’t get to explore the entire temple because we only had a forty-five minutes to run around.
The stones are tumbled pretty much how they’ve fallen over the years. It’s clear in places they were moved out of the walkway and piled up but for the most part it’s in the same condition it was found in after a thousand years of being lost.
I’m pretty sure I got into a section I shouldn’t have been in. It was really a dangerous place to be, but I wanted to get into the inner courtyard. So I jumped and climbed all around these crumbling stones and found a place where the wall was tumbled and I could see it. It was amazing, all these stones from walls and roof that have collapsed in to the courtyard. I did hesitate before ducking in through a doorway to explore further. Really sure I wasn’t supposed to actually be in the temple, since, you know, it’s falling apart at the seams, but I figured it’s stood this long it’ll make it another five minutes. So I went in as far as I dared walking across these broken, fallen, pieces of the ceiling looking out windows and trying to find a way to get into the courtyard proper. That’s when I ran out of time and had to head back.
As I was clambering over the roof one of the Khmer in a security outfit followed a pair of Japanese tourists close to where I’d been poking around and kept them from climbing on the rocks I had just been on. Anyway. I was late again, only ten minutes, but really, I think we should have had at least an hour and a half.
We stopped for lunch at another tourist trap and this time it was the only place to go so several people opted to skip lunch and hang out in the hammocks outside. I thought about it, but hunger won out so I got some fried spring rolls. It was really expensive, and by expensive I mean I paid $5.15 for the spring rolls and $1.00 for water. For context: In Phnom Penh I could have eaten six meals for the price I paid for that one.
The ride back was much quieter than the ride there, most everyone slept or listened to music with headphones. The bus had a TV/DVD player and Dara, the guy in charge of us for the weekend, put on Premium Rush. We made it back to Phnom Penh by six-thirty. Pretty well everyone got dinner at the hotel and then we scattered to our rooms to either sleep or lesson plan.
All and all, I wish the trip to Angkor would have been another day longer, but I’m so, so glad I got to see the temples and learn about not only the ancient history of Cambodia but the more recent history as well.
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