On the road to Siem Riep
Sunday February 3, 2013
Day 25 of G
Down the eighty stairs to breakfast. As we passed Chris Jeff held out his hand and dropped two of the little toothpaste tubes from the hotel bathroom into her hand. Then I dropped an Imodium into the same hand. We didn't say a word just kept truckin past. She was quite charmed by our thinking of her.
On the way up there was the elevator just waiting for us. We got in it but now these elevators make me a wee bit claustrophobic. They are just a little too small and don't appear to be maintained very well. Maybe not at all. There is no phone or emergency button. For some reason it didn't recognize the three button. That should have been our clue to get out but instead we took it to the second floor and walked the last flight up.
After retrieving the luggage from our room the other elevator was waiting at our floor. I thought it must be a stroke of luck. I didn't really want to carry all of my stuff down 80 stairs. Jeff and I piled in with all of the wordly belongings that we have been hauling half way across the world for the past month. When the doors closed I was literally smashed up against the side of the elevator because Jeff and I and all of our luggage and backpacks were a little too large for the poor thing. We pressed the ground floor and for a few brief seconds nothing happened. I was sure we would be stuck like this for a long, long while. Would we still be alive when they discovered us missing? Anyway, that was all just a bad dream just like the anti-malaria medication bizarre dreams that we have been experiencing nightly. We were actually fine as long as we didn't think about the elevator possibilities.
I forgot to mention the map on the wall of the home we had dinner in last night. It was a nice size map with a large Asia smack dap in the middle of the map and the poor little American continents were much smaller and shoved off to the right side. I guess we only think that we are the center of the world.
When we arrived at the hotel last night Kim, Yoon and I piled into the elevator. Phyl was not far behind but the elevator doors slammed in her face as she was saying "Wait for me-e-e-e-e....." We couldn't twist around to press the open door button so she got left behind. This morning she thanked me for being so kind as to wait for her last night. I must have looked puzzled because she gently nudged my memory by saying "the elevator...." Whoops. Sorry Phyl. We did try. Damn elevators.
We have a nice big bus to spend the next six hours in. Chris started off by complaining that the bus should be moving while Andy gave us the rundown on the travel plans. I patiently explained that we were waiting at a red light. She laughed so hard that Andy felt compelled to stop his spiel to find out if everything was all right.
I sent a snippy email to my mom this morning. She has sent me a total of three emails since we have been gone. I have to request them from her every time before she will write to me. I guess she is just always so busy.
Why are the two most widely available beers in this country Angkor and Anchor? The Angkor bottles have a snap off top that gives a very satisfying pop when you open it.
Jeff now seems to be getting the majority of his caloric intake from beer and French fries.
How do the women here ride side saddle on the back of the scooters with their ankles demurely crossed and not holding on to anything? This morning we saw a woman driving a scooter with two very young children on board talking on her cell phone at the same time. It is not uncommon to see 3 or 4 people on these tiny scooters. The babies learn to hold on at a very young age.
The apartment building across from the hotel is very large. Everyone's windows are wide open. I think that air conditioning is just for tourists. I'm willing to bet that they don't have elevators either.
We are on an incredibly dusty, bumpy dirt road. Visibility is poor and it is very dusty even inside of the bus. This is the main road between Phnom Penh and Siem Riep. I'm glad that I'm not sitting in the back of the bus. We are passing lots of bicycles and scooters where the driver and or passengers aren't wearing masks or goggles. I don't know how they do it. Everything here is covered in red dust but laundry is still hanging outside. I don't think they have any choice. There is work being done on the road so hopefully this will change soon.
In Phnom Penh we saw many more cars than in Vietnam. I think this is because they auto tax here is low. In Vietnam the tax on cars doubles the cost of the car. Yesterday we saw a lot of street stalls selling gasoline for the scooters in old coke and fanta bottles. Good to know. Then there are other venders who actually have coke and fanta in the bottles. Sometimes the same vender has both gasoline and pop for sale.
We took a short bathroom break in a very small village where were accosted by hordes of young children, aged 8 to 10 or so, trying to sell us packs of Wrigleys spearmint gum, lotus flower pods, fresh fruit and olives. A dollar, a dollah? They swarmed around us and were pretty persistent little buggers. They spoke some English and some Spanish of all things.
Then we got onto what Andy calls the highway. It is a dirt road, some asphalt, and is a little less bumpy than before and a lot less dusty.
We stopped for lunch. I had fried noodles with vegetables and Jeff had, wait for it...wait for it...
Beer and Fries! I bought a round of deep fried grasshoppers for the table but only Andrew, Yoon and I tried them. They are very popular here and are for sale at most of the stalls. They were first eaten at the time of the Khmer Rouge when people were starving and desperate but now forty years later they are considered a nice snack, like chips. if you ate one and didnt lookk first they taste just like a fried snack. Not bad. They cost me $2 for a good sized bag. I'm sure I got ripped off but that's ok. Phyl wouldn't let me put the bag near her on the table and they were double bagged. Yoon says that insects are the food of the future. High in protein and nutritious.
Chris bought some real Pringles. There is a huge difference between them and the fake ones. The fakes have a different size container, the top doesn't stay on and the chips are usually jumbled and broken. These Pringles, the real Pringles, are a thing of beauty. Just ask Chris.
The scooter passengers and cargo continue to amaze me. Several went by with three rather large dead pigs laid on their backs all in a row. Then there was the scooter with the sleeping man on the back. Ladders, hardware, multiple cases of beer are common. I only saw one grandfather clock being hauled on a scooter.
We arrived in Siem Reap about 3. Got our rooms, gathered our dirty laundry and meet back with the group for an orientation tour at 4. Jeff forgot his guitar on the bus but Andy was able to make a call and get the driver to bring it back to the hotel.
We walked to the "laundromat", where you can also rent bicycles built for one or two, scooters or book tours. We had 4.1 kg of dirty laundry at $1/kg.
Kim, Yoon, Claude, Jeff and I decided to try and see sunrise at Angor Wat. Andy said that it would be about $5 for a tuk tuk to drive us there, wait for us and drive us back. He tried to negotiate for us but the best he could do was $12. Total not apiece. We all felt that $12 was reasonable. However he also told us that it was free to get in after 5 and it is free, but not until after 5:30, which makes a huge difference when you are trying to get to a good spot for sunset. The guards were very strict at checking tickets but I managed to sneak past a little bit early. Claude followed my example and finally Jeff did as well. Kim and Yoon waited until 5:30 because they are more honest than us and we felt obligated to wait for them.
It was still magnificent there though sunset was kind of a bust. The ruins are magnificent but the women with the deformed babies begging for money put a major pall over the whole event for me. Andy says not to give any beggars money but I'll ask the guide about it tomorrow. I'm sure that these women will still be there. One of the infants has a bad case of hydrocephalus. It's not like anyone could have done that to the baby in order to make more money but I suppose they could "rent" the baby out to improve the begging cash flow. Sigh.
Anyway we stayed for about an hour and then gave up. The photo ops were only so-so but there is always tomorrow and the next day.
Kim and Yoon bailed out to go to another Korean restaurant for dinner. The three of us took the tuk tuk to the Temple Balcony restaurant where we were supposed to meet the rest of the group for food, drinks and a dance show. We were an hour early but it wasn't worth going back to the hotel in between. We were very hot, sweaty (oops I meant glowing) and starting to get a tinge cranky. It has been a long day. The hostess at the Temple bar told us that there wouldn't be any dance shows until after the Kings cremation was over which is tomorrow. I talked the boys into having drinks and dinner before anyone else showed up because the group dynamics at mealtimes takes forever. We sat at a booth on the street and intercepted everyone in ones and twos as they arrived. The food was good, another pizza I confess, and the service was good as well.
Pub street is crazy! This afternoon I thought that this was a sleepy little town. Apparently everyone was resting indoors to escape the heat because now it feels like I am in the French quarter of New Orleans at night. And this is Sunday. It is noisy and crowded with flashing lights, music and people everywhere. No wonder this is one of Andrews favorite towns.
After dinner we walked around a bit. I got a "fish foot massage." $2 for as long as you want to sit there. The fish swarm your feet and eat off the dead skin. I had to have my mosquito bite scabs covered with bandages. It felt great and my feet needed a good cleaning. Poor fish.
We walked around a bit more. Claude went off to get a foot massage, regular not fishy. Jeff and I took a tuk tuk back to the hotel for $2.