It's New Year's Eve morning! It may be a long day and late night, but there was no sleeping in at a homestay! The roosters and dogs never went to sleep - and I mean never. Neither did we - a few minutes here and there.
Let's talk about what a homestay is just in case you haven't had this experience yet. Some villagers will open up their homes for a small price for a bed and use of toilet. Sometimes you are in a shared room, sometimes separated by gender, sometimes the bed is a pad on the floor. Toilets may be western style, flush or no flush, squatter, or outhouse squatter with spiders and huge frogs in the flush/scoop bucket :-). We've had all of these in past travels, and the fun part is that you never know what it will be!
For Banteay Chmar, the van pulled up to a simple home and Kinal called two specific single men and asked for one couple to go to this one. We were sitting behind the other couples, hardest to get out - but no one moved. She asked again, and no one who had easy access (Arvin and Keberi, Gemma and Aiden and Veronica and Sam) moved! We got up, squeezed out and headed in following Ludovico and William. Very simple home. We were shown the toilet on the main floor, and then we climbed a steep stairway/ladder to the upper level. Open air with three rooms separated by thin boards. Surprisingly the beds were on frames! We were told there would be blankets but it ended up being two towels which made for a cold cold night. Because it's all open, a mosquito net was provided.
This village has no access to electricity.The solution is to power lights using batteries. We saw one of the charging stations where they used a generator during the day to charge a bank of batteries. Our homestay was right next door to this very interesting endeavor. Then the batteries are used later at night to power lights from approx. 6p until about 10p. Our host had an inverter that allowed them to power a television. We exchanged smiles with the woman of the house, but that's about it. No English of course, and besides saying hello or thank you, we can't do much more than offer a nop or wai (that's Lao, can't remember what it is in Khmer) - basically a prayerlike gesture with slight bow.
We never saw the inside of the other two houses that the others ended up at, but we do know they all had plenty of blankets because they discussed it on the bus in the morning.
The bus picked us up at 7a and we headed back to where the dining area is for the homestay visitors. This is where we had lunch and dinner the previous day, and we all talked about how our stomachs were settled and no one felt sick this morning and how excited we were to have breakfast here too. Everything was fresh, with little added oil - very simple food. Put that Imodium away for the day! :-)
After a terrific breakfast, we were on the road again...heading for Siem Reap. We hadn't been on the road long when we heard a loud clunk from underneath the bus. Had we hit something? Chickens and dogs are running all over the roads, along with little kids. Nope...it's a blow out. Our poor driver! He got us down the road to a "shop" - a tin roof with some power tools - and it got changed out with all 13 of us staying inside. And we were off again!
Arrived in Siem Reap, Kinal's hometown. We are staying in the same place for three nights, woo hoo! Our room had three pictures on one wall, all of Michael Jackson. When we asked the rest of the group about the artwork in their rooms, none of them had anything like we did. Very interesting.
Kinal let us know that on New Year's Day evening, she would be attending the wedding reception of her dad's best friend's son. Then she asks, "Are any of you interested in coming with me to see Cambodian wedding?" We all look at each other with the obvious questions: We have nothing to wear! We aren't invited! We are barang! (Barang is foreigner, sometimes said with disdain). She alleviates all of our worries letting us know that in Cambodia, everyone is welcome when accompanying someone who is attending. We are all confused, thinking about our western ways - cost per plate/person, seating, etc etc. No worry! she says over and over. Can we all attend looking like an ad for REI? No problem she says! We say okay! But we all plan on trying to find something in the market.
We opted out of seeing a floating village with the group, and spent some quality alone time walking the town. Beer in the old market, shopping for wedding-appropriate attire. The town was in high gear getting ready for New Year's Eve festivities, and it was fun to see the frenzy.
When we were almost back to our hotel, we decided to check out Palate, the rooftop bar of the swanky looking hotel across the street from ours. Great view, no one was there and it was beautiful! We made a mental note to come back here after New Year's dinner with the gang, thinking we would celebrate at 9p and go to bed, since it really wouldn't be NY in the US until the next day, and we wouldn't be missing anything.
The best laid plans...we had dinner with the group, and Kinal met up with friends, so we said we were heading out. The "kids" asked where, and we told them we were heading for Palate. Suddenly we had a following. We were the ones who had opted out of the group activity in the afternoon, but that meant we knew the lay of the land - good thing because we stepped into a frenzy of NYE revelers and we did our best to hang onto one another and we snaked through the crowd with Dale in the lead.
We made our way to Palate and had so much fun. We didn't think we'd make it until midnight but we did. We all experienced what appeared to be Linda's first drunk adventure - a drink called Ginger Rogers did her in. We shared a couple bottles of champagne and had the best view in town for the longest fireworks show any of us had ever seen. At 12:30a, we all made the short walk across the street and went to bed.
Angkor Wat in the AM!