New Year's Day!!!
Off to see Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom!
Kinal spent four years as a professional Angkor guide (elite group), so when we met her in the morning she was dressed in official uniform and ready to make this a memorable experience for us. When I was here seven years ago, I had a private guide, but his English wasn't as clear for me as Kinal's so I was excited to learn more about what I was seeing.
We have some big questioners in our group, which kept us talking outside Angkor Wat instead of moving into it. Dale wandered ahead and I experienced that feeling of being torn by responsibility to the group and being with Dale. When they wanted to take a "family photo" before going in, I let then know that Dale was long gone, this is THE highlight of this trip which is a gift for him, and I'm going to join him. There you go! I established my boundaries!
Angkor Wat is a massive temple, and unlike the other Angkor temples, it has been in continuous use and maintained since it was built (between 1113 and 1152) by King Suryavarman II.
We kept running into Kinal and the group during the two hours we were there, so it was all good in the end. I did explain to Dale what a challenge it is for me to make sure I'm hearing not only the historical info to share with him, but also the very important info about where the group will meet up. It's a very crowded place, and I really don't want us to be the cause of the group waiting. Dale is a sweetie and he heard my concerns.
Then we went to Angkor Thom, home of the Bayon temple, and Dale promptly forgot his promise to stay close. More about that in a bit. Bayon was built by King Jayavarman VII, the same king who built the temple we saw at Banteay Chmar. Bayon is best know for its 54 gothic towers, each one with four faces -one on each side - which bear a resemblance to the king. Our guide book describes the 216 faces as "coldly smiling...glare down from every angle, exuding power and control with a hint of humanity." We did not see the faces this way at all. And Kinal actually said each of the four faces on a tower represents the four commitments of Buddhism: love, kindness, compassion and honesty. I may have these four wrong, but I'm close! I just asked Tudtu (Thai guide) because we are writing this 8 days late and are now in Laos, and she has described five promises of Buddhists: no lie, no kill, no adultery, no steal and one more I can't remember. She is not sure of what Kinal was saying and she is not familiar with Bayon, so let's just say Buddhists commit to be good!
At Angkor Thom, Dale did get tired of the talk-talk-question-question part and he was off. I thought he missed the instruction that we were meeting our bus on the opposite side of the drop off point, and no one had seen him in more than an hour. I went to the drop off and the rest of the group went to the pick up point to get the bus and drive back to get me- hoping Dale was at one of these places. He was! But he did get the point after that...I don't think he'll want to be singled out as "the problem" again :-).
We headed to Kinal's for lunch. Her Mom and sisters were there with nieces and nephews. There was so much to eat and the food was better than any we'd had so far. The kids had fun playing with the camera phones (not their first time!). They also played with a kite they'd made (out of the plastic that is everywhere :-( ). It was a great time.
After our temple time, we had a couple free hours and we went to Artisans d'Angkor - a very cool school/shop where local people are trained to keep Khmer craftsmanship alive - woodworking, sculpture, silk weaving, painting, etc. Then it was time to hustle back and get ready for the wedding!
We all met up in the hotel lobby, trying to make our travel clothes look a little better with an elephant scarf wrapped around our shoulders. Dale bought a Cambodian style shirt and he was quite the hit of the guy set!
Met out front of the hotel and we were just missing Kinal. And a bus. Well, she came down and made a grand entrance - she was in a beautiful blue formal gown...the same one we saw her sister retrieve for her at her mom's house earlier in the day.I have no idea where she put it after we left her mom's - I would have had it in a wedding dress type bag - but somehow it made it intact and she looked amazing! We definitely felt underdressed at that point, but no turning back now. Kinal said "Where the hell is the bus?". She grabbed her cell phone, called her driver, and said "The bus is not coming. The driver, he get drunk. We need tuk tuks!" Then she marches out in the dusty, rocky dirt road, dragging her chiffon train, trying to get tuk tuk drivers to pay attention. You can ALWAYS get a tuk tuk - I mean ALWAYS! They are nagging right and left - Tuk tuk? Tuk tuk? even while you are inside a restaurant, they are trolling outside. But tonight? Nothing! Dale joined her in the search, trying to take the lead so she could be more ladylike in her fancy gown. The drivers did not feeling like taking us out to the reception center outside of town, but Kinal finally convinced three of them to make the run. Off we went for a wild ride through town...
Arrived and odd to enter the event... We were the only "barang" (foreigners) there, so we stood out quite a bit. Kinal led the way and made sure we had a table for the whole group. We were joined by several members of the family (sisters, nieces, brother-in-law, etc.) The family was very friendly/hospitable. Food was heaped on to lazy Susans in courses. Started with easy stuff and moved on to traditional seafood with whole fish, squid, etc...
Runners for the reception hall kept delivering more food and beer and strangely enough, bags of ice cubes ("clean ice" - you know this because it has a hole in the middle). We watched as all local people drinking beer poured it over ice. There's a reason (we found out later). They like to toast at these things ('Joel Mar'!). Many times. They have beer with ice to keep it diluted. This, because, they do this toasting thing, with specifying how much of the glass to drink. They are fond of messing with the barang by walking past the table every few minutes and asking us to hoist a glass and drain it. Would have liked to have known about the ice thing!
When things got rolling, the bride and groom came out and circulated the dance floor. Then an odd thing happened. The guests started spraying them with Silly String (y'know, the foam stuff in an spray can) for ~ 10 minutes. When they went on stage to get on with the ceremonies, they were covered with the stuff!
We let ourselves be dragged to the dance floor, and the family kept trying to make us better dancers, but it wasn't working. Great fun tho!
And...men seem to like Dale... he became very very popular. From Kinal's family, to one of the hosts, to a 'special dancer' that was hanging out near the table. He'd gone after Ludo' first, but then fixated elsewhere. He seemed to be very sad when we left.
Kinal's uncle happened to be leaving when we were and offered to pack all 13 of us in his mini-van. Linda sat on my lap, Gemma sat in the "boot" and everyone got very very cozy. Fantastic evening and we wouldn't have missed it for the world!