Good grief Teena was awake with the sparrows this morning, up showered and dressed by 6.30 but that is not all bad in these temperatures.
We were down in the crowded breakfast room at 7.30 but managed to find ourselves a spot and enjoy our breakfast. Had a chat to the desk about tours etc. but decided they seemed very expensive so decided to try a couple of the travel agencies along the road to see what packages they are offering. Too late to do one of the temples today but have booked the Tonle Sap Floating Village boat for 2pm. Shouldn’t be too bad with a bit of a breeze out on the water I hope anyway. This should make Teena’s eyes pop a little!!!!!
We will do the small circuit tomorrow of the major temples. We will see how this tour company goes as to whether we book it with them or not. Stocked up on some water again (seem to be going through litres of the stuff either in tea or drinking it) and dry biscuits for the day and then back to airconditioned comfort until collected at 1pm for our lake tour.
Duly got collected by the tour company in their airconditioned (here she giggles) minivan which already held a Malaysian family with 3 young boys, a Phillipina couple and ourselves and onto the last hotel to pick up the last lucky contestant who was 15 minutes late.
We were travelling some distance out of Siem Reap to visit the floating village. At first I thought it was the same part of the lake I had visited before but it turned out to be the Cambodian village called Kampong Phluk and not the Vietnamese village I had seen both times before. We had to travel along dirt roads, sometimes being catapulted off our seats by the depth of the potholes, with the explanation that this road is usually covered by the lake for 6 months of the year. All along the channel we travelled next to the hundreds of tourist boats were sitting high and dry or in the smallest of mud puddles just waiting for the waters to return.
When we finally reached the village, it was so dry and hot and was quite weird to see the houses built many metres above the ground and that perhaps within a matter of weeks they would soon be standing in water.
Just needs a couple of those monsoon rainstorms and away it goes. As we walked along the main street of the village it was even weirder to see kids using computers at the local English lesson school and then we were invited to go up into the local primary school to take a look at the classrooms.
Of course we had the usual village women milling around us trying to get us a buy schoolbooks and pencils for the kids in the school. Unfortunately and probably most factually, those plastic wrapped packages of books were probably placed in a pile and redistributed to the women for the next group of tourists to buy again. I felt a bit mean thinking that, but somehow you just know that is what happens. How many books can the kids write in and fill?
We were also told that the lake was so dry now that we could no longer take the bigger tourist boats out on the lake and would therefore have to ride in the much smaller craft with just wooden planks for seats. Didn’t relish the thought of that with my sacral joints but no way was I backing out. Teena was a little sceptical to say the least and thought they would have to cancel.
It was fun watching the boats roaring up and down what could only be described as a fetid mud puddle with their motors roaring and the propellers just barely touching the water, sending a huge muddy rooster tail over anyone too near.
After quite a time, two boats turned up and we plonked our somewhat generous western backsides on the wooden planks and were both immediately beset with groin cramps. It was only possible for each of us to stretch out one leg at a time under the plank in front to relieve the cramp. We could do this couldn’t we Teena!!!!!!
Each time another boat came in the opposite direction we could only hope they were polite enough to withdraw their propeller out of the muddy sludge so we didn’t bear the brunt of the muddy splashes and splots. At one point I was laughing and received a splot in the mouth which I promptly had to wash out with my precious drinking water to avoid germs of whatever kind invading my poor western system.
As we neared the end of the channel leading back to the village, the water suddenly became too shallow for the propeller to have any affect and it was necessary for the young girl guide to hop up the front of the boat and start pulling the boat along with the help of a makeshift oar while the poor captain of the ship got out in ankle deep mud and push his trusty vessel along. The fat Philipina guy and this fat western lady certainly weren’t getting out to push I can tell you that much.
Teena and my help wasn’t needed as we reached deeper water and our little boat powered through the water out amongst various fishing boats and a “how lucky we were to find little family restaurant” where we all got off to perhaps have a late lunch and cold drink.
I must admit the breeze out on the floating restaurant was quite refreshing and I could only think back to the other two times I had visited the lake and how different it was at that time.
Definitely wasn’t going to partake in the crocodile dishes prepared from the poor crocodiles kept out the back in cages submerged in the water so we just politely each had a very cold Light Coke (our predominant drink of choice when water just does nothing any more). We had to wait a while as the Malaysian family (the dad apparently did his university studies at Curtin Uni in Perth) all ordered a full meal. I felt a little sore after sitting on the wooden plank and stood up. I explained to the guide that I had had back surgery and couldn’t sit very long without a cushion. She promptly went off into the depths of the restaurant boat (and the second store under renovation which was moored to it) and came back with a beautiful and almost certainly rarely used life vest which provided so much relief when placed on my plastic chair. To my delight I was even allowed to take my life vest with me back in the boat to the village and the driver would return it to the restaurant. They can be so thoughtful at times.
I must admit it was very nice sitting out on the boat but none of the tour party wished to stay another hour or so for the sunset we were supposed to stay and watch.
We had to go through the same scenario of ankle deep water (aka mud) on the return trip to the village and the slowing down whenever another boat passed by, even if they didn’t and we copped their mud spray.
All went well until we got back to the pier and the other boat in our tour refused to move from next to the pier. We therefore had to nudge in between it and the pier but had to get out by getting into the other boat. I tried to politely refuse the girls help but she insisted on “helping” me. Unfortunately her help was to put me off balance and I ended up scraping my leg badly. She was so apologetic but it was nothing some Dettol hand cleaner applied liberally couldn’t fix. As soon as we got back into the bus, I just poured some handcleaner on it and all was well when it stung like a bitch. No germs were going to survive that stuff or at least 99.9% of them wouldn’t. It is more the bruising of the knee and the shin bone and perhaps my dignity that is going to be sore tomorrow.
In no time at all we were back near the outskirts of Siem Reap and going through the local Saturday night market which was more like a festival.
Families were sitting around the roadsides enjoying a picnic dinner from the food stalls that were around. The market continued for maybe a kilometre along the road and there was even a fairground for kids with an ancient ferris wheel and a bouncing castle. Today has certainly been an eye opener for my first time traveller buddy Teena (with trusty hotel towel to camouflage the smells).
Back at the hotel, we fought our tiredness and set out again this time for Pub Street for dinner and then the Night Market. I was a little disappointed to see that my favourite restaurant Khmer Kitchen no longer exists but we settled for Khmer Family Restaurant which did not disappoint me.
Their amok was amazing and just as beautiful as I remembered it to be. Teena chose a type of rice served up in a small hollowed out pineapple. Chatted for a while to a young English couple and listened to the Khmer band competing with the loud western songs from the Red Piano restaurant two doors up.
Feeling very tired and full after a scrumptious dinner, we did a quick walk through the night market before making our way back to the hotel. After today’s bit of a disappointment of a tour, we decided to hire ourselves a tuk tuk tomorrow and head out early to start our temple visiting. Not a problem, $25 for the tuk tuk for the day and pick up at 8am and we were set for tomorrow.
I am sure we were both dead to the world within half an hour of getting back to our room. Getting ready for a nice day tomorrow.