Day 4 - Angkor Watt
Bright and early we got on the bus to head to see the sunrise at Angkor Watt. Walking up to it is simply sensational, its sheer size its dumbfolding, its ancient splendor and unique architecture make it clear why it is now considered a wonder of the world. Setting up by the lake, hundreds of people waited for the famous sunrise where the temple reflects beautify in the water. Unfortunately, the big man up there must have been punishing me for not keeping pesach as there was a heap of cloud, hence deeming the view more like the sunrise over the Hatch End Free Church rather than that of mesmerizing, life changing image ( a massive massive exaggeration it was still astonishing) We then spent the whole day at the smaller ruins, including where 'Tomb Raider' was shot.
After we returned to the Guesthouse, I had my first wallet scare. Luckily I left it on our bus and it was quickly returned to me. So Josh your sweepstake tenner on me losing it in Cambodia within a week at 2/1 is now lost, unfortunate. After that I didn't feel like going out so decided very responsibly to stay in and organize my pack in order to be on time for the public bus the next day.
I'm guessing you know what's coming……
Early rise and a public bus to a little river side town (can't remember the name or bothered to look it up). Though I stayed in last night to pack and hence not miss the PUBLIC bus, I left my wash bag out to use in the morning - understandably. However once added the entire demographic of the bag changed: Socks reiterated their ancient rivalries with the pants, the T-shirts broke the 1998 UN peace agreement by sending their armored zips into the demilitarized border zone, and Malerone nationalists blew up the toothpaste temple in Colgate city killing hundreds of innocent tooth brush pilgrims. It wouldn't shut. So as per usual I held up the bus by 15 minutes and got on to sarcastic applause and evil looks. But nooooo that was not by any means the worst of it. Being the last one on the bus means the worst choice of seat and thus the only seat availed was next to, yep you guessed it, Heather from Eastenders. Let's just say I now understand the reason some American airlines make obese people buy to seats. It's just a shame that this law hasn't quite reached the Cambodian congress yet - that and soap. Anyway after 6 hours of my air being sucked away from me by the proverbial Amazon Rainforest next to me, we arrived in what was a refreshingly cool town with a breeze!
The town bared a stark resemblance to a typical British seaside town but with loads of Asians…….so ye pretty much a typical British Seaside town then. We quickly dropped our bags off in the hotel and tut-tuted it to a local house where a locals wife was making us all lunch - the way it should be. The house, on stilts, looked like one of the old 'Mr Bendy' houses we used to make in Whitchurch and the food was really good. Then a plate of long black things arrived on lettuce, I didn't like liquorice o thought so I wouldn't have any. Luckily for m it wasn't liquorice, but Tarantula. I ate it of course - it wasn't too bad - a little tasteless really - and had some seriously strong tarantula whisky (with them still in there of course). I did draw the line at actually holding a live one though, their fascist ideology doesn't really fit in with my liberal ways you see.
The next activity was perhaps my favorite to date. We rented bikes and went through the city centre and then off the beaten track into proper rural Cambodia. We went over the river on a dingy bamboo bridge with no sides and holes in it. There was even traffic coming the other way and at one point a car actually attempted to cross it. Needless to say I almost fell off many a time. The road was like a Devon country road, but instead of the moors, a few sheep and a Drunken farmer ranting about livestock tax, I had a jungle and hundreds of children coming out to shout and high five us as if we wee celebrities - a fantastic buzzing feeling. After seeing a traditional plow and some of the group having a go (I was too clumsy apparently to try - what, how can they say that) and visiting a monastery and playing the Cambodian version of 'duck-duck goose', w headed back. On the way back, it was dusk, and the town and roads were buzzing and busy. I felt like I was on Top Gear, rushing through the traffic in rush hour - it was hugely enjoyable, a great adrenaline rush.
That night I felt really at home. I had egg and chips and then watched the Chelsea Vs Bolton 4-3 match. This time I packed my case AND even daybag properly before I went to bed.
I think im getting the hang of this.
P.S I'm off to Nam tomorrow where the computers should be better so I'll try to upload all the photos then. I'll be in Saigon in the morning. I heard the 'heat is on there'……..
Day 6 - Homestay
After briefly stopping off at a terrible shopping centre on the way in Phnom Penh, we arrived in a rural Cambodian village about 4pm. It was shockingly hot - no aircon, o shade - an absolute schwitz! We were showed to our sleeping accommodation: a house on stilts about the size of a classroom with mats and mosquito nets. We mulled outside for a little while, trying to stay as cool as possible as it was near 40 degrees. Underneath the house was the most, as Jeremy Clarkson would probably say: 'The most enormous pig ( big pause) …… In the world' - to fat to move, it just lay there waiting to die - kinda like Vanessa Felts.
As we got slightly (slightly!) cooler, we headed down to meet the locals. It was the beginning of new year and so the whole community was out dancing. We joined them for about a hour and it was one of the best experiences of my life. The kids would follow me and copy all my dances - I hence relayed some of my culture, in the form of the robot and later on the Chora and other Barmitzva classics (see pictures, if any computer is fast enough to upload them - 6 so far have failed!). Even though my blue vest was now black with moisture and I was seriously suffering from dehydration it was still an overwhelmingly rewarding experience. There happiness from simplicity, energy, community and culture was incredibly sobering; an insight in how the simple things in life can be more satisfying than technology or wealth.
We then went up the hill for dinner and then back to the hut for rice wine. On the way down I have to admit (honesty is the basis for our relationship after all) I did have a little moment when I found the culture shock all a little too overwhelming, but a chat from on eof the nicer members of the group and a few tears (ye I'm man enough to admit it, wanna fight about it!? I'm a big man in Cambodia!) sorted me out just fine. By this time, Lonk, my heroically legendary leader had made plenty of ric wine with coke and lime - an immensely refreshing but surprisingly strong drink. We of course had to down it and I happened to managed to keep up with the big boys, downing 7 to myself. In my drunken euphoria I decided to share with the group my deep dark secret. No I'm not coming out Lee, I just let them no of my Bottle Dancing past. I showed them all the video on my camera and they absolutely loved it, they were highly impressed. Scott, Dec and Dan I hope your aware of your Cambodian fame - milk it for all its worth! Hahaha can you imagine doing a Cambodian Barmitzva it would look a bit like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGoRo-nPLOM&feature=PlayList&p=33491E59588EED59&index=5 .
In a drunken state I stumbled up the hill in the pitch black where me and a lovely Australian couple - Cameron and Alyce - who im gonna miss terribly as there leaving in Vietnam - watched the Ross Kemp episode of 'Extras' (Special Army Soldiers), where we kept everyone awake with hysterical outbursts (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCCk_t1c620 haha if he starts with me…I will destroy him). By the time I went to sleep, I have no idea what time it was.
P.SI'm off to Nam tomorrow where the computers should be better so I'll try to upload all the photos then. I'll be in Saigon in the morning. I heard the 'heat is on there'……..