Travelled out to Prey Chrouk at 8am for another day painting at the school. At least it was open this time. I had called the School's English Teacher (Mr Vanak) last night to make sure! The other aid worker starts tomorrow, and the two project co-ordinators are also going out for the day, so we're all heading out in a van, sitting amongst numerous cans of paint!
Got back to Siem Reap around 4.30pm and rented a bicycle for an hour (it's only $1 a day) and cycled along the river in the direction of Chong Khneas - the floating village and boat dock. I didn't make it to Chong Khneas itself as I didn't want to travel back in the dark, but it was lovely just cycling along the dusty roads watching local life. On my way I passed a bon k'maoch (funeral procession). The noticeable difference compared to ours is that here everyone wears white, not black. It was a huge procession, with many people carrying lotus flowers and incense sticks, with young children at the front through to the oldest people at the back. Everyone else on the road had stopped to pay their respects, so I did the same, and hid behind a tree so that I could take the above photo without being seen to be disrespectful.
Back in Siem Reap I spent 20 minutes looking around the market, just before it closed, and treated myself to a Cambodian sapphire necklace to match the earrings I bought here in November. I managed to find the same stall as last time where the quality is quite good. Cambodian sapphires are not the best in the world but I've bought them for sentimental reasons anyway, so I'm not bothered. I managed to bargain her down from $70 to $55. I seemed to win her over when I explained that I had bought matching earrings from her last month! Cambodian sapphires are mined in Pailin, close to the Thai border, in the far West of the country.
I'll be visiting Pailin and the surrounding area with my friend Sak when I go out to Battambang on the 20th. Sak has told me that he will not let me travel there alone as Pailin was the last, and largest, Khmer Rouge stronghold and until their arrests in the latter part of 2007, was the home of Kaing Guek Eav (aka Comrade Duch, Head of S-21 Torture Centre) and Nuon Chea (aka Brother No 2). Sak himself was tortured by the Khmer Rouge and on one occasion - at the age of only 8 - having been caught stealing some food because he was starving to death, was taken out into the jungle and made to dig his own grave. He did as they said, despite crying the whole time, and then they marched him back to the village. He says even now he does not know why they didn't kill him that day.
Ate at a place called What...Bo? tonight (a take on the locally named temple Wat Bo) where I had prawns fried in garlic followed by pasta. I'm tending to alternate; Khmer one night, Western the next. There's only so much rice you can eat! Then I had a quick look around the Night Market and a drink at the Island Bar there. One of the waitresses, Aliya, has given me the name 'Phanna' because she couldn't quite grasp 'Rachel'. It's nice having my own Khmer name!