Cambodia, Day One (July 29, 2007)

Julie* dropped us off at Groome** at 3:00 Friday afternoon. I think it's now 12:48 a.m. Cambodia time - on Sunday, that is. But I can't say for sure; sitting on a plane for 17 hours has taken away all sense of time. My knees hurt. My feet hurt. And, oh dear God, my butt hurts. I can't wait to get off this flying bus in Bangkok.


Best sign we've seen all day, compliments of the LA airport:


Finally, truth in advertising.


I can't believe our good fortune. We booked cheap tickets from Bangkok to Siem Reap on Bangkok Airways, and I assumed it would be a low-rent operation. I couldn't have been more wrong. Checking in was a breeze, and we were sent to a beautiful lounge with free food, drinks, and Internet to pass the two hours until the flight. I'm addicted to the orange-flavored, cold Thai tea.

NOTE: Brad just discovered our Thai Air toothpaste lists myrrh as an ingredient. Awesome.***

There's a platter of finger-sized desserts in the lounge; my favorite has a strange consistency, somewhere between sticky rice and custard. It's fruity -- maybe papaya -- and shaped like a tiny ice cream cone. Each one is wrapped in a banana leaf.


A driver from Home Sweet Home Guesthouse picked us up at the airport in Siem Reap in a tuktuk -- a motorbike with a covered cart attached from behind. The fresh air felt wonderful after being cooped up in the airplane.

The countryside is beautiful, but it's disheartening to see so many new luxury hotels and souvenir shops. A "Royal Shopping Village" is under construction, and everywhere you turn, there are T-shirts and trinkets. I fear their culture will be sold to the highest bidder if no one intervenes. At the same time, it's hard to fault them for pulling themselves out of the rubble of the Khmer Rouge by any means necessary. If my children were hungry, I'd sell T-shirts at the temple too.

We all showered**** and cleaned up before walking down to the Psar Chaa Marketplace. We were trying to stay awake and acclimate to Cambodian time, so we spent the afternoon at an open-air restaurant chatting and watching the world pass by.

Having decided to see the Cambodian ballet this week, we caught a tuktuk to the Grand Hotel D'Angkor to make reservations for Monday night. We then strolled through the Royal Gardens and visited a temple during prayer hour. More fascinating than the beautiful music and chanting were the giant bats overhead. I saw one spread its wings and thought, "What a pretty hawk." Then it landed on a branch and swung upside down. Once my eyes focused, I realized the trees were swarming with bats.

For dinner, we each had a traditional three-course Cambodian meal. We started with fresh spring rolls that were both hot and cool because of the mixture of hot spices and mint. The main course of amok***** was great -- it was served in a hollowed-out green coconut shell. It's like a coconut-milk soup with fish, onions, peppers, and basil. Dessert was grilled bananas, and they were delicious.

Even though it was barely 8:00, we crawled back to our hotel and into bed. We had hoped to stay awake to greet Maya and Phil, but there was no way. The exhaustion was too great.
Brad's footnotes
* That's Jenn's sister. She travels with us sometimes, including to Peru in aught-four.
** The ground shuttle service from our little city with its pathetic (read: nearly non-existent) airport to the Big City.
*** Now if they'd only figure out what to do with frankincense to go with my Goldschlager & Toothpaste cocktail...
**** Showered because traveling for 20+ hours produces smells that even myrrh can't cure. By "all" she means the two of us and our good friends Meg and Eric, or, collectively, "Egg." Eric blogged the trip live, actually, starting here. Anyway, those are their silhouettes in the photo up top. Phil and Maya would join us soon.
Yes, it means "crazy" in English. In Cambodian, it means "crazy good."

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