Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sunrise in Cambodia

We woke at 5 a.m. to ride with our trusty tuk-tuk driver, Savuth, to the temple complex and proceded to climb the tallest point there, a small mountain with steep steps called Phnom Bakheng (again with Rachel carrying Jackson in the papoose! What a woman!).

We then rode around to a variety of temples. Our usual character would be to rent bicycles. That would be awesome and I highly recommend it to Angkor visitors, but it just would have been too difficut and deliriously hot for parents of a nearly-two-year-old. We wanted to see the "Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom" wat, but the prime minister of South Korea was visiting, so we're saving that for tomorrow. But some of the smaller wats we hit up instead had real Indiana-like looks. Prasat Kravan particularly went on and on, and it was great being there when hardly anyone else was, early in the morning ahead of the crowds.

The temples (built around 800 AD, by the way) were no doubt stunning. But perhaps the highlight of our stay in Cambodia (if not all of Southeat Asia) was our afternoon eco-adventures, starting wih lunch at Butterflies Garden Restaurant and a boat ride to "the floating village" on Tonle Sap, the biggest lake in all of Southeast Asia.

I finally got around to eating one of the most traditional Khymer dishes, fish Amok, which is a lot like a less-spicy peanut curry. It was delicious. Rachel also loved her tofu noodles as we played and ate within a netted butterfly community.

Roddy, a 19-year-old Cambodian high schooler, then took us out on his boat with two friends through a breathtaking 6,000-person village that lives entirely on the water just outside of Siem Reap. On the drive there, we marveled at how poor shacks on stilts in the floodlands (it seems like most of the area is flooded, and it's currently the dry season) were seperated only by the road from the much richer "mansions" on stilts on the other side. As we continued driving, the area became less populated and we eventually pulled up to the spot where we left the tuk-tuk to get into Roddy's schooner.

There were full grocery stores, fish farms, girls with pythons, and tons more on little boats cruising all around. And there were kids playing, bathing, and waving everywhere.

One of the great things about the community is the government's committment to keep the area environmentally clean and to keep disease at a minimum. There is a water-purification station right on the water and residents are instructed only to drink water from there, and not the lake. The water is free of charge to them.

We also stopped by a school. We gave the students some pencils and the nice male teacher some money to get his many students some food and school supplies. Jackson played jump-rope with some of the kids.

We ended our night with a shadow-puppet show at some cheesy tourist trap. Rachel and I took that one for the team, as the food basically sucked but Jackson was captivated during the hour-long show.