Friday, May 28, 2010

On the Road Again

I slept sooo peacefully at Sambor Village. In fact, it was the best sleep I’ve had this entire trip. Around 5 or 5:30am, I was awakened by the hilarious sound of a rooster crowing. “Cock-a-doodle-dooooo!” All I could do was laugh. After packing up again, I had a light breakfast of scrambled eggs, a really soft piece of bread that was similar to warm soft pita bread and freshly squeezed orange juice. This meal came with a jelly made of minced ginger and pineapple.
After checking out of the hotel/resort, we boarded our little shuttle bus to continue our trek to Phenom Penh. I had no cash so I asked Som if we could stop at an ATM. We stopped at a bank where I decided to cash out a traveler’s check. It seemed as if everyone was staring at me. I thought it must be because they seldom see blacks. I asked Som were they staring at me because I am black. He said, “You are not black. You are brown. They are staring at you because they seldom see Americans in this bank.”
We are now traveling to a village that is a mix of ancient and modern temples. Som says there will be monks there that speak English. Once we leave there, we will have lunch in the city and we are scheduled to visit a museum. Part of the group will then take a boat trip through a village where they produce their own silks and dyes. The other part of our group, including me, will go with our instructor Sriyani to speak with a woman who tries to help victims of human trafficking.
At this point, we have a very long ride so we decided to start singing karaoke-style on the bus. Som says we can use his microphone. I’m thinking I’m going to sing, “Jesus Loves Me,” Whitney Houston-style (think “The Bodyguard” with Kevin Costner pre-crack is whack period).
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
It is 10:44am and our driver just stopped so that I could take a photo of a crop of rubber trees (see photos above). No one else really remarked about the trees, so I’m thinking that maybe I’m the only one on the bus that didn’t know rubber came from a tree. I thought it was man-made! We’ve passed crop after crop of the trees. They have coconut shells fastened to their trunks. Tom, Sriyani’s husband, says just like people tap a tree for maple syrup, workers here carve into the tree when the time is right and allow the rubber sap to drip into the cup-like coconut shell. It’s then taken to another location and processed. Simply fascinating.
During the road trip, we stopped at a little outdoor market so that some of the girls could go to the restroom. Several young kids approached our bus wanting us to buy their goods. One girl was selling tarantulas! Som said the legs are fried like french fries and they taste like peanut butter! I think the girl selling the spiders had fun seeing us ooh and awww… she placed one of the tarantulas on her face and acted as if she was going to bite into it. Funny and scary at the same time!
Shortly after that stop, we made our way into Phnom Penh. At one point, as we were crossing over the Mekong Delta (a natural passageway from southern Vietnam to Cambodia), I felt as if I were stepping into a scene from a movie. Very, very crowded with Asian and European influences all around, asphalt jungle on one side, beach on the other. We are staying at the Hotel Castle, which is where we said our goodbye to Som. He was a wonderful tour guide and I hated to see him leave. I am now in the hotel lobby using the internet. In a little bit, we will all head out to dinner. We have a very full day planned tomorrow.

Thursday, May 27

Welcome rains are pouring down on us. We arrived at the Sambor Village Resort about an hour ago after a long first part of the day. The shuttle bus picked us up from the Khemara Angkor Hotel about 9am before setting off on a two hour drive to Kompong Thom. This Buddhist temple was built during centuries ago and even today, the village surrounding it looks primitive. However, once again, we were greeted by smiling children asking us to buy their wares for $1. I did not have any money but borrowed $2 from my roommate Hillary, so that I could oblige the little boy and girl that walked beside me, telling me to, “Be careful Madame” as I approached every little groove or bump along our trail. The $2 bought two very bright and colorful scarves that I’m told their moms probably made.
After touring the ruins and taking photos, we were driven to a local restaurant to eat as the locals do. A young woman served us smoked fish, cooked with its head still on, along with a spicy mango sauce (more like a cabbage slaw), soup, a sticky white rice and vegetables. The experience was great because we got an authentic Cambodian meal. The problem is we were seated outdoors in a hut-like structure and there were flies, mosquitoes and other small insects crawling around on the table and getting in the food. The drinking water was warm and I noticed on the pork in my soup—hair bristles still on the skin. At that point, I lost my appetite a little bit.
I am now in my hotel/resort room watching a rather large lizard crawl in and out of the very small openings in the beautifully crafted ceiling. Actually, the entire room looks like a piece of photography out of a Bombay catalog. A deep red and maroon scarf is tacked onto a frame hanging on the wall like a majestic work of art. The floor is made of a smooth peach tile and has some sort of art painted on a section of it. The beds are firm and the bed posts are made of a dark sturdy wood. No creaking, squeaking or any sound that might make one question the sturdiness of the bed. There are large white nets that remind me of canopies—somewhat romantic but in this case very practical, for during the night, they will shield us from ants, mosquitoes, geckos, worms and other creepy, crawly critters!
We all had dinner at the hotel’s dining area on the second floor of the main area. Two people served as hosts, cook and wait staff. A young woman and man seated us, took our drink orders then served us. They took our meal orders then cooked the food and served us. They were gracious and the food was good. (**The next morning, I saw our “cook” cleaning the pool. YES indeed, these people work so hard for their money.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010