Sunday, February 7, 2010

Final day in Cambodia

The sprained ankle was tolerable for walking today....with the help of double doses of Advil and tight bandaging. The tuk-tuk driver met us at the hotel at 0900 and delivered us to the National Angkor Museum. Ahhh, air-conditioned comfort as we strolled through the exhibits with the audio tour headphones. With lots of places to sit and watch the various video presentations and rest my ankle.

This museum should have been our first stop upon arrival in Siem Reap last week. I would highly recommend this as a first stop for any future visitors reading this blog. It is very imformative and well presented. Well worth a visit and would prepare a tourist for what they are about to see at the various temples and about the ancient Khmer civilization far better than any written guide book.

One room has 1,000 statues of Buddha in different postures, mostly sitting in one of the 2 most commonly seen positions. Most of these statues were in floor-to-ceiling small niches completely covering all walls of the room; the larger statues were in display cases and on tables in the middle of the room. I looked at every sitting Buddha within eye level sight and could find only one that had the legs in the double crossed position....with each foot placed on top of the opposite bent knees. This is one of the positions that I tried for several years to attain in Iyengar yoga classes and never managed to attain it correctly. Every other statue had one foot on top of the opposite bent knee, but the second foot was placed beneath the opposite bent knee....a much easier position to accomplish. I have no idea the significance of the double foot posture but it apparently was not the common pose. It took about 3 hours to walk the museum and listen to all the video presentations.

We weren't hungry and decided to skip lunch. Headed over to the Bayon temple at Angkor Thom to see what I missed the day when I sprained my ankle. This is the temple with the 200 faces. Could have knocked me over with a feather when we climbed the steep steps to the top tier of the temple and heard our names being called. It was Paul and Sima from S/V Leander out of Boston. What a surprise! We had met Paul last month at Puteri Harbour Marina. He would go for a run each morning at the same time we usually walked our daily 2 miles and we often talked.

Leander left the marina headed toward Langkawi shortly after we returned to the marina from Houston in mid-January. They plan to head up the Red Sea in March. We had no idea they had planned to visit Cambodia at the same time we would be here. Unfortunately, all of us would be departing Cambodia the next morning...they to Bangkok and us to Kuala Lumpur... so we would not even be on the same flights and would not have a chance to chat very long. Sheema told us they had taken the train from Langkawi to Bangkok and loved it. Good to hear as we plan to do that train this summer. She had good advice on which type of sleeper accomodations to buy on the train. Glad we ran into them. We chatted about an hour and then they left to try to cram in as much temple touring as possible for the day.

I am glad we returned to Bayon. All the faces are more impressive when viewed from the center top of this temple. Still cannot believe there are really 200 faces carved into that temple.

The French were in the process of dismantling parts of Bayon as the first step of restoration when Pol Pot attacked. The French had just removed and stacked a huge number of pieces of stone when they received word to abandon the site immediately and depart the country. They had not yet had time to catalog the stones by measuring and numbering each piece.

During the Pol Pot regime the Khmer Rouge destroyed and broke many of the stones and scattered the stones all around the Angkor Thom complex. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge the French returned to try to reassemble the stones back into the temple, only to find the stones so scattered that they did not have any idea how to manage the reassembly. This is like the world's largest 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle!

There are still large blocks and pieces of stone strewn about the grounds surrounding Bayon temple today. People are again measuring the stones and with the use of computers hope to be able to once again piece this special temple back together. The thing that surprised me is that tourists are allowed to climb all over this temple. It is not safe footing and has no handholds and is very steep in places. I could imagine the lawsuits if this were in the USA.

After Bayon we returned to Angkor Wat to try for some late afternoon photos. Here are a few. Click on each image for larger view.

Finished with all temples (a loud yea!!! from Bill on that!). Where else would we go on our last evening in Siem Reap but back to Pub Street....although it was a tough decision because we also would have enjoyed returning to the fabulous Paris-Saigon Restaurant.

This time I chose a Khmer style restaurant. Figured we should at least try the local style of foods once before we departed. We sat at sidewalk level in order to be able to watch people on the streets for entertainment. Very soon Bill had struck up a conversation with the couple at a nearby table. The man was born in Baja Mexico, lived most of his life in California, and married to a Malaysian. They live in Kuala Lumpur and would be on the same return flight with us tomorrow morning. Small world. They were a delightful young couple and we enjoyed talking about all manner of topics for an hour or so.

I ordered 3 Khmer dishes and Bill ordered a plain chicken & rice dish and simple fresh spring rolls, not fried. He doesn't get very adventurous with foods; whereas, I always like to try anything that I have not had before. Figure if I don't like it then I don't have to eat it, and sometimes the new food is pretty good. Expand your palate whenever possible is my motto when it comes to eating in foreign countries.

All of the 3 Khmer dishes were just okay, nothing great. Bill pointed out that I had ordered too much food because half or more of each dish was left on the table, but I only wanted to taste each one to see what it was like. Can't say that I could see much difference from the Malaysian style meals and the Khmer style meals. The amok fish was the specialty of the area. Frankly, I much prefer the Chinese style steamed fish over the Cambodian amok style fish.

Monday, February 8, 2010
The hotel prepared breakfast boxes for us to take with us to the airport since we left before the restaurant opened. They gave us way too much food. I noticed a janitor watching us pick out the banana and croissant that we each ate. I left the remaining sweet rolls and fruits still nicely packaged in the containers and the unopened liter of cold drinking water on a shelf near the trash cans. Sure enough, as we walked toward the metal detectors to the gate area, the man walked over and snatched up our leftover breakfasts. Glad it didn't get wasted.

Flight to Kuala Lumpur; wait in the airport all day for the flight to Johor Bahru; taxi to the marina; and home on the boat around 11 p.m. Unfortunately, when we turned on the laptop we had brought on this trip the hard drive immediately died. All the notes of what we had seen and done were lost. Not a big deal because we have a couple of extra hard drives already pre-loaded for the laptop so Bill was able to just put in a new drive. We probably will shop for a larger faster drive next time we visit Singapore. Thank goodness we had left all the photos on the camera and not uploaded to that laptop during the trip.

Next month's trip will be 2 weeks in Vietnam. Already looking forward to it.

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