Thursday, July 5, 2007

Honeymoon Volume III

June 21
Apparently we set our travel alarm and forgot to actually turn it on. So we saw the sunrise from the back of the tuk tuk. A tuk tuk is basically a small cart attached to a motorcycle for those of you who don't know. Our guide Soryar told us that even now that all the troubles in Cambodia are over there are still lingering pockets of corruption in the government. There seems to be a lot of animosity toward the Vietnamese. Soryar said that Cambodians have to pay $130 for a passport that expires every three years, in Cambodia that is a ton of money. The Vietnamese however, can come into Cambodia and work with no passport or Visa. So there are a lot of Vietnamese people that come over with money and just sort of start taking things over. For example, the $20 a piece that we paid for our entrance to the temples apparently doesn't go towards maintaining the temples, it goes to some Vietnamese company that managed to somehow position themselves so that they get money from every person coming into the park. I didn't totally understand what he was saying since he has a strong accent, but I definitely encountered many Cambodians who were very proud of their country, but weren't very well off. So we visited a bunch of different temples, Bayon, Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Preah Kahn. All very interesting places built by a series of emporers from about 1100 AD to 1500 AD. Jayavaraman VII built a lot of the larger temples, and was one of the more prolific emporers around 1100. The strange thing is that all the Cambodians speak proudly of him and how he built so many of their hospitals for children etc. They talk like he's a modern day hero even though he lived so long ago. Perhaps it's because there's really nothing current that they can hold up as an example. There used to be millions of people living in and around the temples, now it's pretty much overrun by tourists. We were there during the off season. I think it was just the start or almost to start the monsoon season. We had a few afternoon showers, one of which we got caught in, but in general the weather wasn't too bad. We climbed all over the temples, and saw how each main site had a different county in charge of reconstruction. It was interesting to see the difference between reconstruction styles. Some people just used concrete and recreated missing chunks, others put things back as best they could but left it mostly intact or tumbled around if they couldn't put it back up without risking further damage. The latter was the U.S. tactic. Soryar said that the U.S. rebuilt site took forever, apparently we are quite meticulous restorers. It was pretty amazing to see every surface covered in carvings on these massive structures. It was great to be able to climb in and out of everything to explore. There would occasionally be people with shrines set up who wanted you to come make a prayer with their incense for good luck and of course donate money. We timed it so that we'd be at Angkor Wat for sunset since we sort of missed sunrise. It was fun to try to evade the guys who were trying to usher everyone out before sunset had quite come on. You know me, I had to get my pictures! That night Soryar took us to a hotel where they had dinner and traditional Cambodian dances. On the way over we saw a ton of bats on one street where apparently the bats like to hang out. He got us a great table right in the front of the show. It was funny to watch the dancers because they were all young teens who you could tell knew the dances and were going through the motions while they acted like typical teens flirting and playing tricks on each other. I don't think it was obvious to most people, but we were so close and I was watching them and they saw me catch them at it. It was very entertaining. The food was a mix of different strange things. I don't even know how to describe some of the things we ate. Nothing stood out as particularly fantastic. Soryar picked us up afterwards and took us back to our hotel for the night.

June 22
Soryar picked us up again in the morning and was supposed to take us to go see a lake with a fishing village, but it was raining pretty hard. We decided that we didn't need to see another fishing village since we'd seen one in Vietnam, and Soryar said it was all made up of Vietnamese people who sold you overpriced trinkets anyways. So we decided to go to a school Artisans D' Angkor where they teach disabled kids "art" basically they painted silk and laquerware and carved statues out of wood and stone. The deaf girls all painted silk, the boys were carvers etc. It was strange because everything they made was just the same thing over and over. The masters would come up with the designs and then the students all just made a ton of replicas. I personally thought it would have been nice to let the students try to be creative on their own, but I think they are considered lucky to have a job at all. Slightly depressing to think about really. After the school, we went shopping around and bought some souveniers. I enjoy haggling with all the shop owners, but Scott didn't like doing it at all. If I left it up to him, he'd just take the first price they offered. After we had our fill of shopping Soryar took us to his cousin's restaurant. I ordered the volcano meat, which was this little stove looking thing that they brought to our table with a bunch of raw meat and some soup and some raw vegetables. Scott and I kind of just stared at the thing and finally had to ask the server how to do it correctly. In the end I think the server decided the best thing to do would be to just stand there and cook it all for us. It was a conical shaped metal thing with a trough around the edges, so you were supposed to grease it up with some butter and put the meat on the slopes of the cone, then pour the soup in the moat and put the vegetables in that to cook. It was really really tasty. They seasoned the meat perfectly and the broth had great flavor too. Scott ordered something else, a mango salad I think, but it wasn't nearly as fun or tasty as mine so we pretty much concentrated on eating our way through the meat volcano. Afterwards Soryar took us to the airport. He gave us a couple of scarves with his name and e-mail printed on them as a gift. It was very nice. Cambodia is so cheap that I think for three days of tour guiding and driving everywhere and constant supplies of bottled water we owed him $20, but we of course tipped him a little more. Heck, I can't go 20 streets in Manhattan taxi for that cheap. Anyway, we worked our way towards the airplane after we paid an unexpected $50 charge to leave Cambodia. I'm not sure what that was about, and we hadn't read about it in any of our previous research. Especially since we already had to pay enough for the Visas to get into the country. Despite all that we were sorry to have to leave so soon. We really enjoyed Cambodia and the pride of the people. We had a little time to kill so we stopped for some Dairy Queen, which we were surprised to find in the fairly small airport at Siem Riep. Also Scott mistakenly thought our flight left an hour later than it did, so we just made it in time to get on the plane and go. Whew, good thing we got there "early". On the one hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) they again fed us a full meal. This time it was sandwiches, which I was wondering if they had, since I hadn't seen any sign of sandwiches anywhere, which seemed odd since these are people who seem to take their lunch with them out to the fields. Once in Vietnam we found ouselves in the midst of a massive noisy city. Quite the change from quiet Cambodia. Motorbikes zoomed every which way through a maze of city streets. To my surprise Scott had for some reason decided to book us in a $15 hotel room here. Basically a backpakers hostel. Don't worry $15 in Vietnam gets you a little more than it does in the states, but not much. It's a good thing I'm not claustrophobic because our small room had no windows. It did have a private bathroom, but there was no soap to be found. It was very clean, just very spare. Scott told me he wanted me to see how good I had it. I told him that this was my romantic honeymoon and that perhaps we could look for a different hotel for the next night. We contemplated taking a trip out to the Mekong river delta or to a beach, but in the end decided we'd just find a nice hotel and hang around the city for the last few days of our trip. So we wandered over to where the nice hotels were and walked into one of the best hotels in HCMC and booked a room for the rest of our stay. The Caravelle Hotel was apparently the target of some bombings during the Vietnam War because that's where the Western journalists were all staying. The story goes, that there wasn't any of loss of life though, because the bomb didn't hit close enough to the bar. Anyway, this place was definitely going to be a step up. That night we ate at Pho 24

June 23

Ugh, somehow the internet lost all the typing I did on the Ri-Cap of this day. So I'm going to make it short and sweet. The $15 hotel room gave us breakfast and had free internet. We moved to the much more expensive Caravelle Hotel. They gave us a nice corner room on the 18th floor, so we had a nice view of the city and the opera house. The room smelled like smoke even though it was non-smoking. I think hotel smells follow me. There was shopping for tailored clothes. We had sushi for lunch. We had street cake from some lady on the street with a waffle iron type contraption making fortune cookie shaped cakes. It was tasty. We saw ladies getting pedicures in the streets. We got a 75 minute foot massage for $7, it was nice. They fed us watermelon and tea. We went to dinner at the hotel restaurant and ate some good fish. Stopped by the hotel bar to see what was going on there, and found really bad band so we left and went to bed. It was mostly a relaxing day, sorry there's not more detail, but I hate writing things I've already written all over again.

Stay tuned for the last of the 4 volume Honeymoon series.


  1. I got watermelon all over my shirt too.

  2. I love your stories! Keep 'em coming.

  3. oh yay! I'm so glad someone reads them. I have current stories that I need to catch up on too.


Recap Defined

ri•cap 1 (rē-kāp') Pronunciation Key tr.v. ri•capped, ri•cap•ping, ri•caps
1. a summary at the end that repeats the substance of a longer discussion
2. To replace a cap or caplike covering on: recapped the camera lens.
3. Ri - a female given name: derived from Adrienne.