Saturday, March 19, 2011

Floating Pigs

We were pleased to sleep in a bit this morning.  Last night we took the Tuk Tuk to the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) for dinner.  We've been leaning more towards western food on this leg of the trip - I don't know if it's beacuse we are a little tired of Asian food (never thought I'd see it happen) or the options for Khmer cuisine just aren't as appealing to us.  Jim had roast chicken and I had rack of lamb.  Yum!  We also had some terrific calamari for a starter.  The FCC had a gallery of interesting photos of visiting dignitaries from the mid 60's (before the trouble began) such as General de Gaulle, Jackie Kennedy, and the Prime Minister of Ethopia - all having experiences similar to those we've had over the past few days. 

We had a very eager Tuk Tuk driver who waited for us to finish dinner to take us wherever we wanted next.  We had him zip us over to Blue Pumpkin for some yummy ice cream and then to the Night Market.  We watched more folks have their feet eaten by fish, bought some t-shirts, etc.  Jim was taking a lot of video with his little flip camera and got yelled at by an Indian woman who didn't want her picture tuk tuk. 

We met Suen and Ret this morning at 9:00.  Our first stop was about 30 minutes away and we enjoyed a bumpy ride and the countryside.  I was very surprised to see the Jay Pritzker Academy - a school funded by a very wealthy Chicago family.  After a while we pulled over at a dusty side road and boarded a wooden boat steered by a rope and pulley system.  We were headed to see a Tonle Sap Lake fishing village.  The young man driving the boat was about 15 years old.  Where we started off was where the village is in the rainy season.  Since it is the dry season, we needed to take the boat down a narrow, shallow canal about 3 - 4 miles down the way.  Along the ride we saw many men throwing nets into the canal to catch little fish to sell at the market.  When the canal opened up to the wider river/lake section we were able to see the houses and school (funded by the Mission of Mercy) floating by the side of the reservoir.  We saw whole farms - chickens, pigs, fish farms, crocodiles, a little zoo with pythons and crocs, etc. on the water.  At this time of year they also build a little bridge to the land where they can plant a little farm for the time being.  The people smiled and waved to us as we went by and we saw the school children rowing home from school - 2 - 3 in a boat.  Jim took some video that we're eager to show you if you are interested.

We made our way back to our driver waiting for us on a dusty riverside.  We gave fruit to the cutest three little ones you've ever seen.  One enterprising young lady (about 7 years old) took our photos when we first arrived and already had them printed out and for sale when we returned.  Where she keeps a computer and printer I have no idea.  She was adorable and reminded me a lot of Isabel when she was younger.  She was so interested in the fruit and granola bars we had for them that the photos completely left her mind.

We were another hour in the car - the paved roads here are bouncier than the unpaved ones - to Bantaey Srei.  This is a temple MUCH smaller than those we've seen over the past few days.  However, it was the most impressive.  It is about 200 years older than the others and constructed of rose sandstone which has held the hand carved bas reliefs best over the past 1200 years.  Bantaey Srei is commonly referred to as the woman's temple and has gorgeously detailed and meticuolously carved stories of Hindu culture.  It was too hot to spend too much time, but we saw it all and Jim got some good photos.

After this we had a 10 minute stop at the Land Mine Museum so Jim could have a look.  Suen and Ret sat at a table while I swung in a hammock with a group of Tuk Tuk drivers as we had no interest in going in - I was afraid it would make me cry.  Jim says it was quite impressive and run by a man who personally has cleared about 100,000 land mines, shelters orphans, and hopes to clear the country of 6 to 7 million land mines remaining in Cambodia.  Jim made some purchases in support of these efforts. 

We returned to the hotel and had a dip in the pool.  We are now cleaned up and packed.  We are headed out for dinner then to the airport to start our journey home.  I'll be very sorry to say good-bye to Suen - a very good man and the best guide of our trip.  We fly overnight to Seoul where we'll have about 5 hours before our flight home.  We arrive in Chicago 1.5 hours before we depart Seoul - Sunday morning at 10:00.

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