Friday, December 31, 2010

Cambodia - Angkor Wat

Wow, Angkor Wat was simply fantastic! I posted some of my photos in a Facebook album that can be accessed by clicking on this link: Angkor Wat Album, so I won't repeat them in this article. I first heard about Angkor Wat when I was helping Toby Tyler put together his travel reminiscences from an around-the-world trip he made in the 1950s. The resultant memoir is in the Top Drawer Collection at the Homer Public Library. When he visited it the site was far off the beaten track. Today it's a World Heritage Site that draws thousands of tourists from all over the world. See this Wikipedia article for more. Toby's books, Around the world with pencil and pen, (it's in two parts) is an excellent memoir and aside from the travel descriptions contains many pencil sketches and photographs that illustrate what surely was by any measure, but especially in 1950, a very ambitious trip. (I worked at the HPL from 1991 to 2003.)

Due to the proximity of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is a very touristy town. We liked it okay but could have shortened our stay once the temple tour was under our belt. Had it been cheaper we might have visited again but at $20/day per person we decided once was enough. Add to that the fact that falangs cannot rent a moto in Siem Reap so you're forced to hire a tuk-tuk driver as guide -- you're looking at an excursion that will set you back 60-70 bucks. We hung out in our hotel room for a couple of afternoons watching cable TV which in Cambodia has tons of English language content. We watched National Geo Wild, Animal Planet, and a lot of the stuff on the Discovery Channel. Nut, being a Thai chauvinist, didn't really like the street food in Cambodia so we ate three of our dinners in an excellent Chinese restaurant, the Monorom Kong Yiv Key, on Sivatha Rd downtown. They offer a fabulous dish called Eggplant Hot Pot that we liked so well we ordered it twice. I also had a sweet-sour fried catfish and a black mushroom cabbage soup that were also excellent. Everything we ate there was scrumptious. Great service too. It was a bit more expensive than buying food in the market or at street-side but at $12-14 for two not out of range.

My darling Nut at Angkor Wat
We hopped a bus back to Phnom Penh on December 22nd and were back in Bangkok on the 23rd. Fast Forward -- I'm writing this on New Year's eve from Nut's new apartment, a place we'll be sharing whenever I'm in Bangkok. More about that later. We just got up from a great supper of tom yum prawn soup and long-eggplant and pork stir fry cooked by a very talented cook, my sweet girlfriend Nut. It was the first meal she's cooked at home since she left Yala Province over 2 years ago. Later we'll head out to the park near Fort Phra Sumen on the river. The Rama VIII bridge is close by and the fireworks at midnight promise to be pretty cool. Already at 8 o'clock the neighborhood here on Samsen Soi 4 is lit up with exploding star shells and many folks are out on the street drinking whiskey and beer. The Thai people certainly love a celebration -- any excuse for a party!