Sunday, June 17, 2012

The one where mom and the girls visit: Cambodia: Part 1

My mom and sisters came to visit a couple of weeks ago. We went to Cambodia, the second time for me, and Thailand. It was a pretty amazing trip. First of all, I definitely teared up when I picked them up at the airport. It was a great reunion because it felt like it had been years since I'd seen them instead of months. It also felt like no time had passed at all, if that makes any sense.
We spent their first day in a complete whirlwind. We had pho for breakfast, went shopping on Bui Vien for souvenirs, paid for our trip that we booked through my favorite travel agents, had massages and pedicures and had the entire salon working on us, did some more shopping, they watched me teach class with amusement and wonderment (they were amused and full of wonder), were finally convinced that moving out here wasn't the dumbest thing ever and we ended the night with another bowl of pho and some last minute photo-shopped visa photos. Long story about the photos but they're amazing!

We left very early the next morning for Phnom Penh. As I'm wont to do on buses I slept the entire way. Mom and the girls (sans Belle) were amazed by the Cambodian countryside. Why you may ask? Well let's, for a second, imagine that you're passing through the countryside and all you see are rundown houses, skinny cows, and rice fields. Surely these are things that you've seen many times before having grown up in South America and the Caribbean. But wait...what's that? It's a 1000 year old Wat dedicated to Lord Shiva in the middle of nowhere. Why? Because Cambodia is a very religious country and as a religious person it's intriguing and it makes you feel comfortable to be surrounded by something that seems so familiar in a highly unfamiliar place. Well I'm not sure if that's how mom and Selina felt but it's how I felt in Cambodia my first time and it's why I really, really loved it. Chris on the other hand was addicted to Khmer music videos. Not sure why because they're quite possibly the most depressing things I've ever seen. I swear someone commits suicide in at least every other one. Not sure what it says about Cambodia as a nation and their outlook on love and life, but I don't think it bodes well. 

When we finally arrived in Phnom Penh we were picked up by Naren, who was my guide during my first trip. He's such a sweetheart and mom and the girls loved him immediately. He took such good care of us. [By the by, if any of my readers is planning a trip to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap please let me know because I can set you up with some really good tour guides. Definitely trustworthy and overall really good company.] Naren picked us up and we did the obligatory tour of the King's Palace, Silver Pagoda, and Wat Phnom. I mean, they're all amazing places, but having already done them I wasn't super excited about seeing them again. On the other hand it was definitely better than seeing the Killing Fields again. I personally would have preferred to spend more time shopping but that is because I'm addicted to their materials and want all my clothes to be made out of Khmer prints.
We spent a wonderful day and a half in Phnom Penh. We went walking around the area around the hotel and found a post office (which we probably wouldn't have been able to find if we had actually been looking for it.) Chris did a bit of interpretation for a deaf girl that she met. I got hit on by a reeeeeeally old Professor of Fine Arts from Spain who's travelling the world while he's on sabbatical. Yep, he even gave me his card in case I wanted to call him if I were ever in Spain. Chris on the other hand got to talk to reeeeeally cute Korean guy who was sitting next to her. I don't know how she does that. 

The next day we left for Siem Reap and that was quite possibly my downfall. It took us nine hours instead of the targeted six hours. Somehow we were booked on a local bus and while it was interesting I don't ever want to do that again. Okay it wasn't really interesting, but I'm trying to maintain a positive attitude about what happened otherwise my blood still boils if I think about it.
We finally arrived in Siem Reap and were picked up by Teo, the son-in-law of Mr. Liem who is Mr. Boss Man of all our tour guides, including Naren in PP, even though they haven't met. Mr. Liem is the one who invited the group of us to his house for a Lunar New Year party when we visited in January. He was so welcoming and hospitable and didn't at all try to kill us like I thought he would. Sorry, I'm a bit paranoid sometimes. 
Due to our late arrival we didn't check in and get settled in our hotel until about midnight and so I postponed our early start to the Angkor Thom temples until the following day. Instead we visited Beng Mealea, one of the temples that's about 2 hours away by tuktuk. It was everything we could have dreamed of. Mom wanted to travel the countryside by tuktuk and I think she definitely got her fill with the to and fro' trip. I got to be Lara Croft because Beng Mealea is in such a state of dilapidation and it was amazing to climb over piles of rocks, through crevices, and under the lush overgrowth. I was in the good kind of hysterics the entire time. Chris was pleased because she was super woman during this trip. She rushed through the temple at top speed in an attempt to show off how much stronger she is than any of us, and braver I suppose, and then didn't have to waste time listening to the guide who kept showing us the moat over and over and over again. We get it! There was water in there at some point in time. Selina probably loved it the most because she didn't die. End of story.
Sidenote: I saved the day! After we left the hotel in the morning I realized that we should have brought scarves to cover our faces and hair. Granted the tuktuks don't go very fast, but they go fast enough to mess up your hair to the point where you'd rather shave it off than deal with it. Also, can you imagine what effect all that dust in your face and nostrils has? Let us just say that it isn't pretty. I saved the day by suggesting we all buy scarves for the trip. At first mom was skeptical because I'm sure she thought I just wanted to buy things, but I convinced her and once my mom decides to do something it's not long before either I or the girls follow along. So we all bought scarves, wore them during our ride and didn't have to breathe in red dirt.
We spent the rest of the day recovering because gosh dangit that's a tough trip. Sam, our favorite guide during the first trip booked a table for us at a hotel for a buffet dinner and Apsara dance show. It was amazing and I know that mom and the girls enjoyed it because they wanted to soak up as much culture as possible and weren't too concerned with things like shopping or massages (even though they enjoyed those a lot too) and you can't get much more cultural than a traditional Khmer dance. 


I'm publishing this as a two part post because I'm tired and want to go to bed because I've been working for 14 days in a row without a day off, but if I don't post this now God only knows when I'll finish the rest. If it's public and visible to those judging (read: wanting) eyes I'll be much more inclined to finish writing asap.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I'm going to India!!!!!!!!!!!! Home of Shahrukh Khan. I need to start honing my stalking skills. :D