Friday, 16 September – Siem Reap Cambodia

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We awoke to dawn at around 5:30 and enjoyed the view from our balcony. 
The grounds and pool are lovely and we could hear birdsong. The humidity is so high that our camera lenses fogged right up. We enjoyed a generous buffet breakfast then met Dy and our driver for the trip to Banteay Srei (Citadel of Women or Beauty), an ancient Hindu Temple. It was about a 1-hour drive on a rather rough road, but very worth the trip. Along the way we saw rice fields, small villages, a monastery and some very elaborate homes as well as very simple ones. 

Lots of cows, water buffalo and long-legged chickens. Dy explained that there’s no electricity or running water to this area, but many people have generators or solar panels to power lights and TVs. The poles are already in place to run electrical service, so it will soon be available. 

We had gotten temple passes for our whole stay so didn’t need to pay admission. Dy explained what we were seeing as we went, giving just enough detail. The temple is about 1000 years old and amazingly well-preserved. Intricate 3-dimensional carvings in many colours of sandstone are nearly intact and inscriptions are perfectly legible. The script is Sanskrit, so they are beautiful too. The temple was abandoned and covered by tropical forest, and Europeans only became aware of it in 1914. Since the country was under French colonial rule at that time, some of the statuary was moved to the Louvre. More recently, some has gone to Cambodian Museums, but much is still in place (or reproductions have replaced originals). Restoration work continues. Of course, like at all such sites, vendors are active. Prices seemed pretty good. Larry used some of our Cambodian currency to buy a guidebook. It’s confusing – I wish we’d taken Ken’s advice a stuck with US $$! It was very hot and humid, so we were pretty bedraggled by the time we came back to the bus. But all of us are excited to be in this beautiful country.
Larry and I decided on a light lunch, so went to a local grocery store (an interesting cultural experience in itself) for cheese, crackers and beer, which we enjoyed in our room. The intention was to swim in the afternoon but we both dozed off and woke just in time to get ready for dinner. Then panic! We couldn’t find the case with Larry’s credit cards. We tore the room apart, went back to the grocery store in the pouring rain, checked the room again and finally dug out the numbers to call and cancel the cards. Just as Larry was dialling the first number, I spotted the case! Phew! It was in plain view, but obscured by a reflection. Crazy-making! Anyway, that meant we could join our friends in the dining room, about an hour late, and enjoy a delicious meal and share stories. Now we wonder how we’ll sleep, after our afternoon nap.

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