[This is Part Three of Aaron’s “Campus Division in Cambodia” story. Here’s Part Two and look out for the subsequent tales in the coming week…]
Monday December 31, 2008
Before departure, we had breakfast at the hotel restaurant. This was hands down the most amazing breakfast buffet I have ever seen. Big trays of rice and noodles and stir fries and meats and eggs and bread and fruit were everywhere. The fruit selection alone would have been enough to put this breakfast over the top as one of my most amazing ever. I don’t think I even recognized half the fruits there. There was one particular fruit we all grew particularly fond of; it was white with little black spots (seeds?) all over it. We speculated what this delicious refreshing fruit could be, with guesses including winter squash, winter melon, white kiwi, and my personal favorite, 101 Dalmatian fruit. It turns out, this delicacy was called “dragon fruit”. Who knew you could grow dragons?!?1
After this delicious breakfast, we joined Sor and took a van out to the Angkor Wat temples, and began our whirlwind tour, where we saw 20 temples over 3 days.
The scene was absolutely amazing, breathtaking if you would. It is actually kind of difficult to describe; it had a magical almost mystical feel too it. I would say the trees were bigger, the grass was greener, the sky was bluer, and there were elephants and monkeys everywhere . Not to mention the huge and ornate temples. It really was like something from a movie. I could close my eyes and see what it would have been like to see this ancient kingdom in full effect with the hustle and bustle of people in full regalia; this is really difficult to capture in words, but the feeling was very surreal.
For lunch, we were taken to a nice local restaurant. Unfortunately, our vegetarian travelers had some minor difficulties with the prepared food they brought us, but an international incident was avoided yet again as we were able to get them some good substitute food.
After the meal, we returned to Angkor Wat to spend more time at the temple. It was again a peaceful experience to walk around and just feel the history and greatness of the place. As the afternoon faded away, our peaceful trance was snapped as we were ushered away to go climb another temple to see the last sunset of the year. “Hurry up, the sun sets in 4 minutes!” we were told, and so we hustled up the winding side of a huge hill. It turns out we made it in plenty of time, but we gained a valuable joke, shouting “4 minutes!” any time we needed to hurry.
I am running out of synonyms for the word amazing, and even Shift F7 is not helping, but this sunset was indeed amazing. I cannot imagine a better way to say goodbye to the year than our experience sitting high atop a temple in Cambodia.
After the sunset, we headed back to the hotel. This was in fact New Year’s eve, and we were debating our options. To the question of “how can you have an amazing New Year’s Even in Cambodia?” there is really no wrong answer. Our one caveat was that we were scheduled to go on a sunrise tour the next morning to see the first sunrise of the New Year come in over the temple. Our itinerary indicated that we would need to be ready to leave the Hotel at 6AM. Sor quickly corrected this for us, and pointed in that in fact 6AM would be too late (4 minutes!), and we had better plan on being ready to go at 5AM. That is quite a daunting prospect to take into a New Years Eve celebration, but we refused to let it phase us. We did decide to stay at the hotel for their gala, so that we would not venture out into trouble.
The gala began with a huge feast, which we enjoyed thoroughly. The evening quickly digressed however, as a couple of singers struggled to entertain the diversely mixed international crowd with renditions of several timeless American classics. It would be rude of me to say it sounded like Karaoke, but I’m not gonna lie, it sounded like Karaoke.
We made the most of it, sitting on the balcony overlooking their performance, enjoying each others company and the ridiculousness of the situation. We reflected on all we had seen that day, and still letting it sink in that we were in fact in Cambodia. I think we collectively managed a couple hours of sleep before our 5AM departure.
[To Be Continued…]