[This is Part Four of Aaron’s “Campus Division in Cambodia” story. Here’s Part Three and look out for the subsequent tales in the coming week…]
Tuesday January 1, 2008
5am felt more like the end of the night than the beginning of a day. Unfortunately, this was too early for the breakfast buffet, so we had to forgo it and instead have breakfast to go in a box. We drove and hiked out to the temples in almost complete darkness. To our surprise, there must have been hundreds of people out there making the trip to see the first sunrise of the New Year over the temple. When the sun rose up over the temple, and cast a reflection on the pool in front, it was quite astonishing. I cannot imagine a better way to ring in the New Year than the overall experience I had in Cambodia.
We continued on and saw several more temples that day, including the temple that appeared in Lara Croft, Tomb Raider 3.
For lunch, we were again taken to a local restaurant, this time a buffet. I wish I could say this was again a buffet filled with wonderful and delicious food, but alas, this story is not completely a fairy tale. Luckily, our group was not one to complain, and we survived with no international incidents of note. Due to our early start, we called it a day shortly after lunch, and went back to relax at the hotel pool. We spent the afternoon relaxing and getting ready for our upcoming time with Room to Read. For Dinner, we found a wonderful Thai restaurant in town, and we rode there on what they call a “tuk tuk”. Imagine a rickshaw, but pulled by a motorcycle. It was both relaxing and invigorating at the same time. Those of us who were meat –eaters decided to be team players, and we ordered 5 different vegetarian dishes that we all shared in the first of many Campus vegetarian food fests. This dinner more than made up for our subpar lunch. You may have heard that there is good thai food in Cambodia. You in fact heard correctly. I am also running out of synonyms for the word delicious.
We discussed our Room to Read plans and some other work issues after dinner, and then went to bed to be fresh for our final day of temple tours.
Wednesday January 2, 2008
We began early again, also enjoying the amazing breakfast at the hotel. After a morning of temple viewing and climbing, we had lunch at a restaurant within the Angkor Wat area. Sor told us he was taking us to “his restaurant”, but we are pretty sure something was lost in the translation. The food was again delectable.
In the afternoon, believe it or not, we visited more temples, bringing our total to 20 over the 3 day period. Trust me, that is a lot. All of them were amazing and all of them were decorated with beautiful engravings.
In the afternoon, we stopped at an orphanage where the children were learning the craft of leatherwork. Going in, I told myself that I would not buy anything… but then I saw the kids, and the artwork was actually pretty good. I only spent $10 got 5 different pieces. Some might say “they gave me good price”. We had bought so much stuff that when we left they all came out and waved good-bye.
After the orphanage we visited the final temple, which might have been my favorite. To get there we walked across a bridge over a small river; as surreal and mystical as all the areas were, this one took it to the next level. We sat on top of the temple and enjoyed another Cambodian Sunset along with traditional Cambodian music. I could have sat there for days and been happy.
We did not have days (4 minutes!), and we departed shortly after sunset to go to the Khmer Kitchen restaurant again and meet the Room to Read Staff. It turns out that the staff had to travel from afar, and so they were running a bit late. We killed some time browsing the local market, getting offered good price left and right. It then turned out that Room to Read was running too late, and would have to miss dinner. These are the facts of international travel. (So we discussed our itinerary and game-plan on our own, then went back to the hotel to get rested before our first school visits.)
[To Be Continued…]