Sumet briefed us on Cambodian culture and history then we had an excursion to Koh Chen, aka silver village where we were immediately attacked by kids and women selling silver. I hate that pressure. They get upset when you buy from someone else. A little girl followed me from the monastery and I finally gave in and bought some elephant earrings for $7. Going to Buddhist temples here is like going to Catholic Churches in central and South America. They are everywhere and tourists are easy picking.
In the afternoon we stopped at Oudong, an ancient Capitol of the country where there is a large monastery Kampong Tralach that is well cared for but still had garbage leading in to it. I participated in a brief meditation with monks chanting. Roger picked up trash. The bus took us to another monastery, Vihara of Wat Kampung Leu, that is not in very good shape. From there we traveled by ox cart back to the ship. Kids here, as in Vietnam, are friendly. The first thing they learn to say must be hello because they run to us at all ages calling and waving. Even after dark you could hear them calling from the bank as we cruised by.
After dinner the crew and some of the passengers entertained us with a talent show.
Wednesday 4 March -- Out for the final excursion of this part of the trip. This morning we took long boats around the waters of Kampong Chnang floating village in the Tonle Sap River. The people work hard at surviving in ways that we would have difficulty with. Their waste is dumped directly into the river and it is washed downstream by the current. I am not sure I would want to eat the fish they catch.
We had a good cruise. I really didn't know much about Cambodia and wasn't too sure how I would like it but it has been very educational. Another case of the damage the US does when we butt into other countries' affairs. The traveling I have done the past few years is turning me into someone leery of our politics. The conversations with the folks from the UK reflect similar feelings about their own government. Although I did get a thank you for butting in to help in WW II.
If they want more tourists to come, the garbage needs to be addressed. Most of the trash is from product packaging and I see that as a way to start. Coke, Nestle, and PepsiCo are present and sell a lot of bottled water and soft drinks. If they would start a recycling program and pay for the return of the empties, I think many of the kids would be excited in making money with a side result of less rubbish. They are all about making money and start early trying to get dollars from tourists. Maybe this would provide a source that wouldn't interfere with school. There is great potential and willingness to learn and advance. It will take time, education, and money.
The ship, the R/V Mekong Prestige II proved to be a perfect way to travel. The cabin is roomy with a king bed. There is plenty of closet and storage space. The bathroom is also spacious. The only issues were the shower temperature couldn't be regulated and often shifted from cold to scalding and the chair cushions slide when you sit in them. The excursions were well timed and coordinated. Our guides were a wealth of knowledge. There were a couple times when it would have been better if the lecture had happened on the boat rather than making us stand in the heat for 30 minutes. Better internet access would have been nice but we managed.
The disembarkation went smoothly and we got on board for the trip through the countryside. Sumet continued with our education pointing things out as we went along. Crickets are a delicacy and you see traps made of plastic sheeting and a light to catch them at night. The lotus fiber is used to make clothes, root is considered a vegetable and cooked in soups, fruit is used in salads, and the seeds for tea or eaten as nuts. Spider Village is the common name for Skuon where they raise tarantulas and fry them up. The dust along the way was bad. I guess during the rainy season it is nothing but mud. I kept seeing signs for political parties, Cambodian People's Party, National Rescue Party, and Funcinpec Party. We went through Kampung Tom which is the center of the country, saw a bridge that was built in 1100s and still being used. Sixty nine percent of population do not have clean drinking water. Maybe that fact will wake up the powers that be to do something about the garbage and open dumping of human waste in the rivers.
After a six hours bus ride on some not so good roads we made it to Siem Reap and were met by Sam and Mr. Wong for a quick lunch at Phnom Bros and then to the Wooden Angkor Hotel. It looked old which I don't mind, but the a/c in our room didn't work well and we moved to another one which was nominally better but not great. It barely cooled enough for us to sleep. We found out later that the building was only a few years old.
Since we had a late lunch we skipped dinner and just had an ice cream after finding a store to replenish some toiletries. Angkor beer is only $.60 a can. We bought four to take back to the room.