By the end of the third full day in Cambodia I was getting better, or at least, I thought I was getting better. And Eruanna was off the IV that evening, so we decided that we would fly to Siem Reap (rather than take the 6 hour bus ride) the next day, which happened to be the 1st of January. The doctor gave his blessing on such a trip and reminded us to eat only cooked foods.
We didn’t stay up for the New Year’s countdown. So how was it? You can tell me about it in the comments, you know, and let me know that there are more than just bots and spammers visiting my den… In any case, I enjoyed the first good night’s sleep in several days.
On the morning of the first, Eruanna and I gathered up all of our things and went to Phnom Penh International Airport. Our flight took only 45 minutes and I took several pictures. The airline provided sealed water and some sealed banana bread, which I consumed. We flew over Tonle Sap Lake, which is enormous!
According to Wikipedia (so caveat lector), it is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia. I’m inclined to believe that, though I’m not sure what constitutes South East Asia, so I’ll put it as most likely true. What I do know for certain is that Tonle Sap Lake is both fed and drained by the Tonle Sap River. That’s because the Tonle Sap River reverses direction twice a year! That’s right, the river flows into the lake during the monsoon season and out of the lake during the dry season. As Serrena or Julie or the guidebook explained to me, it has to do with the water pressure of the Mekong River; when the Mekong is swelling from the monsoon rains, the Tonle Sap acts as a release mechanism and drains excess water from the Mekong into the Tonle Sap Lake; when the Mekong is lower from the dry season, the Tonle Sap flows into it, shrinking the lake.
From the Siem Reap International airport we got on a Tuk-tuk, or a motorcycle with a passenger trailer hitched to the rear, and rode it to the inn (or whatever it was) we were staying at. Well… actually we had to wait a bit because Julie and her husband, who had come up the night before on the bus, went to the international terminal to wait for us while Eruanna and I were waiting for them at the domestic terminal, which was a separate building. But the waiting sort of adventure is more fun than the vomiting sort, so I didn’t mind it at all, especially since I got to work a little on drawing.
After dropping our stuff off we went out to eat and I was very careful with what I was eating. But the whole time I was nervous that I might accidentally eat something I shouldn’t. So I didn’t eat much… But I did enjoy trying to translate the water bottled by a Japanese company.
Following lunch (and a brief trip back to the inn to take our medicine, which we had accidentally left there) we went to the Angkor National Museum. Once again I wasn’t allowed to take pictures. Good thing sketchbooks exist. We spent the most time in the Gallery of One Thousand Buddhas… not by my choice. Some of them were fascinating, but there were a lot of repeats in design – it wasn’t 1000 different depictions of Buddha, it was 1000 depictions of Buddha falling into about 5 categories. And since there was very little information about them, once I had read the few descriptions here and there, there was little to keep me interested. I would have the same problem if you put me in a gallery of depictions of the Christ where the majority of them were crucifixes that looked exactly the same and had no stories given about their history. Sheer quantity doesn’t interest me where art is concerned – quality and the stories behind or within the art do. At least a Japanese tour group wandered through and I had fun listening to the guide say これ見て (kore mite “look here”) as well as other things.
Anyways, about halfway through the museum, Julie and her husband realized that if we wanted to make it to Angkor Wat that day, we would have to leave the museum without finishing. While I was saddened that I wouldn’t get to see the rest of the museum, I am glad that I got to see Angkor Wat!
We rode the Tuk-tuk to Angkor Wat and the structure was impressive. I like visiting old buildings because of the sense of stories they convey. Especially when there are carvings and/or paintings on them! I was also impressed by the number of tourists – so when I do get around to posting pictures, you’ll have to excuse all of the people crowding the shots!
Julie and her husband got Eruanna and me a tour guide, told us when to meet them, and then promptly disappeared into the crowd. The tour guide was informative, but moved at a fast pace. So once again I fell behind… I like to put my digital SLR on all manual settings so that I can try to get the shots I want, but this means that I might take more than one shot of something in order to get it to look right; combine that with a desire to have some artistic shots now and then and it should be clear how easy it is for me to fall behind when I have a camera out…
So I didn’t learn much about Angkor Wat. But I think that my pictures will make up for that (I still have to go through them…). Here is one I took at one of the two pools where monks would wash before entering the inner temple compound (I was paying attention to the guide when I could).
I think I’m going to have to spend some time with my pictures, so that the ones I choose to share are either good (relatively speaking) quality or tell a story. That aside, I did have fun taking pictures. There was a long stone engraving of a mythic battle. It involved demons and maybe monkey warriors. I hope the pictures I took of it turn out.
We couldn’t go to the top level of Angkor Wat because it was cleaning day. It figures that the one day it is closed for cleaning is the day we come. By that time it was time to meet back up with Julie and her husband. We paid the guide and he asked us if we had any questions, though he did so with a “not that you would have any” to me. I guess he appreciated me not really listening to what he had to say.
We visited the Bayon next, which is located within Wat Thom. There were some young children trying to get money, but I wasn’t sure if the reason they gave was what the money would be for, so I didn’t give them any, though it pained me, following the advice of the ChildSafe pamphlet I had picked up at the Russian market so many days earlier.
The sun was setting, so we had to leave, but I had thoroughly enjoyed the few hours spent at the Angkor complex. At dinner we planned on returning to Angkor Wat at sunrise. I was also looking forward to seeing Ta Prohm, the temple with trees growing over it.
But it was not to be. Whether it was that the mushrooms with part of dinner had not been cooked well enough to kill the germs or that I should have kept eating plain food for a while longer, I don’t know. What I do know is that things fell apart, the stomach could not hold. I vomited multiple times.
So I was taken to a clinic, vomited a few more times, and felt rather unwell. I even accidentally dropped a thermometer that they had wedged in between my arm and body at my armpit. It broke and mercury beaded on the floor. I told the staff, but they didn’t seem to take any special precautions. The bathroom floor was dirty when I got there (so it wasn’t my fault), the air conditioning was currently non-functioning (luckily they had electric fans), and there was no soap in the bathroom. So Julie and her husband went out and bought soap, we made the staff clean the bathroom, and I did my best not to worry so much.
They put me on an IV, which was greatly appreciated, since I wouldn’t be able to keep any food down. I slept as well as one can with an IV in one’s arm, a need to deal with diarrhea every so often, and being in a place where the sanitation practices are questionable. But another somewhat sleep deprived night. Yeah, not quite the vacation I was looking for (perhaps it was hiding with those droids…).
I spent the next day in the clinic. The IV was removed around 3.50pm, so we didn’t have time to go to the Angkor complex. I spent the rest of the day resting and taking my medicine like a good fox.
We flew back to Phnom Penh the next morning. Since our flight back to Korea (hooray! ) wasn’t until around 11pm (nooo! ), we had some time to deal with. So Eruanna and I went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Julie and her husband were taking the bus back, so they weren’t around to go with us, and Serrena didn’t want to go because it would be sad, so we got to linger at the museum for quite some time.
The museum is at the site of a former prison of Pol Pot’s Democratic Kampuchea regime, which itself had re-purposed a school. This prison was where thousands of people disappeared to, were imprisoned, tortured, and made to confess false crimes against the regime, before being dragged off to the killing fields to be executed. Not a pleasant place. Like my visit to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. and visits to other places where atrocities and the dead are remembered, I was solemn, sombre, and respectful. So I was a bit surprised by the sign below.
But then I heard some vendors inside the museum grounds laughing about something they had been talking about in Khmer (while not far from a sign in both English and Khmer stating that one of the rules is to not laugh while here out of respect for the victims). So perhaps the sign isn’t so out of place after all…
After the museum we spent the rest of our time before our flight resting at Serrena’s house and chatting with her or Julie and her husband. Then we went to the airport and found that our flight was delayed. Noooooooo! I really, really wanted to leave Cambodia at that point because my digestive tract was still bothering me and I was tired of being in fear of food.
I spent the whole flight back trying my hardest not to vomit. When I was distracted by Puss in Boots (an ok movie), it wasn’t so hard, but after I was done with the movie and trying to sleep, then it became hard. The diarrhea relieved the pressure (good thing I was in one of the last rows of the plane and not many other people were that far back! ), so I managed to make it the entire flight without vomiting. But I did reach for the air sickness bag, which I carried with me off the plane.
Somehow the quarantine inspector decided not to detain me. Perhaps he had pity on me or decided that since we said it was food poisoning, he didn’t need to detain us for marking vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain within the last 10 days on the health inspection form. In any case we made it through that as well as customs and immigration.
On the bus ride back my valiant efforts to keep from vomiting failed. Thank God I had the airsickness bag with me! An elderly Korean leaned over when I started making my hacking noises. He must have seen the bag and decided there was nothing to worry about, for he didn’t seem to be paying any more attention. Of course, I have no idea if he was watching me while I vomited up the little I had eaten (I had declined breakfast and had only eaten a small package of peanuts), but I like to think that he didn’t.
Once safely back in my apartment, I went to bed and rested for a long time. Thus my adventures in Cambodia ended with a whimper.
I’ve been spending the last few days resting and rambling, so not much exciting has been happening. Hope you enjoyed hearing about my adventure!
Blessings and peace!