Displaced Yankee Productions | It’s Five a.m. Again – Why Do I Travel With Theresa?

It’s actually five past five and our wake up call, which was actually supposed to be a wake up knock, since there is no phone, never materialized. Thankfully, Theresa never really seems to sleep and she’s gazed at her watch and seen the time. Within moments we are both scrambling around and cussing. The sun rises over Angkor Watt, one of the seven lost wonders of the world, in an hour and we want to be there to see it. We’d briefly been to the temples the day before and felt such awe and amazement standing there, that we decided to hire a guide and make a whole day of it on Saturday. Our guide, SoPheath and Tuk Tuk driver, Savin are waiting as we both come crashing downstairs with our stuff. The ride to the temples in the Tuk Tuk in the cool morning air is refreshing. Both Theresa and I are starting to wish there were Tuk Tuk’s in Old Town Pasadena. It’s quite a great way to get around.
We arrive, just barely, before the throngs of Japanese tourists and stake our spot to watch the sun rise. When the sun finally breaks the peaks of Angkor Watt it is simply beautiful. The rest of the morning is spent exploring different temples with SoPheath. He is as happy to be with us as we are grateful for his historical insight (and sense of direction – if not for him, we might still be trying to find our way out of Angkor Thom.) He is a budding photographer and very interested and curious about our photography equipment and expertise. (Well, expertise in Theresa’s case anyway.) We answered his questions and showed him our different lenses and their applications. He was very cute as I watched him imitate just about every shot Theresa took with his little digital camera. We explored the ancient ruins of the various temples for hours, marveling at the massive, crumbling structures, the intricate carvings in sand stone and the sense of history that surrounds us. Theresa manages to get cell phone reception in the middle of nowhere and gets a phone call. Can’t get reception in the middle of Pasadena…..

How The Sun Turns Cows Into Horses:
By noon, however, we were ready for a break. We are currently at the overgrown temple known to tourists and guides as the one where Tomb Raider was shot. When we first arrived, there was not much activity, but as the sun got hotter, tourists poured into the temple. We were already feeling slightly ill from the sun and the sudden claustrophobia didn’t help. We were concerned that Theresa was showing signs of heat stroke so we decided to head back to the central market and get some lunch in air conditioning. From noon to 2, our guide informed us, we shouldn’t be out in the sun anyway. Wearily, we climbed into the Tuk Tuk, after dumping a bottle of water over our heads. We had to drive through Angkor Thom to get back and on the way. We drove over a bridge magnificently decorated on either side with statues of demons all tugging on a serpent’s tail. We looked over the ornate railing to the river beyond and horses grazing on the lush green grass and were momentarily revived out of our sun stupor. “Look at the horses!” We were so excited and insisted to our guide we wanted to come back to this spot after lunch and take photos of this picturesque scene. He looked completely stupefied. As well he should be…. not four hours later we discovered our horses weren’t horses, unless horses in Cambodian actually means Cows. Thank goodness we’re not dairy farmers here. There would be some pretty unhappy horses.
We sat down to eat in the restaurant, ordered some cold drinks – though everything really is cool at best, not really cold. We took turns pouring little salt piles into our hands and tossing them back like candy, desperate to replenish what we were losing. Gross, but it worked wonders. We were soon off again.
Now, despite our inability to differentiate between a cow and a horse, we did see quite a bit of other animal life around the temples. Monkeys, by the score, hung out in the shade – interacting and taking food from tourists. Now let me just say, it would, of course, have been very cool to play with a monkey. But I simply cannot imagine being that stupid (besides, Theresa wouldn’t even let me pet a kitten here, let alone go feed a monkey.) The host of problems and sicknesses that could ensue should be enough to scare off anyone. Besides, our driver warned us of the dangers of walking among them with a bunch of bananas. Since he felt the need to warn us against this, clearly some foolish westerner had already done it.
After a long day at the temples, we headed into Old Town, which is basically the tourist part of Siem Reap. If I never hear the phrases “Hello Madame – would you like to buy a book; bracelet; water; scarf; purse; tee shirt; flute; postcard, etc., ever again it will be too soon. We opt to eat at a place that, incredibly, has the two grumpy old men from The Muppet Show extolling its virtues from their sign – as the one thing they can agree on. I’m soooo excited to see a disclaimer stating that they make their ice from bottled water. We been surrounded by ice we can’t have the entire time and nothing sounds more wonderful. I order a large margarita on the rocks with lots of ice. What I get is a lukewarm cocktail with no ice at all. Sigh. You just can’t win.

Hard Up Monks:
Angkor Wat – serene, beautiful, spiritual. We’ve now been walking through most of the temple and have soaked up the atmosphere. Old nuns in hidden corner “chapels” praying to statues of Buddha surrounded in a haze of incense. Thousand year old, saffron draped busts lining interior halls. Ancient carvings describing massive historic battles. It’s all the stuff of art history books. And yet, not really any monks. Interesting how no one really can tell us where they are, when they chant or anything that would allow us to experience this part of the culture. I have by this time, basically given up on being able to check that item off my list.
We turn another corner and lo and behold… two tall blond tourists stand speaking to a young monk, who is seated in a window. Wrapped in a saffron robe with sandaled feet, he is just what the camera ordered. We linger and the two European men leave to let us take over, with what we would later realize must have been relief in their eyes. The monk tells us we may sit with him. In fact, we actually must sit to talk to him, as technically, our heads should not be higher than his. Heather sits at his feet, with her feet properly tucked away from him. We get what is the standard icebreaker around here… “Where are you from?” After speaking about the USA and Hollywood a little bit, he tells us he has learned English in seven months during his studies as a monk. He is very animated and Looooves to talk and show off his English. Soon, we have covered the geographical parts of the conversation, and it turns more personal. Do you have a husband? He asks each of us. No, Heather replies. Why not? Just haven’t found the right man she demurs. Well, this monk is only 20 and has designs on a better life after the monk-hood. One that includes university and marriage. “Even though you are old”, he says to Heather, “perhaps you can wait for me? “ It was so hard for me not to snort in laughter. OK, how long have we been trying to interact in some way with a monk? And here I am in the 8th wonder of the world, the holiest of these people’s holy places, and Heather is actually — getting hit on — by a monk?! Bet that they don’t put that one in the guidebooks.


8 + = nine