Friday, November 16, 2012

2012, Day 320 - Reflecting

For such a relatively relaxed day I am sure feeling the time.  We awoke early yet again, this time to try to catch sunrise over Angkor Wat from above.  That's right, there is a balloon that climbs high into the sky and we booked our space for sunrise!

Sadly we awoke to a hazy morning with light fog.  "No problem," we thought, it will probably burn off quickly.  As the arrived at the balloon site the fog was denser and the folks there told us that you can barely see Angkor Wat.  Still we were hopeful but we knew that we could get great pictures of the countryside even without the iconic temple so we were still game.

Brian, Nicole, and I climbed into the large basket and soon we were off the ground.  The fog made the trees into silhouettes and the further they were from us the lighter their shape.  It was really rather exciting, you could feel the distance!  But as the minutes passed the fog became more dense and soon there was nothing to see.  The balloon began its lazy descent and that was the end of our little aerial adventure.

Yesterday, as we were leaving Pre Rup, I noticed a large pond filled with water lilies and this morning we asked Mr. Mony if we could stop there to take a few pictures.  The pond, previously used as a place to bathe horses, it almost completely covered in water lilies.  Their leaves blanket the surface which is dotted by large pink flowers.  We were not alone at the pond, there were three girls and a boy playing.  They waded in to pick a flower for Nicole and a few for themselves.  I got a bit wet trying to get a picture I wanted but it turned out great and because we had no other plans for the morning I knew we would be heading back to the hotel.

And that is just what we did, after taking pictures of the flowers we went back to the hotel.  Brian and Nicole had to finish packing and we all wanted to take advantage of the free breakfast.  That gave us quite a bit of time to relax so after eating Araceli and I walked down the street and stopped by the spa a few doors away.  We decided that a little massage would be nice and after forty-five minutes I think we were both ready for a nap.

I dozed on and off for a couple hours until Brian and Nicole came by to bid farewell.  It seems odd to think of them leaving already as my trip is only half over but I know they have obligations to meet, things like work and whatnot.  So we said goodbye and will keep up with each other through social media and emails.

On our own, Araceli and I decided to have lunch before picking up Francene at the airport with Mr. Mony.  With the upcoming ASEAN conference to be held here in Cambodia there was extra security at the airport but even with the armed guards they are more friendly than an ordinary interaction with TSA.

With Francene collected we headed off to visit one of the floating villages on the Tonle Sap lake.  As we bounced along over bumpy roads we passed through homes on stilts and came to a dock where we hired a boat to take us out on the lake.  Once aboard the boat it took about twenty minutes to navigate the high waters through submerged jungle to get to the village.

It is a series of houseboats and larger floating stores and even a school that makes up the village.  There is no electric service but some homes have their own generators or solar panels but they do have phone service thanks to a cell tower that was built in the middle of the lake.  It is remarkable that all the things a person could ever need are available in this community that migrates on the river.  They catch and gather much of their food and that which the lake does not provide some member of the community will happily sell to their neighbors.

Mr. Mony explained that their schools only go through middle school so if they want to attend high school they need to commute into town.  It isn't a long commute but given the rather large size of their community it would take multiple boats each day and I suspect that many of the children are required by their parents to help make ends meet.  The community did have an area with information for visitors beside the floating catfish enclosure and just before their large enclosure where they raise crocodiles!

Ultimately I found the community a little sad.  They're ethnic Vietnamese and while they aren't slums this isn't a very nice community either.  Most people make their living by fishing and selling what they catch or by running a shop to sell good to their friends and neighbors.  While it isn't particularly far from Siem Reap it seems a world away and I don't know that life there provides much in the way of opportunities to do better than your parents.  But the people get by, no one looked to be unhealthy, it is just a tough existence.

When we left the floating village and returned to the dock a woman was trying to sell us souvenir plates with pictures they took on the sly as we arrive.  Francene started to haggle with the woman but Araceli and I didn't pay a lot of attention because we weren't interested.  Finally, as we are getting into the van Francene strikes a deal and she buys to plates.  Two plates!  Which plates did she buy?  The ones of me and Araceli!  I look pissed in the picture and Araceli looks like a hot mess.  We couldn't stop laughing, even Mr. Mony started laughing at us!

Once we collected ourselves and made it back to Siem Reap Araceli and I helped Francene to check in to her hotel because we were going to go straight to dinner.  I think Francene literally threw her things into the room and we grabbed a tuk tuk for The Sugar Palm.  It is a really nice restaurant that serves Khmer food in a traditional raised Khmer-style house.  They sat us on the balcony and it was just perfect.  The three of us demolished some pomelo salad, a plate of spring rolls, a hefty serving of water spinach, Khmer crispy noodles, and a vegetable curry.  The Khmer noodles were great, they had a wonderful texture, just a little bit of crunch, and a nice sauce.

After dinner we stocked up on mosquito repellents and returned to our respective hotels.  It was a relatively low-key kind of day and we had a lot of fun.  Sometimes it is more about who you're with than what you're doing and today was kind of one of those days.

Canon 1D X, Canon 70-200/f2.8L IS Mark II
200mm, f4.5, 1/500 sec @ 100 ISO

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