All roads lead to Bangkok

Trip Start Dec 14, 2004
Trip End May 25, 2005

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Saturday, April 2, 2005

I think the original saying is something like "All roads lead to Damascus". Either that, or "all drains lead to the ocean". However, in our case- all roads lead to Bangkok. After the slightly harrowing 34 hour journey to Cambodia, we just didn't have it in us to do it that way again. So, here we are in Bangkok- again, enjoying a 24 hour lay-over before heading up to Chiang Mai (north of thailand) tonight.

Our week in Siem Reap was really wonderful.... one not soon to be forgotten. We wrote last that we had been invited to a wedding party. Oh, what a night. The owner of our guesthouses' nephew was getting married, and he invited all of his employees and guests to join the family in celebration. It was SO much fun, and clearly one of the more unique experiences to date.... we were there as guests, but as three American girls, we
clearly attracted quite a bit of attention- just by being there. Between the 7 course dinner that we were served, and the literally endless rounds of "cheers" and beer,
there was dancing. Cambodian tradition has it that dancing is done in a circle, around a fixed object. You pair up, and just sort of wiggle your hands rhythmlessly to the beat. We were pretty good at it :) We should mention that by the time we went to the wedding, we had already hired the drivers that would be necessary to take us around Angkor. So, our three drivers, Pheap, Kriss, and Chem also doubled as our interpreters and 'dates' (in the most chaste sense possible) for the evening. By the end of the night, we were exhausted from the endless dancing and wished we were in our pajamas, like the bride, who reappeared in a pair of Mickey Mouse pj's at the end of the night. Clearly, a lot different than any wedding party we've been to at home!

So, now that the experience is safely over- we'll tell you all about our week at Angkor, spent zipping around on motorbikes (don't get scared now). The ruins of Angkor cover an area as large as New York City, and one could probably spend weeks there without seeing it all. We invested in three-day passes, as well as drivers, so that we could make the most of our time there. Each morning, the three of us would drag our sleepy selves outside, and hop on our respective bike- Rachel with Chem, Allison with Kriss, and Jodie with Pheap. Off we would go, weaving through the early morning traffic of tuk-tuks, and motorbikes, and make our way to Angkor. Most people know of "Angkor Wat"--- this is just the main and largest temple that is part of the old city of Angkor- a collection of monuments and temples built in the 12-13th centuries to honor the "deva-raja" (God-Kings). The temples were not entirely destroyed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, but they were left to ruins, and many are still in the process of being restored. The temperature each day was over 100 degrees, and the sun was relentless. We made the most of our visit there-- trying to soak in the truly awesome architecture, but the heat did make things more difficult. At the base of each part of Angkor, there are rows of stands set up selling cold drinks, souvenirs, and food.

"Hello lady, you buy cold drink from me, okay?"

"Hello lady, you very beautiful, you buy scarf from me, okay?"

"Hello lady, where you come from?"

"OH, United States. Capital, Washington D.C."

"You buy from me when you come back, I remember you!"

"What state you from?"

"I tell you the capital of New York and you buy these bracelets, okay?"

The cacophony of the childrens' voices, trying to sell us water, scarves, postcards was like a well-rehearsed script. The children were endearing, and most of the time we were happy to buy a cold water from them- anything to avoid dehydration. But there were times when it was just truly too much, and at one point, 1000 riel (the equivalent of 25 cents) was paid to a certain young boy just to make him go away.

On one hand, we don't really feel like we "did" Cambodia. We debated the issue of going to Phnom Penh- where the main "attraction" is seeing the memorials to the victims of the Khmer Rouge- the actual killing fields, as well as the camps where Pol Pots' regime killed millions of Cambodians. As Jews, we are familiar with the horrors of genocide- and the three of us have each borne witness to the events of the Holocaust in various ways. We debated our obligation, or desire to go to Phnom Penh. We still don't have an answer. In the end, we didn't go. Maybe it was the five hour bus-ride, maybe we just didn't want to see it. Still not sure.

And so here we are again, in Bangkok. The trip back here from Siem Reap was hot, bumpy, and included an hour spent baking in the sun at the border, waiting to pass through customs, with our packs on our backs. Not fun. We arrived here last night, couldn't find a room- it was late, we were exhausted, and so we splurged. And by splurged, we mean that we each paid about $8 for the nicest room we have stayed in on this trip yet. We ate dinner (and lunch today!) at Shoshana- one of the Israeli restaurants off Khao San Rd. (where the Thai owner wished us "Todah Rabah and Shabbat Shalom" when we left) and finally went to bed in the most comfortable beds we have had in ages. All in all- we're pleased.

Tonight, off to Chiang Mai! We can hardly believe it's April already... we leave for India in two weeks, and are getting excited!
Miss you all.
Jodie, Allison and Rachel
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