The next morning, after a quick breakfast, we squeezed all 5 of us in the back of Kong’s tuk-tuk and headed out to explore more of Angkor’s wonders. As it turned out that Kong wasn’t a better guide than our previous driver, we decided to designate Mariana as our guide book reader. In real life she works as an interpreter and translator, therefore she was perfect for the job. Her English very good and she also speaks German. As a matter of fact, I was approached in German by German speaking people several times, because we probably seemed to be all Germans: “Hallo wie geht es? Gut, danke”.
Before stopping somewhere, Mariana was filling us in, with information read from the guide book, with her pleasing and confident voice trying to be heard above the engine noise. On that day we drove on the small circle of Angkor archaeological park, including some of the most famous temples as Angkor Thom, Ta Phrohm, Bayon, etc. I’m not going to get into details about the temples now because I will deal with that in another post.
During a break between two visits of temples, we tests our skills with coconut bowling, targeting bamboo sticks in the dirt. Even though I had a bit of a training with coconuts from the day before when I rolled a coconut from the top to the bottom of the Phnom Bok hill, and Andre practiced coconut throwing from the tuk-tuk, Aline humiliated both of us winning quite decisively.
We continued our itinerary and after one more stop to a temple, we decided to find a place to eat. First we went on Kong’s recommendation to check his cousin’s restaurant which turn out to be quite expensive, even after the very good discount we manage to negotiate.The air conditioning and table covers were “much too much”.
We asked Kong to drive us around until we found a cheap and authentic local restaurant, ran by a nice and humorous lady.This was the place where they had “fried friends” in the menu and other sinister items. We got a suspiciously big group discount of like $1 each meal and we ordered some local Khmer classic meals (curries, amok, stir-fried veggies and rice, etc.). I was the only one having a meat dish and I soon started to regret it when I realized how they were handling it.
Right behind us, there was a woman sitting on a small blue chair, chopping chunks of meat with a cleaver and throwing them into a red basin where hundreds of flies were droning and buzzing. Everybody was making fun of my unfortunate choice, and I told myself that that wasn’t the meat I was supposed to eat, but I had no way of knowing for sure, so I just made sure I have anti-diarrhea drugs with me and tried to silence my paranoid thoughts with a beer and 5 cigarettes. Before our meals were served and even after, the lady cook kept asking me if everything is alright and if the food is good, which obviously raised my paranoia levels even higher. I felt that she was somehow mocking me or maybe it was just my imagination, because I couldn’t understand very well what she was saying. Eventually I got to eat my food, and it was quite alright. I was expecting a bad story of food poisoning but it didn’t happened. Maybe it was the magic Cambodian tea which I got for free on the house, which reminds of a much more funnier prank played on me by that lady. After we finished eating, I ordered some tea hopping to ease my digestion of fly eggs, and she was like “Yes Sir, free for you Sir, Cambodian tea, very good Sir”, and she brought me 2 liters of tea in a plastic canister, but no cup. When I asked for a cup she said I should wait for Andre to finish his coffee and then I can use his cup, or why not use my can of beer I just finished.
We found all this hilariously funny, but actually it’s something very common in Cambodia. The food hygiene and cleanliness standards are very rare, but as our wise friend Andre said, once you adapt your immune system to the alien bacteria and other foodborne creatures, you’ll be alright. Therefore, you need to expose yourself to the potentially dangerous food in order to get immune.
After the break, we continued our temple hopping for rest of the afternoon and finished the day at the South Gate, where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the the Angkor Thom moat.
On our way back, we stopped on the side of the road to see the monkeys that live in the nearby trees. A man with a bike pulling a cart selling jack fruit, and his 3 school children, shared some of his fruits with us and the monkeys. The macaques were very happy with the feast and they let us get close to them, feed them and take pictures.