This doesn't feel like retirement
02.03.2013 - 04.03.2013 98 °F
We left the ship at Saigon to fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for an overland excursion to Angkor Wat. We were feeling privileged to take this trip and also a little homesick for the Silver Whisper. Perhaps this emotion was heightened because when we left the ship we lived on Deck 7, forward, and when we returned we moved to Deck 4, midships. Our trip through the typhoon and monsoon on the China Sea set prodded us to move to a more stable area of the ship before the next storm struck.
The Angkor temples are amazing, as are the crowds. The streets of Siem Reap are lined with huge and lovely hotels and filled with tour busses. The estimate is that 8,000 people visit the temples each day, and the crowds really compromise the experience - as does the temperature (high 90’s) and humidity and rough walking.
We went to three temples - Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom (where the tree roots twine around the walls), and Angkor Wat. They were built by Khmer kings in the 11th-13th centuries and they are mammoth. E.g., Angkor Wat is surrounded by a 27 foot wide moat that is 3.6 miles long and has walls much longer than that. 500,000 people worked for 37 years to build it all - as a place of worship. The walls and stairs and towers and pools are symmetrical, and the structures are covered with carvings of heavenly dancers and stories of wars and conquests.
We stayed at a fine hotel (had massages in the spa, swam in a movie-set pool, heard concerts in the lobby) whose buffet lunch identification cards rivaled the “Custurd Cake” you may remember ... identifying a platter of light colored cold cuts was a sign “Chicken Beer Ham.” We didn’t have any.
We did have insect repellant and used it assiduously per instructions of the UConn Travel Clinic. But as we passed the children’s hospital (there is no adult hospital) we saw the sign below. Ahem.....
The third day we went to the Angkor Silk Farm, an institution designed to train young people in traditional crafts. Wow! We walked from mulberry trees to feeding worms to boiling cocoons to spinning fibers to boiling plants for dye to weaving the most amazingly beautiful fabrics. The showroom also has a smart shop where the goods are for sale. We were so pleased to see these high quality unusually designed items for sale - and not another Cartier in an emerging country.
Then to Wat Damnak Buddhist monastery, one of the monasteries where young boys go to be educated because there are almost no public schools available in the countryside. Girls are rarely educated, and boys are trained as monks, although most of them leave the monastery as soon as their education is finished. In exchange for this privilege, they do chores and beg on the streets.
After a late flight back to Bangkok, we got back on our ship and slept like a log in our new cabin.