It turns our the wedding is on Sunday… today became a lay day… lay about in the morning after Skyping, lay around the pool mid day, lay around and read when it gets hot. Of course this laying about was interrupted by eating and a bit of shopping and a walk by the river but we never put the sails up all day.
One of the BSU guys is feeling quite bad… a very sore throat… painful swallowing and a low-grade fever. Mieko (Cambodian Mother Teresa) came and checked him out and took him to the private clinic run by friends of hers and Jon’s, formerly at AHC. Not definitive but on ibuprofen, codeine and as much liquid as he can manage to swallow… follow up hotel corridor consultation later… same regimen but drinking fluids most important… hopefully he will feel better tomorrow so he can fly in reasonable comfort… honestly I’m glad I’m not sitting next to him but if it were me I’d move heaven and earth to get my sick body back to the US also.
Sunday January 16th SRC
Family outing day… beer, barbeque, cultural immersion and bad roads a real Sunday picnic in the country. We traveled Cambodian style six inside and six plus the big cooler outside. Destination Phnom Kulen (lichee mountain) the first seat of the ancient Khmer kings and the source of the Siem Reap River. It is about 40 or so km north of the city bit then it entails about a 15 to 20 km trip over some world class ripples, bumps, volcanic rock flats and very, very narrow wood plank bridges… worth every jounce. Fifteenth century worshipers carved a huge reclining Buddha surrounded by Apsaras on top of one ridge. Below it was an area dotted with shrines and faithful praying while accompanied by traditional musicians. The smell of burning incense sticks permeated the warm morning air. Buddha was visited by ascending a steep set of stairs… barefooted of course then observed by entering a protective shelter. This is no everyday figure… the good lord Buddha was at least 10 meters long and proportionally high and wide. The observable contrasting dark satin surface of his face and torso gave evidence of the many thousands of devoted visitors offering their respect and reverence.
Sathya then took us to a new, higher location traversing possibly the worst and narrowest road the truck could navigate. Passing another adventuring vehicle would require suspending several laws of matter and physics… but then few people feel the need to go here. At the end it was worth it as we emerged at the “High Place of the Gods”, a field of statues, carvings, stupas, floral basins and a small pagoda. It was as if we had mounted the final step before reaching the pagoda of the gods… all of them. The array of objects venerated both Buddha and the pantheon of Hinduism. Spirituality and peace exist here and the monks residing in the local pagoda are fortunate in their isolation.
Enough feeding the spirit… off to the riverside picnic pavilions for some serious indulging of the flesh!! Sathya’s wife Monica along with Sakhan’s able assistance had booked a pleasant riverside bamboo and thatch gazebo where they prepared a traditional feast. Chicken, beef and pork fan fried or spit roasted along with a couple of kinds of rice, fish paste and dipping sauces. This was followed by sticky rice and black bean bundles cooked inside palm leaves then unwrapped and dipped in palm sugar syrup… decadent!!
While lunch was being prepared I visited the falls and saw some of the figures and lingas carved in the river stones. As the water flowed across the hundreds of lingas (sacred representatives of Shiva) it becomes sacred waters and thus the Siem Reap becomes a river of holy water. What better place to spend an afternoon with such wonderful friends.
Heading back to the city we tarried for an hour or so at the Khmer night market which has grown up along a relatively new highway in the Apsara Authority Reserve… complete with a carnival, street vendors, hundreds of families picnicking, visiting and browsing the wares. Thee were at least a dozen enterprising vendors barbequing whole steers and selling really delicious and tender beef plates. Something new every time I come here!!!