Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Getting personal

Promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
 - A.A. Milne, Winne the Pooh

Tuesday - March 26 2013 - Battambang

Well an very nice day, including the bus ride. It was an odd bus ticket. Ome without a seat number. Totally unexpected, every other bus had assigned seats. The mini bus picked me at my hotel at the crack of 7:30 and we took the tour of the city picking up other passengers along the way. By the end we were packed so many that they were literally sitting in the aisle. The 'shotgun' seat was packed nearly to the ceiling with back packs. The kids on a trek do not pack light. It looked like an Everest expidition by the time we got to the bus station. I was smart for once and only packed my little knapsack with two nights of necessities. A pair of pants, a couple shirts and undies. Of course laptop and all the wires and connectors for that. Somehow a two night pack ended up weighting 15 pounds.

The previous trips it has been, maybe not a law, but you sure get ugly a look from the loader if you ask to chack something that will fit in your seat. The overhead bins are too shallow to fit much more that a make up case. I handed the knapsack to the 'bus boy' (not the driver) and he gave me that look. I didn't back down and he stuffed it in the belly of the beast. Then I handed him a dollar. No more ugly looks. Big smile instead. I asked about the seat number and he sat me directly behind the driver. I guess the best seat in the house. I'm not so certain about that. My seat mate was a nervous nrider and watched the road the entire time. Every time it got a little dicey with oncoming traffic he grabbed the rail in front. He probably had a cramp in his arm by the time we arrived.

We drove almost back to Thailand before turning south. I started looking at mile markers to figure out how much longer it was going to be. Last bus trip was 300 Km. over 12 hours. Adverage speed well under 30 Kmph. (approx 20 mph (If my calculations are off please correct me)). So I glanced over the driver's shoulder to see what speed we were going while flying down the road. Tachometer, yes. Speedometer pegged at zero. well so much for that great idea. We made it in 4 to 4 1/2 hours. Schedued for 5 hours. That included stopping every town and sometimes twice in a town to pick up walk ups. I'm not entirely certain BUT I got the impression that this was all under the table money since a ticket or receipt was never ask or offered. Just my supposition.

The bus arriver in Battambang and we were the sugar cube and the Tuk-tuk drivers and hotel touts were the ants. It was a feeding frenzy - "Madame you want hotel?" " Madame you want Tuk-tuk" and the chorus continued. Some how I was seperated from the herd by one Tuk-tuk driver and made the bargain. Of course the hotel I had chosen was not to his liking. Too expensive they charge $70. He had a much more reasonable option for me. I stuck with my plan and found a lovely little hotel away from downtown for $55. Seems about the price I'm paying this trip per night. Nice courtyard, acceptable room WITH A/C and a decent Wi-fi in the room.

The Tuk-tk driver and I agreed to remeet at 2:30 and go for a drive 25 Km (in the Tuk-tuk) to a temple. We drove through the country side along the river and motored along at Goldilocks speed 'just right'. We passed a bunch of family run little stores that dot the landscape.They sell anything you could possibly need. Cigarettes, chips and I'm sure things that only locals can recognize. The also have racks of Pepsi 2 liter bottles and occasional small one liter plastic bottles and at the high end joints they even have Johnny Walker bottles filled with gasoline and diesel all of the bottles have been very well used. I gues if yoou need a little gas for your moped you stop and order a Johnny Walker. I'm not sure if the J.W. is Premium and the Pepsi regular or not.

There was the occasional huge trash bin that was in the shape of a vase here and there. Then the light want on and I figured out what thet were. They we tractor tires turned inside out.

While at the hotel it started to rain. A sprinkle at first then a deluge. Ten minutes, then it was over and back to normal. It did cool things off though. There were a few drops that hit me on the ride but it never did rain again today. We passed by grape arbors Nicky (Tuk-tuk driver) said they made wine here. I'm not so sure about the vintage, but with it staying hot all the time I don't know how the grapes and mature properly. We never stopped at the winery because it seemed there was no wine education going on there. They just wanted to get you drunk so you'd over buy their wine.

In a shorter time that I had expected we arrived at the temple mount (No, not THAT one !) Three hundred fifty eight steps to the top, and the same down. At the turn off from the road sitting idly under a tree was a hospital gurney. I didn't take this as a good omen. But being a trooper, remembering what my guide in Syria said as he sent me up to see a castle - "Slowly, slowly'. Up I trudged counting all the way. "OK Theresa  ten more steps and you can stop." was my mantra. Added as an after thought "Don't look up and don't look back." About half way up I saw on a tree my first "BEWARE MINES" sign. This area was used by the Khmer Rouge as their snactuary when Viet Nam invaded. They had some sort of sweetheart deal with the Thai Government that allowed themj to slip across the border when necessary and then slip back. So they mined the area to thwart their pursuers. Then the Vietnamese mined the area to kill and shorten the Kh,er Rouge. Then after Viet Nam pulled out the Khmer Rough came back and mined some more. Cambodia leads the world in land mine and unexploded ordinance deaths in the world. I stayed on the steps.

The climb was worth it, I think. The temples are reminicent of the towers at Ankor Wat except in a much greater state of disrepair or poor  restoration. Looking at them you can get a very good idea of what Angkor Wat looked like 100 years ago, sans the jungle swallowing it. The arch was not used by the Khmer instead the blocks were stagger stepped up until the sides met in the middle. Then if you wanted a rounded ceiling you chipped the rock away until it was rounded. The blocks by now were pretty cockeyed in places and had gaps in them wider that 'Arnold's' front teeth. My camrea clicked away as I looked.

The way down was not as bad as I expected because of this huge snake made out of concrete thst gave me a handrsil to use as a touchstone on the way down. I'm pretty sure it was more of a confidence builder than an actual safety rail. In one way the steps down were a little harder as my 6 decade old knees took the brunt going down.At the temple of Coca Cola at the bottom Nicky and I chatted for a bit. He explained that there are 5 towers ESNW (East being the the entrance) now, but from the air there are four more ruined spires at the corners, and that this was first a Hindu temple and morphed into a Budhist one over time. It all depended on what king was in power and what god he chose to believe in.

This conversation morphed into my favorite Hindu god, Ganesh. The god of knowledge. Elephant head with a human body. He said that Ganesh always has only one tusk because he needed something to write with and it was the only thing handy at the time so he broke it off to use as a stylus. I'm liking baby Ganesh more and more.
On the way back we took the back roads. No pavement for those 15 miles back to town. Little hamelets with nary a power line in sight. We follwed the river down stream and there was a view at a village that had several boats on the shore. He said it was a fishing village and the residents were Muslim. I questioned him why he pointed out that they were Muslim. He said they were great fishermen. Kind of the area's answer to the 'Fish Whisperer'. When the water was high they netted across the river and when it was lower they set hooks. As we were driving though the village the many of the women were full head scarved and a few were veiled.

We made it back to town and I've been sitting in the courtyard having dinner as I fed the 'skeeters. Now this is done and I'm a shade paler from blod loss time to call it a day.


I guess I doth not be finished

People here must be great swimmers. Their feet are nearly as wide as they are long. I'll bet that most of the feet I've seen have worn shoes as often as most men in the U.S.A. have worn a tux. I was doing my footware survey this afternoon and everyone had a flop flop or sandal on. I didn't notice a single pair of shoes on anyone.

At the river stop I talked to Nicky. The temple we went to was near where he was born and most of the people who ran the Temple of Coca Cola were family. I asked him if that was where he lived and he said no that he lived in town with his daughter. That was an odd way of wording it I thought. So it perculated a couple hours and at the river I asked him how old his daughter was (7). I don't think I asked about his wife. He brought it up. He is a divorced single dad. His wife was a hostess (I was thinking she gave you your menu when you entered a restaurant - well DUH !!). He was talking Bangkok type hostess, bargirl. Get men to buy you drinks at inflated prices and then generally say good night to the now pooerer sap. All of her earnings went to fancy hostess clothes and alcohol beverages, until the fancy clothes were replaced by alcohol all the time. Paternal rights go to the mother here and support to the father in cases of divorce. He didn't want her to have custody, and it sounds like she didn't give a flying F either way. But the law is the law. So he went to his in-laws and explained to them that he wanted them to take custody and he and his daughter live next door. Of course the in-laws knew their daughter was not a drunk. She was their princess. They believed it until seeing her blotto a few times and then accepted his offer.

But now when he goes back to his village he is shamed and shunned by some. Not because of the divorce, but because his former wife is a drunk. I asked him for clearification and yes it is because of her and not the divorce. He said when he goes back to the village he walks around looking at the ground because of the shame. Wow ! Talk about a tough crowd.

Now I am done.

BTW. Thanks E. for reminding me that the world doesn't revolve around my bath habits and meals.

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