General Update 1/10/10

Hi all!

So… here I am in Cambodia.  Currently, I’m staying at Siem Reap, which means “defeat of the Siemese (or Thai)”. Yesturday, we visited Ankor Wat, as well as one other temple and a city in the same area one of them has been left with gargantuan trees locked in place by their flowing roots. More on that later, I’m sure – pretty crazy. Tourism makes up about 80% of Siem Reap’s economy. Siem Reap is one of the biggest cities in Cambodia, but most of the buildings (at least where I’m staying) are around five stories at most, and there are coconut trees and other tropical plants everywhere.  Just across the street and the Siem Reap River, peasant houses are raised on stilts with corragated metal roofs as far as the eye can see.  It’s quite flat here, and we can walk to the market in about ten minutes.  It gets prettyhot, but not unbearable, during the day, and at least as humid as Michigan summer. It’s almost always sunny, but sometimes the clouds have mercy on us and cover the sun – and often, we’re under tree cover.

I’ve managed to avoid getting sunburn or diarrhea so far! (I know, impressive!) So has the rest of the group, so far as I know.  I got to drink coconut juice straight from a coconut with lunch yesturday. Some people got to ride elephants, and everyone was nearly constantly bombarded by women and children selling scarves, jewelry, paintings, instruments, anything.  Some of the kids were as young as 3 or 4, and most of them had no shoes.

We got into Siem Reap two days ago; before that, we were in Bangkok (Thailand) for a day. We saw the royal palace grounds where the first eight kings lived (current king is #9).  Everything sparkled.  Everything was coated with gold and colored glass and tile and carvings and paintings.  There had to be 20 shrines, so that the skyline was pierced with spires in every direction.  In Thai architecture, there are always these sharp, skyward pointing hooks at each corner of the many roof sections.  On closer inspection, these hooks are each a carved bird’s head on a snake’s neck, protecting the temple from evil spirits.

Okay.  Gotta go now.  Today, we’re going to see the floating village on the Tonle Sap, the largest lake in Southeast Asia, which is right next to Siem Reap.  What’s really cool about the Tonle Sap is that when the Mekong River from China gets really flooded in the rainy season, it reverses the flow of the Tonle Sap river so that it flows northward into the Tonle Sap instead of southwards, out of it.  That causes the Tonle Sap to expand by at least 200%.



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