As it turns out, our hotel in Siem Reap does have internet access, so we will be able to update from here. Cambodia is really neat. As we landed in Siem Reap, we flew over Lake Tonle Sap, which is a huge freshwater lake that produces a lot of seafood and allows for lots of wet rice cultivation. The land here is very lush, much like Java, but the difference is that the land here seems totally flat. So unlike Java and Bali, where terraced rice cultivation is the norm, the land is patchworked with regular old paddies.
I didn’t think that this would be possible, but it appears to be actually hotter here than in Java. It’s definitely more humid. We went for a walk in Siem Reap’s Old Market (Psar Chas) at around 2:30 and were drenched immediately. We don’t think that we’ve been this hot in Indonesia. (Although we remember the area inland from Yogyakarta as much hotter than Jakarta. Maybe Southeast Asian Hindu-Buddhist complexes are just hot.)
A couple of more interesting things. First, the monetary system here has never really recovered from decades of civil war under the Khmer Rouge and afterwards. So, dollars are accepted openly here. But there are no coins as change. So if you have bill for $6.50, you have to pay with a five dollar bill, a one dollar bill, and two thousand Cambodian riels. This happened to us over lunch today. The policy consequences of having a currency that no one trusts as a store of value are quite interesting, incidentally.
Second, there are a lot of Westerners here. When you go downtown to "sightsee," they are everywhere. The reason why we put sightsee in quotes is that Siem Reap, we have decided, has very little to offer for sightseers aside from its proximity to the temples at Angkor Wat. The town just has markets that offer cheap goods and restaurants that cater to lager louts.
Third, Khmer is an interesting language, closely related to Vietnamese but with a notable set of loanwords from the Malay/Indonesian family of languages. We have noticed a couple:
m’rech = pepper (related to merica in Indonesian)
barang = counter for things that are shaped like sticks (the same as barang in Indonesian, which means the same thing)
kampong = village (same as kampong in Malay)
sala = snakefruit (related to salak in Indonesian)
psar = market (related to pasar in Indonesian and Malay, which is
borrowed originally from Turkish and which gives us the English word bazaar)
pheasar = to speak (we hypothesize that this is linked to bahasa. It is clearly not related to the Vietnamese word for language, which is tiếng, or Vietnamese for talk, which is nói)
Fourth, we are happy to report that a college friend of TP’s, known for this blog’s purposes as J, will be joining us for the next couple of days. We are going to meet him in about an hour, and will be touring the temples together tomorrow and perhaps the next day.