Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Siem Reap

I changed my hotel.

I’m not sure if it was the looks I got from the “interesting” group of individuals sitting in the court of the guesthouse, or if it was the “No Weapons” sign that was taped to the wall of my room, but I was definitely getting some negative vibes from the place I had originally booked in Siem Reap. I learned a long time ago to pay attention to those vibes. So I changed my hotel.

I’d read on the Internet about a hotel situated in the middle of downtown, next to the market, across the street from the river. It had good-sized rooms, a/c, which is very nice to have here, and a balcony that wrapped around the first floor. It’s called the Ta Prohm Hotel ( I had my tuk tuk driver take me there. After a bit of negotiating we agreed on a staggering rate of $25 per night for 11 nights. Of course that includes breakfast on the roof in the morning.

I checked in, changed out of my already dripping shirt and had my tuk tuk driver, Rock, run me out to the new Landmine Museum. It takes about 45 minutes to get there, but the drive is amazing; through Angkor Park and a number of little villages all set up to service the tourist trade: tables of cloths, baskets, and any assortment of souvenirs you could want. We passed several Angkor temples, but since I hadn’t paid for a pass, $40 for 2 days we couldn’t stop. Rock would lose his license if he were caught letting an unpaid tourista walk into the ruins.

We got to the museum about 3:30. They charge $1 to get in these days. There was a lot of discussion about whether to charge or just ask a donation and the final decision was to charge a buck. Some of the tourists really do not want to pay the entrance fee and one of the guides actually ripped the sign off the door. It didn’t work.

I introduced myself to the girl on the front and told her who I was and asked if Aki Ra was there. He was out building a school, wouldn’t be back until later in the day. I asked if Becky was there and they directed me to her office. As I started walking through the front door I heard a voice behind me and there was Hourt with a big grin on her face to say hi. She took to me the front office where I met the whole staff.
I’ve been carrying about 5 pounds of Strawberry Twizzlers in my bag for Becky and she was really happy to get them. She’s from Deerfield, Mass., an absolutely stunning town of old antique houses (by American standards). I would never have known, as she speaks with a pronounced British accent, having married a guy from the UK. She’s been here for four months now and she and Hourt have become good friends. You could tell just watching them talk and laugh together.

Aki Ra drove into the compound about an hour after I arrived. He was hot and sweaty having spent several days working on his new school. It’ll serve 72 kids. He is an amazing man. He’s very anxious to get back to demining, but he’s abiding by the agreement with CMAC that he get his license first.

I think he’s a little worried about the ISSEE school in the UK. His English is pretty good, but hey, who can understand a Brit?! Phil has found a translator, a Khmer man who lives in the UK to help him out during his classes. That should help a lot.

Everything is going well. There are about 16 kids living at the Museum. Some of the kids ‘graduated’ when the move was made. It’s hard to move and not everyone wanted to make the change. School starts in October and they are getting ready for the new school year.

I have my work cut out for me in the next 10 days. The museum is going to go through their initial inspection and I’ve been asked to pitch in and help them get ready for it. That starts with 90 pages of forms that need to be filled out about things of which I have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever. I guess that’s why they call me a ‘consultant’. We help people do things of which we have absolutely no knowledge.

I was wondering how I’d spend 12 days in Siem Reap. Now I know.

I’m sitting in the Blue Pumpkin Cyber café, about two blocks from my hotel, writing this in between reading my emails for the day, which take several minutes to download. Ah well, the iced tea is cold, the a/c works and I sure don’t have anywhere else to go.

Enough for now. I’ll try and post again tomorrow.

Fight on.

No comments: