Angkor Wat, Cambodia - Part 3: Secrets of Elephants / Siem Reap     Last Updated: 21-Nov-01 

 

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The Guesthouse - Secrets of Elephants - is quaint and very nicely decorated. We are in the "Burma" room (we believe - the name is Birmanie). We also saw rooms named Cambodge, Indonesie, and, oddly enough, Malaise. Secrets of Elephants is owned by a French couple - it has 7 rooms and many lounging areas. The restaurant next door is associated with the guest house. We also expect a constant battle against mosquitos and heat, although the room does have airconditioning and a ceiling fan.

Entry  Other side of bed  After installing our mosquito net 
Luggage and towls  Mirror and closet  Mosquito Police 

It has taken some figuring out to work out the details of the arrangements. We have a room, as described above. Bathrooms are shared, although we seem to have a key to one of them (and actually prefer to use a different one 'cause it has a better shower). Some guests seem to lock theirs, and others don't. Nothing is really explained - in fact, the little explanation we did get turns out to have come from another guest who we thought was an employee. The bathroom key seems to be just the first secret of elephants, and we will discover others. Speaking of keys, the key situation is odd. Each room has a lock, and there is a board where the keys hang. So, when we are out, we hang the key up - for anyone to take. The scheme seems to be yet another secret. Of course, the place seems OK, and we have no concern about it. The only time that the room is locked and the key secure is when we are in it. At that point, the biggest concern is to keep the mosquitoes at bay, and the lock does not really help.

Breakfast and evening gathering area  Stand alone at the entry way  On second floor just in front of our room 

The lounging areas are pleasant, and everyone gathers in the evening for a drink. We have met several great people. There is a couple (Joan and Thom) that owns a small inn in Vermont, the Millbrook Inn. Twice a year (Autumn after the peepers leave, and Spring, after the skiers leave), they shut down and travel to some far-off land - this year it is SE Asia. Thom is the curmudgeonly cook (which seems to be a façade), and Joan does not like snakes (which we've learned over the past few days). We also met George and Kim, a delightful father and daughter from Hamburg, Germany, roaming SEA, and Peter Williams from England who is also making his round of SEA. As we talk, we begin to discover other secrets of elephants, such as the laundry - is it $8 per day, or $8 for the entire stay, with as much as we can give them? We are each visiting the ruins separately, some with hired car, some with car and guide, and others on motorcycle. We keep running into each other at the various sites, so we are on approximately the same circuit. Of course, we all made arrangements individually, but could have saved money had we grouped together. Unexplained - yet another secret.

Siem Reap is plagued with power failures. One evening, while we were updating the web page and doing email in an airconditioned internet café, the power went out. Fortunately, we were mostly done, but we were in sudden darkness and enveloping heat. Roswitha whipped out her flashlight, and we got up and paid. The power returned just as we entered the guesthouse and declared, "We bring you light!"

Another evening, we were showering before bed, and the power went out. The electric water heater and water pump stopped instantly, leaving us soapy and with hair full of suds. We waited a few minutes to see if it would come back. It did not, and we considered what to do. Fortunately, the shower drain is slow, so we were standing in a fair amount of water. We used that to splash ourselves off as much as possible, dried off, and quickly entered our room, allowing as little cold air to escape as possible. We hoped that the power would come back on before the room warmed up too much. It was close.

Our favorite bathroom, thank goodness for the slow drain 

A secret update from the road: while leaving Singapore, we checked the Visa card (over the Internet) to make sure that nothing undesired had happened (an event not so unusual in some of the places visited). We saw a charge from the "Naga Medical Center," but had no recollection of having visited such. Looking at the significant price and date, and scratching our heads, we finally determined that the charge was for the Secrets of Elephants. Hopefully, this will be the final secret to discover.

One place to visit when in Siem Reap is "Les Chantiers Ecoles (Artisans d'Angkor)" which trains sculptors and weavers in the traditional arts. This - initially a UNESCO sponsored school - is a great place to pick up souvenirs that are duplicates of themes from the temple and supports local craft people. Just beware of shipping costs (smaller WOODEN items are recommended, but you can also order a 5' Bayon Head in sandstone and get it shipped).

Quiet oasis close to the old market - gift shop and studios (silk is at other locatin)  Wood sculptures  Poly Chromy - Lacquer Ware 
Stone Sculpture  Want to order a 5' head? 

We also visited the Old Market to purchase T-shirts (Scott's negotiation practice really paid off), and to check e-mail nearby. In the market most goods are still laid out on the floor. We finally found an uncut "Dragon Fruit," and were able to see the bright magenta skin. People were extremely friendly, and we did not get hasseled as much. Maybe because it was late morning (seems to be typical lunch time), or maybe because we finally acquired a "we-will-not-buy-unless-we-want-to" attitude. However, several beggars followed us, hands outstretched. Several looked like mine victims, but one guy in a military uniform looked like he was merely wearing a sandal on one good foot instead of a shoe, like on his other good foot.

Peppers and most other items on the floor  What is this? Is this the pea with the tough skin we sometimes got in curry? 
Is this the LARP root?  Finally found the dragon fruit (about grapefruit sized) 
Gasoline for motorbikes in Johnny Walker (black label) bottles is sold on street side stands 

 

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