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    Tropical Storm Tour: Cambodia Part 9

    Saturday, July 11, 2015
    Siem Reap, Cambodia

    The Buddha image inside Wat Preah Ang Chek + Wat Preah Ang Chom in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    The Buddha image inside Wat Preah Ang Chek + Wat Preah Ang Chom in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    Traditional Cambodian musicians jam inside Wat Preah Ang Chek + Wat Preah Ang Chom in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    Traditional Cambodian musicians jam inside Wat Preah Ang Chek + Wat Preah Ang Chom in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    The gate of Wat Kesaram in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    The gate of Wat Kesaram in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    Around 9:00 am, I pedaled back up to the British Khmer Clinic and, luckily, they were open. After a half-hour wait, the doc invited me in. I told him I’d had a sore throat for a week with no coughing or phlegm. He asked a few questions then gave me a physical from the neck up. He basically shined a light inside my mouth and said it looked fine, then felt up my neck and under my jaw for any unusual lumps. Everything seemed normal; he figured I most likely had an infection. So, he sent me on my way with a prescription for Claritek, which I got filled at a nearby pharmacy. The lady there did not believe that one dollar is 34 baht, so I had to pay with dollars instead. But, it was only $6.50, so it was no big deal.

    A tower at Wat Kesaram in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    A tower at Wat Kesaram in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    Dragons guard the main Buddhist temple at Wat Kesaram in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    Dragons guard the main Buddhist temple at Wat Kesaram in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    A close-up of the fierce seven-headed dragon guard at Wat Kesaram in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    A close-up of the fierce seven-headed dragon guard at Wat Kesaram in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    After a break back at my room, I chalked up two more temples–one of them, Wat Kesaram, was right across National Highway 6 from the Jasmine Guesthouse where I stayed last week. Although the doors of the main temple were closed, I still got some worthy snaps of the fierce seven-headed dragons that guard the place. Next, I stopped by the Peace Cafe for lunch, where I scarfed down a plate of delicious tofu noodles with vegetables and rice. I highly recommend it if you ever eat there. I made my second and final temple visit a couple of blocks away at Wat Po Lanka, which in addition to the usual temples and chedis, came complete with a graveyard and a small crematory.

    This is the way the cookie crumbles at Wat Kesaram in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    This is the way the cookie crumbles at Wat Kesaram in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    A shrine outside a ceremony on National Highway 6 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    A shrine outside a ceremony on National Highway 6 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    A plate of delicious tofu noodles at the Peace Cafe in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    A plate of delicious tofu noodles at the Peace Cafe in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    Just as I finished snapping a few photos and was getting ready to leave, a young Buddhist monk started chatting me up. He studies English down at Wat Preah Prom Rath and wanted to get in a little practice with me. He invited me into his small bedroom in the monastery, where he had a bed with pillows and a thin mattress, a ceiling fan and a small shrine. After talking for a while, he made me a small bracelet out of red string, dipped it in holy water and tied it around my right wrist. He said it would bring me good luck. Then he told me to press my palms together and bow my head while he intoned a prayer and flung holy water on me with a brush. The funny thing was he kept sprinkling me with so much water as he prayed for a good two or three minutes, by the time he was done it looked like I had been out in the rain.

    A graveyard at Wat Po Lanka in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    A graveyard at Wat Po Lanka in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    A Buddhist monk at Wat Po Lanka in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    A Buddhist monk at Wat Po Lanka in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    A Buddhist monk in his room in the monastery at Wat Po Lanka in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    A Buddhist monk in his room in the monastery at Wat Po Lanka in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    As I was leaving, I gave him a small donation, then he hit me up for $35.00 to pay for him to take a computer class at school. I don’t have that much money to just give away, so I tried to segue out of that awkward moment as smoothly as possible. Later in the evening, I biked a few blocks down to the Apsara Theater for a traditional Cambodia dance and music show I had booked a few days before. It tool place inside a beautiful wooden building with a gorgeous, ornate ceiling complete with chandeliers and statues of characters from the Hindu Ramayana epic.

    The dinner tables and stage at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    The dinner tables and stage at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    The Apsaras Ballet at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    The Apsaras Ballet at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    The Fisherman's Dance at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    The Fisherman’s Dance at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    At 7:30 pm, I was seated at a table down in front of stage right. The theater was equipped with three long rows of very low-slung tables with pillows to sit on the floor and a pit to put your feet and lower legs down into so it felt as if you were sitting in a chair. I’ve never seen another set-up like that before. Soon after, we were served dinner. Since I had ordered a vegetarian meal, mine consisted of vegetable soup with rice, fried spring rolls and several small bowls containing different kinds of salads. Desert consisted of two small fruit salads. Overall, the meal was decent and really hit the spot, as I was feeling quite hungry.

    The Mekbala Dance at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    The Mekbala Dance at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    The Coconut Dance at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    The Coconut Dance at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    The Legend of the Reamker at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    The Legend of the Reamker at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    As 8:30 pm rolled around, it was showtime. I was stoked to see that a live orchestra–consisting of a xylophone, small gongs and drums–was supplying the music instead of a recording. My only quibble: there was a set of instruments on both sides of the stage, but only one side was used. Then the dancers emerged, all decked out in bright, colorful, intricate costumes to perform several dances, including the Asparas Ballet, the Fisherman’s Dance, The Mekbala Dance, the Coconut Dance and the Legend of the Reamker. Most of these related short snippets of stories from a Cambodian version of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana.

    The Legend of the Reamker at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    The Legend of the Reamker at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    The troupe takes a bow at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    The troupe takes a bow at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    The audience at the end of the show at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    The audience at the end of the show at the Apsara Theater in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    Most of the performance seemed mediocre, and quite under-rehearsed in places. I had recently read an article in a local newspaper about how many of these young teenage performers at the dinner shows in Siem Reap are not really dedicated to their art. Case in point: Occasionally, one of the dancers would try really hard to suppress laughter at a mistake made by a fellow dancer–particularly in the Coconut Dance when they were supposed to rhythmically smack each others’ little wooden bowls together. It really seemed like amateur hour. But, at least some of them were smiling and seemed happy to be performing. After close to 60 minutes, the troupe took their bow, bringing an end to this very touristy performance, which is emotionally and technically many levels below the excellent dance shows in Ubud, Bali.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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