After lunch on Friday, Kean asked us if we wanted to go to one more temple before we called it a day and, of course, we agreed. We stopped by Banteay Kdei wnd enjoyed climbing over and around another complex that was dominated by a couple of huge trees. When we parked, we were greeted by the usual groups of child and female hawkers selling magnets, token, scarfs, post cards, T-shirts, etc. The cadets (and everyone, for that matter) tend to be soft touches for kids selling things, but we discussed how this is a very tough issue… You want to help the kids, but you have to ask: If I help the kids by buying form them, am I really hurting the overall development of the country by enabling a system that values a child’s ability to sell trinkets more than what they would gain from education?
We returned to the hotel just before 1600 and decided that that we would meet again at 1800 to go to dinner in the Pub Street area near several of the night markets. We took a tuk-tuk—jamming all six of us into one as we’ve done all along and paying $3 to get there.
Pub Street is the bar and restaurant area of Siem Reap that is famous for its nightlife and also for its legitimate (and some not-so-legitimate) massage parlors and fish pedicures. The latter are big aquariums with la-z-boy style chairs over them that have a particular type of small fish that swarm around your feet and eat the dead skin away from callouses. I declared the fish pedicures off limits, if for no other reason than the aquariums often had three or four patrons at a time dangling their toes in the water and it just seemed like a very nasty Petrie dish of infectious disease. The cadets were not disappointed by my order.
We arrived in our tuk-tuk and walked up and down Pub Street, hearing offers for pub crawl parties, a ride on the Rock-n-Rol Tuk-Tuk that plays requests or will allow you to plug in your own device as musical score for your tour of Siem Reap. We settled on the Red Piano Bar for its location and the fact that they sold several good Belgian beers at reasonable prices (e.g., Leffe Blond for only $4). I ordered the Fish Amok for about the fourth time, while the cadets had pasta, French fries, and a few local dishes. Winston ordered curry as usual and asked that it be made as hot as possible. Winston seems to think that he’s in Thailand (or wishes he was for the food) and asks makes similar requests at every meal except breakfast. Every time he’s disappointed because the “ultra spicy” is just not that hot. We keep telling him (and our guides agree) that the Cambodians just don’t like hot, spicy food, but he keeps trying. He ordered chopped red chiles on the side, but they’re not hot enough. We’re tyring to convince him that he should order the Cambodian food the way the Cambodians eat it, and we’ve made some progress, but he continues on his quest.
After a surprisingly good dinner, we decided that the cadets deserved an unsupervised night away from me and that they could stay on Pub Street for the evening so long as they stayed together and practiced the good operational risk management (ORM) that we’ve been discussing since January. I left them with plenty of warnings and instruction that we were leaving in the morning at 0800 and that I expected them to be there on time—bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I also warned them about the trip rules for alcohol and other issues.
As I left them, I started walking towards the main drag and was immediately accosted by several tuk-tuk drivers that wanted to offer me MUCH more than just a tuk-tuk ride. It was then that I realized that a fifty-something American walking alone on the streets of a Southeast Asian city just might look to the locals like someone looking for something not quite so legal or proper. Within about 50 meters I was offered drugs, girls, and other things. I finally just walked up to a tuk-tuk driver and before he could say anything said, “Angkor Holiday Hotel please!” I jumped in and he started driving. I took a video of the trip which should be entertaining. However, we hadn’t traveled more than 200 meters when he turned around and said, “Mister, you want tuk-tuk boom-boom tonight?” I politely declined his offer and asked him to just take me the hotel.
Once back, I worked on photos from the day and went to sleep pretty early—I was tired from the early wake-up, too.