Cambodia travels: cyclo trip and more

051045048043The colors of the museum building are bright and the entrance looks ornate and beautiful.  Once we go in, it is easy to see the prevalent Hindu/Indian influence in Cambodia: statues of Vishnu and Brahma scattered around along with the Apsara and other fixtures of Cambodian art. I remember our trip to Thanjavur, South India and marveling at the bronze statues of the gods and goddesses, such precision, grace and style!  These are different yet majestic and massive sizes. South-east Asia was definitely influenced by the Hindu kingdoms and had several Hindu kings rule there as well. I remember seeing a stone structure depicting the story of the Ramayana in my Cambodian friend’s home in the US.

Yet with all these Hindu influences, the message of Buddha reached the far east and converted a lot of them to the religion of Buddhism and left few in India. Sol hustles us outside the museum and we see these green-shirted men waiting in cyclos (what we call cycle-rickshaw in India) to take us around the central park area. Gingerly I sit in one and when I feel comfortable, I start taking pictures of my cousins and uncles in other cyclos.  The streets are very clean and I see big hotels and buildings as we go around and women are getting ready to start their evening fast food sales. Malaysia was similar, people love eating tit-bits and snacks on the street. Street vendors abound here.

The cyclo ride takes us around the park . It is a slightly elevated park and is named for a woman  called Lady Penh . “Phnom” means hill so the capital is named after a woman:Lady of the Hill.Apparently , a Cambodian legend talks about an old woman named Penh who found four images of Buddhas and housed them on a hill near the Mekong river. Ok, I learnt something new today.  We get back to our hotel and sit around chatting before dinner. Dinner is special tonight, Sol is taking us to a lovely restaurant near the Tonle Sap river for Khmer food. We sit near a bunch of dancers and have fish amok , vegetarian stews and soups that are incredibly tasty.  The fish amok has lemongrass and a special flavor of galangal with lots of vegetables and some coconut milk. The flavor reminds one of Thai food, but it is not so spicy and yet so tasty.  All the dishes are just so good, I think I can live here forever! Soon the  music starts and the dancers in white move around gracefully and show expression in their hand movements. They wear  along pointed gold-like crown on their heads and the movements are slight and precise. It is a wonderful end to a long day for us.

We then walk over to the Night Market which is colorful. I see lots of Laotian, Thai and Vietnamese fabrics along with the famous kramas of Cambodia.  I have seen a lot of Cambodians, men and women move around the city in their motorbikes and their faces are covered with these checked cotton scarves they call kramas. The vendors cry out a few words in English, “Madame, madam, look, I give you good price!”  I have no idea if ‘my head is being shaved’ (I am getting ripped off) here. I see a silk-cotton mix scarf and buy it.  My cousin is horrified that  I did not bargain much. We take tuk-tuks back to the hotel.

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