I awake with a sore head but the pain is immediately softened by the elegant feel of my room with its polished, beautifully-crafted hardwood pillars and furniture. I make my way downstairs to be greeted by a buffet feast of hot and cold drinks, fruit, eggs, rice, ham, and even cheese (processed of course), and I sink into one of the regal looking dark thick wood chairs and tuck in. |
As I slowly sip my coffee, which tastes of chocolate if I'm not very much mistaken, I notice a fruit I have never seen before, pink and crazy-looking on the outside, with a carnival-type extravagant pink-and-green hairstyle of a skin, and white with black dots on the inside. I venture to take a bite and find it almost like a sorbet, fresh but not really full of flavour, though it’s fairly pleasant. I am told it's the Dragonfruit. Feeling adventurous I then go for the brown/purple round-ish ball which I later find out is a mangosteen – I open it up and as I bite into its sweet white mulsh interior, the juices run down my face and drip all over me. Messy eating, but nice.
The guesthouse employees, all sweet girls with that Asian calmness exuding from them with every soft step they take, flit about and giggle at any opportunity, and their politeness is genuine and warm. My headache has all but disappeared and then the rest of my fellow travelers traipse in. It seems that they all got up at the crack of dawn and did the whole Angkor Wat thing, they’ve been up and active for hours and have now returned for some lunch. And I was proud of myself for not sleeping in.
I again take note of the new generation’s habit of always doing, doing, doing, on the move, don’t waste a single minute, tick off as many sights and things-to-do as you can, always on the search to see something of interest, or at least something that’s featured in the Lonely Planet books. Then they move on. Like a plague of well meaning locusts devouring the land and never letting the grass grow.
I make light conversation and they all seem decent enough as they invite me to join them in their Angkor Wat excursion the following morning. But I’ve only just got here, and I decide to do things my way instead, so I take a mooch around town to see what’s what and get a feel of the place.
I walk around and I realize that my guesthouse is not quite slap bang in the middle of the tourist area but slightly away from all the action. Perfect. I immediately notice that anyone you smile at gives you a beaming smile back, and I am slightly bedazzled by the sheer number of road-side food stalls which line every street I turn down. As I inch closer towards the main part of the town, it starts to dawn on me that just about anyone who can find something that people may want to eat is out there selling it.
Travel shops advertizing Angkor Wat tours, trips to the Silk Farm and the villages on stilts in the lake, as well as visa extensions, are suddenly everywhere, as are tuk tuks, which nearly always come complete with cat-napping drivers in the back. Offers for a ride are ubiquitous and I see many tourists rudely ignore the persistent calls, angry at having been disturbed in their march and quest to ‘see’ the next thing. It seems to escape their notice that these people only persist and randomly, continuously, try their luck because they’re dirt poor. Dirt, dirt poor. I keep smiling and politely refusing. I also see many many bicycles, usually with red-faced tourists huffing and puffing and trying to enjoy the ride.
I spy many Happy Pizza restaurants and I start to understand a little more about this place.
I spot the market and I’m inadvertently drawn towards it. Markets are great places, wherever you are. In the UK, whenever I moved house I would always make sure my new area had a local market nearby, it always seemed to create a community-type of feeling around the place.
But nothing could prepare me for this market.
John Owens Is a writer for Vacations rental homes and holiday homes and rental condos rented directly from the owner of the vacation rental home.
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