That title sounds awfully futuristic doesn’t it? Well it isn’t, as that is
the date here in Thailand. 2550 if the year of the Buddhist era, which is
the calendar they use here. New Year’s Eve last night was a bit low key due
to these simultaneous bombings in various parts of Bangkok. I’m here for all
the excitement…first the coup, and now this! But alas, our return from
Cambodia (which was fantastic) marked the beginning of the end of my time in
Thailand. I return home on January 4th, which will be quite a shock after
spending over 5 months here.
Anyways, our last day in Cambodia (December 30) was real low key. We visited
the Tonle Sap lake in the morning which is the largest lake in Cambodia and
Southeast Asia. It eventually connects to the Mekong River, so it would be
possible to travel to Phnom Pehn and even down to the ocean. There was a
floating village we stopped at (to look at an “exhibit” on commercial
fishing). It was interesting to see floating village life (people did
everything in the lake, from bathing and washing clothes, to going to the
bathroom!). It also gave us a chance to get out of the wealth of Siem Reap
and see the real Cambodia, which looked much different and poorer. They’ve
certainly been through a lot.
In the afternoon we went shopping. First stop was this training school
called Artisans de Angkor where they trained young people in creating
crafts. Afterwards we went to the market and bought a few things. On the way
to the airport, our fantastic guide asked us what we thought of the
Cambodian people. I didn’t feel I could really speak to that, as the only
Cambodian people we had contact with were the guide and our driver, aside
from workers at the hotel as well. The only other impression of people we
got was the little kids relentlessly trying to sell us stuff at the temples
(at every entrance it was a horde of vendors). I definitely want to go back,
as I don’t really feel that I actually saw Cambodia.
My brother and his fiancee arrived in Bangkok on the 28th and we
conveniently ran into my brother in the hotel lobby at 10pm when we arrived
(we breezed through immigration for a change). We went up to my parents room
and they sprung some news on us. We’d been told to keep the 31st open but
didn’t know why, and as it turns out, after 23 years, they were going to get
married the next day! They’d been planning it for months…a “joining of
souls” ceremony at a Wat which would be done by some Buddhist monks!
The next day (31st) the fun began. A van picked us up for the day and took
us to this Wat outside of town near my friend John’s house, who I stayed
with when I first arrived in August. The ceremony took about an hour and we
didn’t understand a word. There were five monks and they chanted in Pali,
the language of Theravada Buddhism which is a lost ancient Indian language.
It was very nice…especially when they chanted in unison. We had a little
break in the middle while my parents offered a large meal to the monks (they
eat two meals a day before noon…this was their lunch) and then we sat
there and watched them eat their lunch! It was rather strange. When they
were done, my parents offered monk buckets and flowers…then more chanting,
and then it was over. It was quite nice, and different!
Today we headed to the craziness of Chinatown, and also went to the Oriental
Hotel, the fanciest in the city, for high tea, which was a wonderful treat.
Tomorrow, my parents and grandmother leave (but my brother and his fiancee
stay). We’re gonna go to Ayutthaya for the night, before coming back for my
flight at 6:45am on the 4th!