March 10 ~ Siem Reap
The heat and humidity are draining and I’m struggling some today as we leave Battambang for a five-hour bus ride to Siem Reap. Keeping hydrated is a challenge as we perspire fluids as quickly as we take it in.
To break up the long drive we have two scheduled stops in addition to one short break to use the “happy room” and get a beverage.
The first stop is along the side of the highway to see a wide variety of food being grilled. The most well-known, and what probably draws the most attention is field rat. Known as “star meat” in Thailand, and having already tasted it there, I had no need to have “seconds”.
The food stalls were lined along both sides of the roadway, and we strolled past several to find interesting and unique selections that included grilled snake (both with and without skin), frogs on skewers, duck, fish drying in the sun, crickets, worms, and another dried or grilled sea creature that I think may have been small stingrays. There were also several items in jars that I could not identify.
Also seen along the side of the road, usually at the end of the food offerings, was a display of plastic bottles filled with a yellow fluid. We found out that was gasoline which is sold for locals to fill up their motor bikes. It costs around 70 cents a liter buying it this way.
I was horrified to see the cruelty to the animals shown here. Two examples we witnessed today was a load of pigs literally bound together, stacked on top of each other, still alive and tied onto a wagon and another wagon taking a load of live ducks hanging upside down with their feet bound, also still alive.
Stop number two was at a silk farm. We have also visited similar operations before in Thailand, but the tour and explanation here was well done and thorough.
Fed fresh mulberry leaves four times a day, the silk worms are raised until they are 24 days old. At that point they are placed onto round bamboo frames where they start to weave their cocoon. A small percentage are allowed to mature and hatch into moths to reproduce and continue the cycle.
The remaining silk cocoons are placed in boiling water to kill the moth inside and then placed in the sun to dry. Then the pods are again placed into hot water and carefully (and skillfully) unwound to form the very fine silk threads.
Tiny pieces of moth are painstakingly removed by hand and the silk is then prepared to dye a variety of different colors. The dye is made from plants and local flowers.
Patterns may be created on individual bundles of thread during the dying process which are then used in a very specific order to create intricate patterns in the cloth.
The weaving process is painstakingly slow and tedious. We are more aware of why fine hand-woven silk products are pricey. And of course they have a showroom where you are invited to make a purchase from beautiful items ranging from scarves to purses, clothing to pillow covers and much more.
Arriving at our hotel around two in the afternoon, in time for a late lunch and then the group broke up to explore, rest, or indulge in a massage. Feeling a bit like a wet noodle, I fell into a coma like deep sleep for a couple of hours, showered and got ready for our evening buffet dinner and cultural show called Apsara.
The food was OK, but Tim got a MSG reaction, which was not pleasant for him. I would give the show only a few stars out of ten, though the ladies were elegant, graceful and their hand movements slow and expressive. They have shaped their hands over years to be able to bend the fingers back into these artistic positions.
Tomorrow will be a BIG DAY for us – finally getting to visit Angkor Wat!
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for the healthy choices we have at home in the food categories, but found it very interesting to see and experience so many local options. Rat, snake and grilled frog are not at the top of my idea of a gourmet meal, but to each their own.