Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Only hours are left to this year, but we slept in as long as possible, which turned out to be 9:00 am. Big whoop!! We needed to make reservations for a place in Vietnam, so Blue Pumpkin to the rescue. Just as we walked up, someone took the patio table by the electric outlet, but there was one on the first floor, so I grabbed it. The store next door has a great selection of unique gifts, so I made my fifth trip in there and made one last purchase.

Dropping off the computer, we took off walking in the opposite direction of the market area. We have passed this area a number of times going and coming from Angkor, but have not stopped here. We walked quite a distance looking for a store that Ron had read about in the travel guide, but we could not find it. Street signs or any identification is nil. We never did find the store, but we did find a café that serves good coffee.

On the way back, we stopped at some food vendors and looked at strange fruits. We had tasted dragon fruit in Kuala Lumpur, but we never tasted this fruit that looks like a red tennis ball with porcupine syndrome. The woman peeled one for us and we tasted its juicy sweet yet tangy flesh. Then she peeled these little brown marbles and popped out a slimy ball with a dark pit in the center, making it look like an eyeball staring at me, with the pit as a pupil. It felt like what I imagine an eyeball would feel like or at least what my eyeball feels like when I put in contact lens. We bought some of each just as thanks for introducing us to these new tastes. We will give them to the hotel staff as we leave on a bus tomorrow.

The rest of the afternoon was spent writing, working with photos, and just kicking back. Ron wanted to go to the Blue Pumpkin sale. After 7:00 pm, all of their left over baked goods is 50% off and we would have them for snacks on the bus. We started speaking to a tuk-tuk driver who was telling us that although tourism has been up this year, it still has been a bad year for the tuk-tuk drivers. The increase in tourism is due to the Koreans; however, there are Korean businesses here that cater to them. The Korean travel agencies here draw them, then Korean bus services drive them around and they eat at Korean restaurants. Then the profits are sent back to Korea, not contributing to the local economy. Sounds like Wal-Mart. He also said that many of the tuk-tuk drivers are from the provinces where their family has sold a cow or ox in order to buy a tuk-tuk for their son to come to Siem Reap to make money and send it back home. Unfortunately, these drivers have to rent a room and survive here in the city when they are not driving or trying to convince someone to ride with them. Add to this the increasing price of gasoline and he has us in tears for these poor guys.

As we were talking, he asked where we were going for dinner. We had not decided yet, so he suggested a hotel that has a buffet dinner and a dance show. Wary of such suggestions, he offered to drive us to the hotel to make a decision when we arrived. It was indeed one of the larger hotels and it is packed with who else, but Koreans. We were able to get a table right near the stage, very lucky since it was so full of bus tour groups and we did not have a reservation. The show was excellent dances of Cambodian culture. The buffet was extensive with Cambodian dishes and it was all you can eat sans drinks. Dinner was $12.00 each, a bargain by far.

Our tuk-tuk friend returned to get us and return us to the hotel where I will work on pictures and Ron will nap for the fourth time today. When we arrived, we asked our driver how much we owed, bearing in mind the sob story he gave us. He said whatever we wanted to give him, making it difficult since the ride was only 10 minutes and easily walkable. However, being a special day, the end of the year, we should prosper others and I gave him $7.00. He about did somersaults and it was not an act. I believe he thought we were more generous than he anticipated.

We hung around the hotel room until 11:00 and then went to the block party. There were about six blocks cut off from traffic, but only one block was a party area. Beers were $1.00 and the street was mobbed. No fabulous fireworks or other fun things, but hundreds of people having a good time dancing in the street to loud music making merry. The Cambodians do not celebrate New Years at this time, so they all wished us a happy one. I think theirs falls in April.

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