Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Unexpectedly Awesome

I woke up this morning without the slightest idea of how I was going to spend the day. There was no school (it's a holiday in Cambodia right now) and being that my time in Siem Reap is coming to an end I felt pressured to "do" something and make the most of my day. After trying and failing to come up with something more exciting to do, I settled on going for a bike ride. Although I was initially a bit disappointed with myself for not doing something more adventurous, the day ended up completely exceeding my expectations.

I ventured out to the "countryside", as people call it (only a few kilometers outside of the center of Siem Reap but a very rural area nonetheless) and came across a pagoda. I went inside to have a look and met a delightful old man named Chian. He spoke no English but he did speak French so luckily we were able to communicate. He explained to me that the monks were just about to go into the temple for lunch (whenever there is a holiday in Cambodia people prepare lots of food and offer it to the monks) and invited me to join, because after the monks finish the "non monks" are allowed to eat too.

Upon entering the temple Chian showed me the special way to pray before eating which entails kneeling in a certain way, holding your hands together and touching the floor three times. After we had all prayed the monks began to eat while Chian and I chatted, waiting for our turn (which came about 30 minutes later). At first I felt extremely guilty that I had nothing to offer the monks, but then I remembered the Goldfish (American fish-shaped crackers, for anyone who doesn't know) in my backpack that had arrived in my package from home just yesterday. I figured it was better than nothing and so my Goldfish were placed on the table alongside the rice, fish, soups and other Cambodian dishes, which I found quite funny.

After lunch the monks returned to their duties and Chian had to go back home. I wandered around the pagoda a little more and met another monk, Sony, who was very friendly and spoke excellent English. We got to talking and he informed me that he could tell fortunes. I asked if he would tell me mine and he obliged. All he needed was my birth date and off he went, writing down and circling various symbols I had never seen before; it was absolutely fascinating to watch. (For anyone who's curious I am apparently brave and will do well if I ever work in politics/government).

After leaving the pagoda I was tired from biking in the heat and decided to finish off the day sitting by a hotel pool, which I had all to myself, drinking a coconut and listening to my iPod. 

When traveling, there are times when you know exactly what you are going to see or do and you know it's going to be amazing. I found that to be the case when I saw the Eiffel Tower, experienced the Venice Carnival and explored the temples of Angkor Wat. Then there are times where you don't plan anything at all, when you don't even do anything that significant and yet those days often end up being just as memorable, if not more so, than the ones where you planned something major. That's what today was: unexpectedly awesome.

The countryside of Siem Reap

Making my offering (of Goldfish!) to a monk

In Cambodia it's monks, not ladies, first!

The cats were hungry too

Adorable 'pon pro' (young boy) in the temple

Monk eating

One of these foods is not like the others...

Chian and I in the temple

Sony predicting my fortune

Unlike anything I had ever seen before


Sarah Abjeg said...

I am glad you had a good day alex, it's true the ebst thing we live are those we planned the elast for ;)
Talk to you soon :)

Des bisous

Anonymous said...

Hi Alex
You don't know me, but your Mom and Dad do. I just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your blog! I'll continue to follow with great interest. Monks, landmines, hmm.
Deanna Bohun

Susan Zwick said...

What an awesome sounding day indeed. One you will never forget... ( to add to the other score of unforgettable) days!!! Great photos!

Wondering and Wandering said...

@ Sarah - Trop vrai, I kept thinking of all our European/Moroccan adventures we didn't plan :) bis!

@ Deanna - Glad you are enjoying it, thanks so much for reading!!

@ Mom - Definitely won't forget it. Thanks!