Yesterday we slept so late. It was really nice. Around 10:30 we decided to eat brunch and leaving Yve behind to recover from days of fast traveling, the rest of us set out to find this Butterfly Restaurant. I didn't know much about it, but it's basically a nature preserve where you can order terribly expensive and terribly disgusting drinks while communing with a variety of beautiful butterflies. It was pretty cool. All of us enjoyed having butterflies land on us except Derek who could only manage to attract flies...
After the butterfly experience, we began walking down the road to find some landmine museum. It took such a long time walking down dusty roads and through little villages to find it. The museum was created by a Cambodian man named Aki Ra who fought with the Khmer Rouge as a child where he learned how to use all sorts of weapons and handle mines, etc. He then was captured by the Vietnamese and was forced to fight for them until finally, after the war, he was given the job of clearing the fields of mines. Since then he has made it his life's career to clear the mines in Cambodia and has cleared hundreds of thousands of them. In addition, he fosters a lot of children who have been affected by landmine incidents and helps pay for their education through the funds raised by the museum (which is free and only makes money through donations and souvenir profits). The museum is really interesting as it houses tons of landmines that he and his wife have cleared over the years. It's heartbreaking reading the statistics of landmine victims in Cambodia (and around the world).
ANGKOR DAY #1
This morning we rose early (thanks to Yve's 5 o'clock suggested wake-up call!) and had a fantastic breakfast at the new hotel we've decided to stay at. We're paying 11 dollars less a night for a currently mosquito infested room, but the owner is this really cool British guy who has been super helpful and totally up front - a trait I'm really growing to admire of late. Anyway, after breakfast (and waiting 45 minutes for our tuk-tuk drivers to show up), we left for a dusty road trip to explore several temples. Tommy and I had one tuk-tuk, and Derek, Yve, and Janice were in another. After an hour of traveling, we came to the first temple. It was quite impressive. It's hard to explain how beautifully ornate these ancient structures are.
After an extra early lunch, we were on our way to the next temple when our driver pulled over. Something was wrong with the tuk-tuk so while we waited, surrounded by children begging us to buy their scarves or any number of things, the other tuk-tuk driver took the rest of our crew to what I assume (and hope) was the next stop on their tour. Unfortunately, Tommy and I never met up with the others the rest of the day and still have not heard from them though there's suspicion that they went on to see the sunset at Angkor Wat. Anyhoo, Tommy and I had a really fun and exhausting day exploring several temples. They were surprisingly not overrun by tourists, and in many places, we felt as if we were the only ones exploring the ruins at all. It was nice, but around four we were tired and decided to head back. We did force our driver to stop at one point so that we might buy some bananas and feed some monkeys that were on the side of the road. No worries, though! They weren't just random monkeys we spotted; they were there to be fed and were actually quite tame. A couple of them climbed up our legs to grab the bananas. They were adorable.
Since we've been home (and have recovered from a not so nice confrontation with our tuk-tuk driver who tried to scam us), we've enjoyed a gluttonous meal of burritos (for me) and cheeseburger and fries (for Tommy). Oh, and a doughnut for dessert! I figured we deserved some major nourishment after hiking all day up and down stairs and through the woods.
Tomorrow we're going to rent some bicycles and bike out to Angkor Wat and hit the other temples we didn't see today. It will be another long, dusty day, but I'm really looking forward to it.