Two more nights in Cambodia, and then to Vietnam. I took the bus to Phnom Penh this morning.
The bus stopped at two roadside food stands. The first had crickets. I asked how much for one, and she tried to give me a whole cupful. Nooooo, no no no. Just one cricket. The vendors wanted to give it to me for free, but I paid 15 cents. They were pretty tickled. I had read that you're supposed to take off the legs so they don't get stuck in your throat. Off they went. It didn't taste bad at all, it was just mentally a little hard to eat because it was a bug.
I felt pretty proud of myself, but the cricket proved to be small beans compared to the second roadside stand. They were selling something on a plate that was a mess of big worm-like objects piled amongst chunky things. The worms were legs, and it was a plate of tarantulas. I had gotten back on the bus before I worked up the courage to get back off and buy one.
Looking at the thing in the plastic bag she gave me was disgusting. Leg to leg it went from the base of my palm to the tip of my fingers. If YOU had a tarantula in your hand, how would you eat it? I didn't know either. I tried to ask the woman, and she mimed holding it by a leg and lowering it into her mouth. Hellz no. I had to stare at it for a while, and nibbled at a leg. The leg still had hair on it. It also had a little bone in it. I didn't know that tarantulas had bones, but I swear this thing had bones in its legs. Little nibbles and you could pull the husk off, leaving the bone exposed. I took pictures. So gross.
I was determined to eat more, but it was so hard to work up to it. To make matters worse, I was back on the bus. If I tried and lost it, I would have had three more embarrassing hours on a hot bus reeking of vomit surrounded by angry Cambodians. The main body had all the thick legs connecting to it, so on top of looking especially gross, I was afraid it would be bony. Upon closer inspection there were also two little claws or something that felt just like sharp toenail clippings. No way they would have been chewable. That left only the back part. Maybe the thorax, maybe the abdomen, maybe something else. The little spinneret things where the silk comes out was cooked but still gummy-looking. Extra gross was the worried thought that maybe tarantulas don't make webs. And if that hole wasn't where the web came out... It was hard to eat, and took a while to chew, but I got it down. It smelled like potato chips. Lays. Try not to think of that next time you crack a bag of those open.
At the beginning of the trip, when I decided to take a break on five years of vegetarianism to make sure I experienced the culture everywhere I went, I told myself I would try everything. Even dog.
One of the restaurants we stopped at had a dog in a little cage out back behind the kitchen next to a big pile of garbage. It was yipping and crying and jerking at the chicken-wire with its teeth. We stayed for 20 minutes and it was yipping the whole time. Horrible. I won't be trying dog.
Back in Siem Reap, the Angkor temples were gorgeous. The first two days my tuk-tuk took me around for a look. Thankfully, he wasn't too much of a crook. He charged me only slightly more than it said in the book. Nook cook snook. Mistook.
That afternoon we went to the River of a Thousand Lingas. The Khmer carved the living rock of the river bed with linga (kind of like big raised bumps) and Hindu gods. The second day we went to more temples. The third day I rented a bike and rode back to the park. More temples. Look at some pictures. They are gorgeous, but three days is a lot of temples. For a change of pace, I rode out into the countryside looking for an infrequently visited temple.
I never found it. But the farther I rode along the dirt road, the friendlier people got. Little kids love to yell out “HELLO!” and are absolutely thrilled when you yell back. They will give you two for free, pause before the third, and then keep it up until you are out of earshot, laughing hysterically. By the end of the road, even the adults were yelling out “hello!” and laughing and waving when you smiled and yelled back. Even a very grizzled looking guy on his motor bike, riding slowly towards me and glaring, flatly said “hello” as he got close. I yelled back “hello!” with a smile. He laughed a husky “hehehe,” gunned the throttle and sped down the road.
Last night in Siem Reap I had my most overt encounter with a criminal to date. As I walked out of my hostel for dinner, I was startled by a guy standing in the dark in the garden bed just outside door. I had been singing to myself, and apologized for jumping. I kept walking, and he followed me. He was following me much too close for us just to have been walking in the same direction. I was turning around to look at him to make sure he knew I saw him. As we walked I was also watching the shadows from the streetlights and saw him closing the gap. I stepped into a well-lit shop, made sure he walked past, asked the shopkeeper a few questions, and went back out on the street. The guy was up ahead and had slowed down his pace to well below walking. Even though I was walking as slowly as I could, I still caught up to him. He was trying to drift back behind me. I wasn't letting it happen. I was looking him up and down to try and figure out what he was after. There was something very small and very discreetly concealed between his thumb and forefinger. You had to really look to see it. I think it was a razor blade, and he was probably trying to razor my bag. When we got close to the main street he stopped. I crossed the street and passed him. He turned around and wandered back towards the alley. It was still pretty busy where we were, so I gave him some space and walked 30 feet back after him to see where he stopped. He squatted down in front of an empty building. I went and got some dinner
In Siem Reap I was paying $1 a night for a mattress behind the guesthouse. It was covered, on a raised platform, and had a mosquito net. It was also right next to a hive of Cambodian activity that didn't seem to slow down until the very wee hours of the morning. They ran the guesthouse and they had babies and people of all ages laughing and playing cards and creating a ruckus all of the time. There was also a light that didn't get turned off, a bar on the roof that played music loud enough to hear, and a club next door that played music loud enough to feel. Sunday night was karaoke night. When you had to get up at 4:45 in the morning to catch sunrise at Angkor Wat, it got very frustrating to deal with. But for a dollar? Can't complain.
As a last bit of news, two days ago I shaved my head. You know you're losing your hair when you shave your head and look the same. The barber used a guard on the razor so it didn't cut right to the scalp. He took off the guard to do some edge trimming, set the razor down to brush aside some hair, and picked the razor back up, still guardless. He moved it slowly towards my head. I was watching him in the mirror. The slightly puzzled look on his face made it clear he knew something was wrong, and he was moving in slow motion as he tried to figure out what it was. He didn't. His face changed from puzzled to a pleased “oh well,” and his movements cranked back up to full speed. He touched the razor to my head, BZZT, and jerked it back up. He looked at the razor, looked at the new square shaped bald spot on the back of my head, looked at me in the mirror , and shouted “I so sorry!” He gave me a dollar off, though, for grand total of $2 to cut off all your hair and carve a little off-center patch out of the back of your head.
I found out today that I got ANOTHER speeding ticket from Australia. This one is $141 for supposedly speeding in a school zone. I seriously cannot believe it.
I haven't taken any pictures yet of the head shaving, but will try and post some soon. You can shoot a rocket launcher somewhere nearby. Maybe they would just let me hold it for a cool picture. For now, you can just imagine either an upside down egg or Charlie Brown, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what I look like.
Tomorrow I'm going to the Killing Fields and S-21 prison museum. It will be a very somber day.