Our hotel – Jasmine Lodge – is only a twenty-minute bike ride from Angkor Wat, and we are proud holders of 7-day Angkor Wat Pass. This pass is laminated and includes a color photo, so I’d say it’s the Cambodian equivalent to a Disneyland Annual Passport. So on Wednesday I shoveled vegetable curry into my mouth and took off for Angkor Wat, feeling really cool with my sketchbook in hand – nobody needed to know I was listening to Toxic by Britney Spears. I followed a group of chatty Cambodian women with large straw hats and baskets over a river to Bayon Temple. A random Cambodian child approached me and rattled off facts: Bayon Temple has 54 temples, and I was standing in the fourth tower. Cool kid, I’m trying to listen to Britney (I realize this sounds rude, but they’ll keep following you and spouting facts until you give them money). Bayon quickly became my favorite temple- the rectangular towers have a large smiling Buddha face on each side, creating an incredibly trippy and optimistic environment. I explored the temple alone but still felt like I was in good company; finally I plopped down in a shady doorway. Maybe I’d find my zen!! Red ants attacked me, crushing my zen dreams. In times of despair, like this fire ant invasion, I turn to food. I ate one of my Kind Bar rations, and placed the sugary wrapper a few feet away to distract the ants. Crisis averted, I pulled out my sketchbook and drew a colorful rendition of the Buddha heads for a while. Japanese tourists took photos of me drawing. It was grand. The sun lowered, casting a gorgeous glow, and as I left Bayon there was a family of swans swimming in its moat. Angkor Wat is magical, ya’ll.
The kiddos had the day off from school Thursday, so Mrs. S went hog-wild at Angkor Wat. Silken donned her trendy Spell by Byron Bay skirt, a gorgeous floor-length coral number patterned with arrows, guns, and all other symbols that are so haute right now. She looked pretty hot in it too- “what a surprise” I thought, considering we were heading to monk-central. Silken’s favorite color is orange, if you catch my drift. Her tan legs peeked out of her skirt’s long slits as we bicycled down the highway, through the jungle to Angkor Wat. We presented our laminated 7-day passes and entered the sacred land. Biking the first half-kilometer along Angkor Wat’s moat was all laughs and smiles – my face actually hurt from smiling like a drugged-out maniac while bobbing my head to Vacationer’s Relief album. Locals were smiling and waving at me – I grinned and flashed peace signs, I felt like the Pope or Angelina Jolie, everyone was just so happy to see me!! People were chanting my name!
“Annie, Annie, Annie, Annie stooooooop!” huffed Nicole. I guess all the locals were trying to get my attention so I’d look back and see Silken stranded on the side of the road. I backtracked to find Silken looking like a straight-up damsel in distress; her beautiful skirt had split across the buttocks. Her booty was on display like Janet Jackson’s nipple at the Super Bowl. So much for her playing it cool about making monk friends– monks and Middle Eastern tourists alike slowed and honked at the roadside spectacle.
Anyway, not to brag, but I’m totally the fastest and fiercest biker of the group. In first grade I entered a children’s triathlon, and I finished. Everything happens for a reason, and suddenly triathlete Annie had found her calling: I was off to buy pants for the damsel in distress! I took a selfie video of the entire 40-minute endeavor, so they don’t have to scramble for footage when I receive my Nobel Peace Prize. Here’s some snippits, “Biking as fast as I can… ass falling out… hot mess…poor girl… wind against me, but I shall prevail… people are looking at me like “Who’s that girl talking to herself?” … like none of these places sell – OH PANTS! ... two pairs cause she’ll probably rip one … lady charged me 2 for $7, total bitch … hopefully she likes them … I mean black and yellow are good enough for the Steelers sooooo …say whasssup to the tuk tuk … approaching mile six … she needs to keep her junk in her trunk … there she is!! … she’s turning around showing her ass to everyone, classssic … hello, hello … yea no problem at all!”
Great minds think alike, because as I was recording my monologue, Nicole and Silken were filming music videos in the jungle to Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise.” They broke it down like they were in Angkor Whatttt? the poppin’ Pub Street nightclub, not the Angkor Wat temple.
Two hours later, our sweaty posse arrived at a small brick temple. The temple wasn’t impressive, but there was decent shopping. Silken bought more pants. Not surprisingly, she didn’t like the pants I gave her. Also not surprisingly, she bought a bright orange pair (wink wink, monks love orange). Meanwhile, children attacked Nicole by thrusting bracelets, magnets and Chinese finger traps in her face. We were the only tourists dumb enough to stop at this tiny brick temple, so the kids made it count by fanning Nicole and stuffing bracelets onto her limp hands. Nicole held her ground, but after 15 minutes I exhaustedly handed over a dollar for a stack of ugly bracelets so they’d scat. It didn’t work. If anything, I was even more attractive to the relentless sales-children.
A band comprised of recovering land-mine victims welcomed us to the next temple with cheerful oriental tunes. The temple was in the middle of a battle against tree roots – $20 says nature will win. We entered the peaceful temple and were met with two smiling faces – an old woman and a giant gold Buddha. We kneeled down one-by-one, and the loving grandma figure handed us each an incense stick to place in front of the happy Buddha. A man appeared out of the woodwork and showed Silken how to play the Cambodian version of a harmonica – she pursed her lips around two vibrating sticks, and produced a sound similar to that of Australian’s Uluru instruments. Then the man told us Tomb Raider was filmed here, and asked if we’d like to see a spider. Nicole: “Helllllllll no.” Me, “Yea, like you know the location of the spider in residence.” Silken wanted to take a picture of it – sure enough, a 4 inch x 4 inch spider that looked like it belonged on the cover of Charlotte’s Web was chillin’ hard. Nicole placed RYOT’s Theta camera on her head to record 360-degree footage while Silken and I ran around the temple. I don’t know why, but the man chased us in circles and then announced that he wished Obama were his president. Like many Cambodians, he rambled about their monarchy’s corruptness – the king has a personal army of 10,000 men to keep himself safe and in power. The temple guard could be imprisoned or killed for saying such things, but thankfully I am terrible with names.