We've spent our time at ancient temples doing pretty much what you'd expect: Soy has been working out which technologies the ancient Khmer architects did or did not have (no arch, but metal chisels) and trying to fathom the logistics of moving that much sandstone around. I've been more focused on the amazing bas-relief carvings and the stories they represent. The kids have been more taken with the frogs living in the lichen between the stones, the giant spiders being eaten by wasps,≈the pigs rootling around by the road, the troop of temple monkeys and the elephants (ELEPHANTS!).
The atmosphere at the temples, once the tour bus crowds recede, is calm and peaceful (and still and very, very hot). It's almost possible to hear the jungle growing, trying to claim the rocks back.
At least as interesting as the temples is Siem Reap - a bustling and prosperous town with everything from five star hotels to people selling petrol in 750ml Johnny Walker bottles. We've just enjoyed walking the streets and getting a feel for this vibrant, striving centre. And, of course, drinking the Angelina Jolie inspired cocktails!
The food is delicious, plentiful and cheap. Lots of herbs and fish and not too much chilli, so we are all able to enjoy ourselves (although Nell continues to order pasta wherever she can get it). We are going a bit crazy on tropical fruit and participating in the war between Cambodia beer and Angkor beer (we can't tell the diff). The kids are conducting a survey of Cambodia's citrus drinks: lime or lemon juice crushies make a pretty good cool down treat.
We spent the weekend travelling to the floating village of Prek Toal in Batambang province. The town of 7,000 people live in wooden houses floating on bamboo rafts (if they're wealthy) or polystyrene (if they're not). The town has no running water or electricity, save for car batteries the power lights and TV sets at night, but there were three mobile phone repeater towers! We stayed with a local family of tailors who generously gave us their lounge room equipped with big mosquito tents and camping mattresses. We all watched some excellent Cambodian game shows and then settled down to sleep. Sounds idyllic enough, if it weren't for the fact that transport around Prek Toal is by power boat - all running incredibly loud two stroke engines. It was like having four lawn mowers drive past your head every five minutes. All night! Restful.
Fortunately we didn't find out until the morning that the family's other source of income (apart from seamstressing and tourism) was raising crocodiles in a bamboo cage about a metre from where we slept. Then again, they were only little (1.5 metre) Siamese crocs - hardly scary at all!
The only thing we haven't seen yet, saving for last, is Angkor Wat itself. Tomorrow we will head out and tackle the most famous of Cambodia's temples before another afternoon by the pool. Or maybe another fish pedicure at the markets?
Or an afternoon at the butterfly farm eating ice cream? Who knows. What we do know is that it will be hot, we'll be sweaty and exhausted and happy.
See you all soon.
Elissa, Simon, Isaac and Nell