Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 18 – Cocoons, Counterfits, and Lady Boom Boom

Magnus has always been a scavenger. When he walks he is constantly scanning the ground for interesting things and has found a lot of stuff over the years, including money. This morning as we were walking into town he found a US hundred-dollar bill. He ran over to us and was so excited that I could see the spending plans already beginning to take shape in his mind. He gave me the bill to look at and it appeared sort of real, but the paper just seemed a little flimsy and it was an older bill without all the security features. I told him it was probably a fake, but he wouldn’t throw in the towel until he had independent verification, so he ran into the first money changer he could find, showed them the bill, and was immediately shooed away. He wasn’t happy with their evaluation of the authenticity of the bill so found another currency exchange place and the clerk could see from ten feet away that the bill was a fake. He wasn’t too disappointed as I think he had his doubts too that he would be able to find a hundred bucks on the road that the thousands of poverty stricken locals had somehow missed. We found out later that these fake hundreds are used for fun at weddings and also to put as offerings at Buddhist temples. He says he is going to keep it as a souvenir instead, but I think he will try to spend it the next time we are in Buffalo.

Our immediate mission for the morning was to get myself a haircut and Tony a shave. He hadn’t shaved for a week so was starting to get the salt and pepper Sean Connery look, making him irresistible to women, so I guess Angela told him it was time to scrape off the sex appeal. We found a barber and the girls and kids continued on walking while I stepped up to the plate and Tony got on deck. I asked the barber, with hand motions, to trim it all up, especially the top. So he got to work on that while I sat back and relaxed. He buzzed the sides just fine but didn’t cut a lot off the top so I asked him to take off some more, but he seemed reluctant to do so, so I put my trust in his judgement. As he was finishing, I motioned for him to trim up the goatee as it was getting a little scruffy. Using my best hand motions I indicated for him to trim it up slightly, pointing to the electric clippers. He gave me a nod indicating he understood completely and then rocked my chair back, grabbed a straight razor, and before I knew it half of my chin fluff was lying on the floor. There was no stopping him now so I just relaxed and enjoyed the dance of the straight razor, and when I emerged I was clean and hairless.

Tony was up next and the barber went to work with the straight razor, using neither hot water nor shaving foam. I was expecting we’d both be covered in razor burn but that did not happen. We’re thinking that since we were already hot and sweating there wasn’t much need for anything else. Don’t try that in Canada on a cold February morning, or you will come out looking like a murder victim.

We continued walking along the road and caught up with the ladies who were immediately stunned by my new look. Ana said she felt like she just got her old boyfriend back so I was good with that. Stella wasn’t too happy as she seems to prefer me with facial hair, but I am sure she will get used to it. We continued walking with the girls and we must have gone at least 25 steps before they found another shop to go into so we waited outside while they went browsing. A tuk-tuk driver walked up to us and tried selling us a ride, or a day trip, or even to lay in his hammock strung across the machine, but despite his persistence we just wouldn’t buy anything from him.

“You like some Lady Boom Boom?” he asked.

“Lady Boom Boom?” I inquired. “Sounds good but I’ll have to check with my wife.” His English didn’t extend far enough to understand my joke.

“Lady Boom Boom, right now, no problem!”  he persisted. Tony and I just looked at each other and laughed. Then this pack of kids and wives came out and joined us and all humour on this guy’s face dropped, and was replaced with sheer embarrassment.

“Hey, this guy going to get us some Lady Boom Boom, you girls okay with that?” I asked Ana and Angela. They looked at the tuk-tuk driver and then back at us and started shaking their heads. The tuk-tuk driver could tell what going on, and all of a sudden he pointed at his buddy (who hadn’t said a word the entire time) and says, “It was his idea, not mine!” Buddy, mystified at how he had suddenly been dragged into this, shook his head vigorously and reassigned the blame. Cambodians are the greatest.

We stopped for fifty cent drafts and overpriced juice at one of the places on Pub Street while the shopping expedition continued. Our plan for the day was to visit Angkor Artisans, which is an organization that trains young Cambodians to become craftsmen, and runs a silk farm. After walking around downtown for a while, asking various people for directions, we soon found it and were allowed to browse through the various workshops watching the young carvers at work. They produce a lot of small tourist stuff, such as Buddha heads and Khmer images, but also do large projects such as reconstructing stone carvings at local and international archaeological sites.

Earlier in the day, we had booked ourselves on the free shuttle bus to the silk farm, and on the bus we met a lovely Danish family and talked with them non-stop the entire way. Their names were Alex and Signe and they had two beautiful young daughters. I really impressed the girls with my extensive knowledge of the Danish language (about 6 words), which they thought was pretty funny as I completely mangled the pronunciation.

We had visited this silk farm the last time we were here, but we loved coming for a second time as it was very hard to understand how the whole process works; even now I still have questions. But from what I gather, they grow acres of mulberry trees, trim the leaves, feed the leaves to the silk worms housed in baskets, the worms spin cocoons and then 80% of them are left out in the sun to kill the worms and the other 20% are allowed to metamorphosize into moths to be used for breeding and producing eggs. The cocoons are then put through processes to remove the raw silk and fine silk which are transformed into coloured thread and then weaved into all sorts of intricate patterns, resulting in rolls of silk fabric. The tour takes you through each step of the process, and by the end you are feeling that paying fifty bucks for a small scarf is a very good deal indeed considering the intensive manual labour that went into making it.

After the tour, we joined up with our new Danish friends for drinks and a meal at a restaurant we found called Pot and Pan, and we ate what most agreed was the best meal in Cambodia so far. We had a great chat with Alex and Signe and by the end of the meal felt as if we’d known them for years. They even invited us to stay with them in Denmark some time, and you just can’t beat staying with friends when traveling.

As we were eating we got hit with a torrential downpour that lasted longer and dumped more rain than most of the ones we had experienced in Thailand. Until now we hadn’t had much rain at all in Cambodia, but it seemed to be coming all at once. The Henriques decided to go back to the hotel so they got in a rain-proofed tuk-tuk and paddled away. We said goodbye to our new friends and waited for a break in the rain to run down the street to the cinema and made it just in time for the evening showing of “War for the Planet of the Apes”. During our trip three years ago, we also went to see the latest release of this series, so it was all feeling very familiar.

After the movie (which was fantastic) we tuk-tuk’d back to the hotel, did some final packing for tomorrow’s departure, and called it a night.

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