Thursday morning, the only guest in the hotel awake at 5:30am, and most importantly, the only person at the glorious breakfast complete with pokey fruit (rambutan) and fried noodles, I was ready to seize the day. At 6am, my driver arrived. He introduced himself as Dara and, apparently I introduced myself as “Jeska.”
Dara and I really hit it off. He broke things down for me, “Angkor Wat, Ankor means city and Wat means big, big city. Angkor Wat is like big city, the biggest temple. But it funny when hotel called Angkor City Hotel, means city city. Funny.” He knew the route to see the temples sans tourists and how to maneuver me away from the children selling “10 postcards for one dollar,” even available on credit to be repaid upon your return from the temples. I learned that I needed Dara’s help maneuvering away from the children seeing as my method of not getting sucked into an unnecessary purchase didn’t really work. The first few times I got out of the car, simply, “I don’t have any money” seemed to make sense as I had actually left my wallet in the car. But realizing that I missed out on a few quality purchases and was chased down for the one dollar that I “owed” a woman for her good luck blessing and an incense, I brought it with me on the remainder of the stops.
At Preah Khan, I reiterated my white lie to a girl selling keychains at the temple’s entrance, ” I have no money.” While inside the temple, I spotted some paintings that were perfect for my ugly art collection. After buying a large blue one, which I later found out represents ” ‘womandom’ and dancing” (coincidence?), I returned to the temple’s entrance. Immediately, I was spotted with my new purchase by the keychain girl, “you lie. you have money, you pretty girl but you good liar. Maybe your heart is not the color of your red shirt.” I was busted (and guilt tripped)!
After this experience, I entrusted Dara to be my guide. For lunch, he took me to Ankor Flower restaurant, which was again completely empty for the 11am early bird special. He dropped me off and then parked himself in the hot and empty parking lot. Immediately, I ran back outside, brought him to the table and offered to buy him lunch. He suggested that I order the Chicken Amok, which although was quite delicious, I was not able to separate it from the image of a group of chickens performing the Malaysian military tactic (thank you Eat Pray Love). Over this mildly awkward lunch, we talked about important things such as the meaning of his name (star), how far away I live from work (n/a), and how much my hotel costs a night (I have a special price). Dara inquired as to what kind of special price. I attempted to explain to him the brilliance that is Starwood points but this did not seem to really click with him as he interrupted me, “you should work for Starwood!” Yes, Dara, I should.