White lies and a guiding star in Cambodia

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.

 

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Relinquishing my title

Arriving at JFK 15 minutes before my flight to Dubai was scheduled to board, I thought I was blessed when, after a little pushing at the check-in desk, I was offered an aisle seat in an exit row.

The 10-month twin boys sitting next to me were adorable. The one closest to me was easy-going, allowing the flight attendant and another woman to hold him prior to take-off. But a mere 20 minutes into the flight, the vomiting began. Few times in my life has my title of Vomit Master been in jeopardy.  However, sitting in this confined space for the next 12 hours, I was happy to relinquish the title. The little bastard threw up a whopping 15(!) times over the next 7 hours. After the concurrent rendition of favorite childhood songs performed by the 40-year old Indian sister duo ceased, I thought the torture had ended. I placed my eye mask on and settled back into my glorious seat with excessive leg room. Another 20 minutes passed and the familiar sound of vomiting commenced again. This time in stereo – it was the boy’s mother blowing chunks into her tiny little airsickness bag. Convinced I has stepped into a scene from Contagion, I slowly and discretely placed my blanket over my head willing to accept suffication rather than the prospect of drowning in someone else’s vomit.

On my next flight from Dubai to Singapore, I used this story to break the ice with the off-duty flight attendant sitting next to me. Among her other advice regarding tourism for a Westerner in Singapore, she confirmed that I would NOT be caned for vomiting on the streets of Singapore. Phew!

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