This year for spring break we traveled to Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Siem Reap, Cambodia. Due to the fact that there are no direct flights to Siem Reap from Bali we had to fly through KL. And, despite the fact that we were flying Malaysian Air on a 777, I felt perfectly safe (what are the chances of the airline losing two of their 777s in two weeks – pretty slim, I would think, right?!) It’s pretty obvious the airline is focused on safety these days. In my experience, I haven’t found most Asian pilots to be particularly chatty but, this guy was coming on through the whole flight with pretty lame announcements. I think the airline knows everyone is feeling a bit insecure about the fact that they lost an entire plane full of people. Not sure the weather reports and folksy chatter were enough to assuage everyone’s nerves but, he was trying. I think the passengers on our plane would have preferred a little more honesty, something like: – “Hi folks it’s your Captain, real shame about that incident last week — wanted to let everyone know we are still on course. If you look out the window, right down there, that is exactly what we are supposed to be flying over. We promise not to make any unexpected turns, and I repeat, we are still on course.” I’ll be back in ten to let you know we are still on course.”
We spent the weekend in KL which was nice. It’s a little farther than Singapore but, has many of the same attractions – lots of shopping, eating and movies. We saw a movie, did some shopping and ate a lot! Although Singapore was once part of Malaysia, it feels much more Western than KL. We ran across many more women in traditional Muslim dress including many in Burqas. By now, Fletcher has seen many women in Burqas but the first time he asked: “Mom, what are those ninjas doing here?” Now, instead of my initial reaction which is often sadness, I try to imagine the women are secret ninjas working undercover on some fantastic, exciting mission. At times, I’ve also thought how liberating it would be to never have a waist band or belt on anything you wear! Bring on the all you can eat buffet!
Next we flew on to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat and the other temples in the area. Surprisingly, the kids really enjoyed it. I think their favorite part was riding in the Tuk Tuk all around the city. We also had delicious meals everywhere we went. Not sure if it’s the French influence in Siem Reap but, the food is fantastic! Except for one truly disturbing restaurant we ran across called Pyongyang, which is a North Korean chain (Yes! North Korean!). I was blown away that these actually exist! We heard that the waitresses sing and play musical instruments to entertain everyone, while patrons enjoy delights from the menu such as dog casserole and viscous pine nut gruel (seriously, could I make this up?!) paired with specialty liquors from No. Korea in tantalizing flavors like mushroom or sea cucumber. Even though it piqued our curiosity, we obviously weren’t going to support anything related to the No. Korea regime thus, we had to forgo our dinner with Dear Leader.
After three days visiting temples, we were ready for something different so, we took a tour of a traditional “floating” fishing village and a bird sanctuary on the Tonle Sap river. The combined river and lake system is of major importance to Cambodians. The Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and is unique for two reasons: it’s flow changes direction twice a year and it rises and falls dramatically over the wet and dry season. The lake may shrink to 2500 sq meters during the dry season and increase to 15,000 sq meters in the wet season. We visited during the dry season which is from November to May. After seeing everything at close to the lowest point of the year, it would be interesting to go back and see the lake and river during the rainy season when it looks so dramatically different.