As we finished our tour of Ta Prohm and headed back along the forested path to our bus, Steven suddenly brought our group to a screeching halt by a cluster of unassuming bushes. He excitedly picked off one of the leaves and peeled it apart at its midrib to reveal a sticky, clear mucus stretched between the two halves. He explained to us that he and all the other kids in the village used to spend their playtime staring into these leaf-juice-bubbles like a telescope or using them as magnifying glasses.
Growing up in the middle-class suburbs of LA, I found it fascinating that kids could get so much enjoyment out of a leaf. It was humbling–made me realize how (and I really hate this word because of its overuse in social media, but here it is) privileged I was. My playtime as a kid was lazing around in front of the TV, watching Scooby-Doo and Pokemon marathons, or playing Zoo Tycoon on my computer. Not to say that playing outdoors is inferior in any way; it’s just that I had greater access and freedom to do different things. Go hiking? Sure. Play house with my Beanie Babies? Totally. Go to the movies? Yeah, why not.
Our time in Cambodia wouldn’t be complete without a delicious lunch–a light cucumber roll with picked bean sprouts and carrots, paired with sweet and sour sauce; red curry vegetables with a dollop of coconut cream to go with rice [“bai bai” in Khmer]; a delicious sesame roll; and a mini fruit platter of papaya, pineapple, dragon fruit, and and mango to boot.
I practically rolled out the door with such a filling lunch. Thankfully, our tour had arranged for us an hour-long massage for this very purpose.
Refreshed and no longer feeling the weight of a pot of curry and rice, we headed to the airport. Siem Reap airport is wildly busy for such a small hub–make sure you have enough time before your flight! Even though there were only 5 families in our group, it took the check-in counter more than an hour to get us all through.
Goodbye, leah hai, Cambodia! How unfortunately quick 3 days passed, and how unforgettably magical was my experience here.