Today I had no interviews, so I went to the temples.
First, though, I clogged my toilet. I tried to unclog it myself with a bent wire hanger (I’m not sure how to smuggle it out of the guest house – maybe I can take it to Angkor tomorrow and find a public trash bin), but eventually I had to go get the poor maid to come with a plunger. Plumbing in Cambodia is touchy – all of the hotel, restaurant and guest house toilets face laminated signs pleading, “Do Not Throw The Papertowel into the Toilet,” and, “Please Leave the Feminine Napkin Only In the Rubbish Bin.” Some of them insist that you not flush toilet paper either, and those are equipped with covered straw wastebaskets that give off a sweetish rank smell in the warmth.
I was afraid that summoning the cleaner would result in a lecture – this hotel room has another laminated sign that reads, “Siem Ream Riverside is an environmentally-friendly establishment. We ask that you please not dirty the towels. Touching them to unwashed parts of the body may result in the towels making unhygienic. Guests will be held responsible for any additional cost of laundry.” I don’t know what nightmare scenario prompted the owners to write and distribute this sign, but I’m assuming customers of the Siem Reap Riverside don’t start with a clean slate.
They were kind to me, though.
The weather was hot and sunny from this morning, but I found a shady corner in Bayon to paint from. Two men from America walked past, talking about the temple construction – “I think this is, this is fuckin’ sandstone. There’s red, and yellow, and this brown – this has gotta be sandstone.” “These must be the original chisel marks they used to get the stone square.” “And there’s no fuckin’ mortar, so – ” “It’s gotta take dedication, build something like this, like – were they livin’ in it?” “It says temple, so, I think so, yeah.”
Then they ran into a couple of Australians and the four of them started comparing tattoos. “This was, straight up, the most painful tattoo I ever had done.” “It looks great.” “This one swelled up and it was leaking, and I was just, oh – ” “You have that done in Thailand?” “No, no, back home – you have to go, there’s a big Ned Kelly right outside to the left – ” “I say this is the most painful. Some people say, bone, it’s bone, but I’m like no, no, it’s the meaty parts, it’s the fat that really hurts, you gotta have fat on there. I can do bone, no problem.” “You got it all the way down, that’s amazing – ” “Yeah, right into the crack. Right in there. I creamed it up before, nothing helped. My toes were just like – ”
I moved to the front entrance later on, and a trio of Khmer kids kept walking past to say hello. Their littlest brother was too shy to talk to me, and only waved silently ahead as he was walking away.