Yet another fun-filled day on AMA Waterways, AMA Dara. We started the day with breakfast in the restaurant before going on tour at 8:30am. Our first tour was to the largest monastery in Cambodia; quite an impressive complex. Here we received (after first taking off our shoes) a blessing by a senior Monk, which lasted about 10 minutes. While it was in a foreign language to us (and even our local Cambodian guide) it was a chant of sorts wishing us peace, love, and prosperous life. Throughout the chant, we sat on the floor of this magnificent Temple, with fine marbled floors (although mats were placed down for us to sit), with ornate paintings adorning the walls and high ceilings of the Temple. As the Monk chanted, he tossed out Lotus flowers into the crowd (i.e. us) which is supposedly a symbol of good luck. After the service, we went up to get a photo with the Monks leading the service; a senior and junior Monk.
We then walked around the monastery complex, noting the housing for the Monks, as well as their library, administrative building, numerous Buddhas, and even the dining hall. We were also honored to see a procession of Monks lined up, and marching in a single line to get their blessing from another line of Monks, and then going on to the dining hall. It was quite a site with their orange uniforms (orange signifies strength) walking thru the complex, at least a 100 or more in perfect stride. We took a few photos, careful not to get to close or touch them.
After leaving the monastery complex, we journeyed on to a remote part of the village, and took an ‘Ox cart ride’. This is one of those things you can say most people have probably never done! In fact we had to sign a waiver aboard AMA Waterways to do this ‘attraction’. (Kind of makes you wander what happened with previous passengers on this ox cart!) Fortunately, we had no issues, and it was actually fun! You sit backwards in the cart with your back to the driver, and the two of us squeezed in, with my legs hanging out the back. It was quite fun actually riding thru town in the ox-cart parade, getting smiles and stares from the locals. After riding thru the town and country-side, we arrived back where we started, and thanked and tipped our driver for the ride. We then headed back to the ship, where we had a couple hours to relax, and have lunch.
In the afternoon, we took a Tuk-Tuk ride around Phnom Penh, the Capital city of Cambodia. This bustling city of some 2 million people is rapidly rebuilding after nearly being exterminated during the war. The city was very busy, and we took in the sights, sounds, and smells (boy did we take in the smells!) of the city. As cities go, it is not a very clean city as we would later find out on tour that the people are not educated in sanitation and literally throw trash where it lands. The government is starting a campaign to urge proper trash disposal and even recycling, but now with non-biodegradable plastics it has not been very successful.
We had a great driver for our Tuk-Tuk ride named ‘Tee’. He spoke good English and pointed out sights along the way. When we got back to the AMA Dara, we arranged for him to meet us tomorrow night at 7:15pm as we will be having dinner in town then at a local restaurant.
We are docked in Phnom Penh for two nights, so we had dinner on the ship this evening after the tiring day of riding Ox carts and Tuk Tuks!