Today in Siem Reap we had a free day where we could choose to go wherever we wanted. Some of us went shopping, some of us went to church, a few of us went to Angkor National Museum, and we even had a couple of people go zip lining through the trees of Siem Reap.
Sarah was one of the people who went shopping on Pub Street which is Siem Reap’s main tourist area. It is complete with bars, shops, and restaurants. We have been here long enough to consistently see similar items sold at almost every market. Sarah feels as though she has seen everything that is sold in the tourist markets and that she wishes where to see something new sold. For example, everywhere you go vendors are selling elephant pants. These were very cool at first but now most students have purchased multiple pairs and there are only so many ways to design elephant pants, so Sarah is ready to move on to something new.
Sarah also went to church. It was a Christian based service that was an hour and a half long. Sarah was bored and very close to falling asleep during the ten minute prayer that took place. The service was a nice cultural experience, but it was also long winded, consisting of a forty five minute sermon.
Gaby was one of the students who went to the Angkor National Museum. She spent a little over two hours looking through the 8 different galleries. One of the galleries was the Gallery of 1000 Buddhas, which is exactly what it sounds like. Gaby said that this gallery reiterated just how important Buddhism is to the Cambodian culture. There was also a lot of Khmer history within the museum. Much of the information, was covered when we visited the National Museum in Phnom Penh. Some of the sculptures were duplicates of what was in the previous museum. Nonetheless, there was a lot of information to learn about. This particular museum has caused a little bit of controversy since its opening because the museum is owned by a Thai organization, rather than a Cambodian one. Because of this, there are groups of people that think that the primary goal of the museum is to make a profit rather than to show Khmer history. Gaby says that after walking through the museum and seeing similarities to the museum in Phnom Penh, it seems to her that the focus of the museum is to demonstrate history and not just to make a profit.
After our free morning and afternoon, we got together and went to a dinner and dance performance at a fancy hotel. The dance performance had five acts focusing on traditional and mythological story telling. It was the same techniques and styles as what we saw at the Living Arts Center in Phnom Penh, except they were in traditional Khmer attire. Much of the group felt that it was exquisite and well done and that it showcased great technique and keeping the traditional dance alive. Their hand and feet placements were very graceful and precise. This, combined their attire, accentuated the difficulty that this traditional dance has. The food was Khmer cuisine served buffet style, which allowed us to eat and watch simultaneously. So we got the best of both worlds!