The cinema beckoned this morning. We try to go on every country we visit so today was our day for Cambodia. The Platinum Cineplex is modern and relaxing. Tickets cost $US3 each and snacks about the same again. There was a good selection of English language films in 2D and 3D. We chose Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: the story of a young American soldier’s journey with PTSD. It was thoroughly moving and thought-provoking. The quality of the cinema experience here is excellent and the seats far more comfortable than our local cinema at home (though it is being upgraded so that will change). If you are seeking some reprieve from the heat, this is a good option in Siem Riep.
Down on the river banks preparations are in full swing for the Water Festival. Long boat crews were busy training and practicing in the Siem Riep River. Along the banks marquees were set up with hammocks strung from every tree, post and vehicle. Large woks and barbecues will allow the groups to share meals throughout the festival. It looks like it will be a cracker – though we won’t be here for it.
We spend the day time hours enjoying town. We eat cupcakes at Bloom: an NGO that provides training, employment and access to healthcare to women. The cupcakes are delicious and pretty. We have our teeth cleaned and scaled at the dentist for $US8 (at home this would cost $100-200 so I haven’t had it done in three years). And we haggle for a few items from the markets. I buy a camping hammock with mosquito net for $US11. And Paul gets a t-shirt seller down from $US6 per shirt to two shirts for $US5.
But the highlight of the day is our evening excursion to the Phare Circus. Words cannot do justice to this emotionally charged experience. Acrobats, musicians and a painter work the stage, sharing the story of how the war has affected the people of Cambodia and what they are doing to move forward into the future. Even writing about it twelve hours later I feel a lump well up in my throat. Such was the brilliance. The performers, musicians and artists are trained at the Phare School, which provides free education in the arts to Cambodian youth. The storytelling is second to none and I leave looking at the locals in a whole new light. Sure, I had a positive perception of the country and it’s peoples’ resilience but the performance made it more real and emotionally engaging than anything written ever could.