Today we went back to Angkor Wat. We went around 4 p.m. to avoid the brunt of the tourist craziness. It was kind of an overcast day but ridiculously hot–I was trying not to use my t-shirt as a sweat mop. We went to our favorite spot in the temple, the third floor, which is the meditation section where monks typically went to meditate (back in the day). We sat, read, and watched Chinese tourists pose with peace signs against the gorgeous temple’s stone sculptures.
After the guards kicked us out at 5 p.m., we walked out of the temple and saw a group of monks in their impressive orange robes also walking out, a few paces ahead of us. Most practicing monks don’t go to Angkor Wat because it’s so touristy, so it was special to see them there. Westerner girls in short shorts and tank tops asked to pose in photos with the monks, behaving pretty disrespectfully. One of the girls squeezed in between two monks and tried to reach her arm around one of them, at which the monk jumped back and they all started to exclaim (doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know Buddhist monks don’t touch women, especially half dressed ones….) Ellie and I just thought we would keep walking and maybe, if we were lucky, snag one photo. I smiled at one of the monks as we walked by and he proceeded to ask me in PERFECT English where I was from and how long I would be in Cambodia. We walked out of Angkor Wat together, a whole procession of monks behind us, and a ton of tourists looking on, jealous and confused that they were talking to us and not them.
I had a huge wide smile plastered on my face. I couldn’t even tell that it was hot or raining. The monks were so humble, kindly asking us which temples we had been to and how we liked Cambodia. When we were about to say goodbye, the older monk pulled out an IPAD and asked me to write me and Ellie’s names down…so he could add us on FACEBOOK.
My mind was blown. These monks make a trip to Angkor Wat every Sunday to pray… but they are allowed to have iPads? They seem to be so revered by the culture and the people, but are humble enough to ask us questions about who we are and where we come from? They told us they couldn’t shake our hands because we were girls but they were all incredibly nice and gracious as they walked away from Angkor Wat, orange flowing cloths carrying them off. Rain fell when we first left the temple, but after speaking with the monks, the sun came out, followed by a rainbow.