Travel

Spirit Animals, in Every Sense

Note: This is from a series of journal entries written in March/April of this year when my sweetie and I travelled through Asia. This one is from Siem Reap, Cambodia. 

So let’s talk about this turtle.

We arrived in Siem Reap around 8am on an open tarmac and a small, efficient, adorable airport. Right off the bat, it was a unique and utterly Cambodian experience. From the debarring experience to the architecture to the flora, it got my attention and made me realize we were in a place I’d only ever read about and often. After a lengthy visa process, also new to me, we boarded a set of tuk tuks Ale had procured, led by Mr. King Ying, and slowly and entertainingly, made our way through the increasingly chaotic streets of outer Siem Reap towards the city center where our hotel was situated.

Let me tell you, being in a tuk tuk makes a traffic experience that would otherwise be nauseating and terrifying into a thoroughly entertaining, relaxing, engaging experience. There are no traffic laws really engaged in. Maybe loosely. It’s more like a mutually agreed upon set of conduct rules. But lanes aren’t really a thing, as are intersection stops, and traffic lights are only grudgingly followed.

Siem Reap is not a city in the western sense. Mostly it’s this beautiful ramshackle, this sweaty, unpolished hodge podge of materials and bodies and experiences. But somehow it’s not overwhelming. We arrive on a hotel, and after unloading and eating we get back on the tuk tuks and led Mr. Kim take us somewhere interesting. Which ended up being a section of the old town which hosed a temple, a little street altar and a collection of stands selling flowers and such for aforementioned temples. Lotus flowers, various produce for offering, and most interestingly, cages and cages of little birds and a big tub of turtles. These, apparently, were for people to buy and then ceremonially release. What caught my attention was one turtle, at the top of the otherwise lethargic pile, slowly and stubbornly clawing its way up and across a portion of the bird cages next to him. Undettered by cumbersome body or his distracted keepers, that little turtle clawed himself up, over, and upside down, until eventually it tumbled to the ground, free. Except the old lady saw and grabbed it.

But still-the spirit!

Later, at the old market, amongst piles of scarves, chochkees, pseudo-temple ware and other buyable, in the heavy heat of the day, I came across little wooded turtle and decided that this little animal, this one in specific, was my spirit animal. Slow, heavy, cumbersome…but stubborn, ornery, and full of fight and spirit. So I bought it. Along with prayer beads, and a set of light cotton long pants which I’m actually excited about.

To be continued…

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