A couple of months ago I was in Siem Reap for my third visit. One morning my usual tuk-tuk driver Rav, drove me out to Angkor Thom, the ancient walled city of temples. He parked near Baphuon Temple and explained where he would be when I walked out at the other end. I went into this amazing 11th century complex and wandered around, visiting both Baphuon and the ancient Royal Palace of Phimeneakas. The grounds these temples are set in are as beautiful as the amazing temples they house, with beautiful tracks through shaded natural forests of huge archaic trees, reminiscent of a fairytale.
It was only about 7am but the humidity was high and the temperature was in the 30s. Climbing a few storeys up steep ladder-like staircases into the heights of Baphuon temple in the blazing morning sun I soon found myself sweating and no matter what shade or breeze I found thereafter, it was not possible to control the perspiration which falls off me so readily in this sweltering thick humidity. I’ve discovered that my scalp is a cone shape, wider at the top and narrowing down to my ears, because I begin to sweat on the top of my scalp and beads of sweat drip onto the tip of my ears, sometimes landing inside my ear. It is a natural form of waterboarding – torturous in that I am constantly checking that the heavy drops are not some sort of insect. So I am constantly patting my soaked temples to reassure myself that there is not a giant cockroach perched atop my ears. Not everyone sweats like me, from the head. Bee complains about the backs of her hands and that people stare at them when they break out into sweat. I would far prefer it to manifest on the back of my hands, than on my head with dripping hair and irritating earlobes. But it’s a torture I have come to bear as there is no other choice. I did try psyching the sweat off my head and onto my hands but it didn’t work.
Walking out at the other end of this magical experience smothered in my own salty water, I found Rav in the sea of tuk tuks and we headed over to the next temples, the much smaller but equally impressive Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda, two temples of almost identical design across a small track from each other. They were beautiful but it did not take long to view either of them, especially as the hotel pool was beckoning loudly. I reappeared at the tuk tuk in record time, frightening Rav out of a relaxed slumber across the back seat of his vehicle. He jumped up in surprise, looked me up and down and said with emphasised shock “Helen! You are SO hot! You have MANY sweats!”. It was a bit mortifying as he, dry-as-a-bone, stared in fascination at the hot sweating foreigner who, as one of my staff tells people, “cannot support this weather”! When I got out of his tuk tuk at the other end and the seat was drenched in my body-shaped sweat, the mortification went up a few notches.
My “many sweats” were unremitting until about a week ago when the rains finally broke. Now there are many sweats, then a heavy downpour evaporates much of the steam, evaporating the sweats to something reasonably tolerable, before slowly building up into the next tropical storm which currently takes a few days. Once we are in the throes of the Rainy Season the storms will be daily. So I continue to have many sweats, but now with regular remission.
Yesterday was a colleague’s birthday and a group of us went to an outdoor riverside restaurant to celebrate with her. There were about twenty of us at a long table with sunken sections along the centre which the waiters filled with hot coals over which a metal barbecue frame was placed. Plates of fresh meats, vegetables and seafoods were placed beside each burning barbecue and we cooked our own food, supplied with various sauces and dips. As the only expat with them, I was as always looked after, with English translations, explanations of the food and dressings, my glass topped up, birthday cake brought to me. Sitting right in front of one of the barbecues on a hot night, my many sweats broke out and I was informed (in case I was unaware) that I was sweating! Every day I am told “you are sweating”. I usually thank my informer politely, chuckling inside at the thought that I might not notice the soaked state of my burning head or the waterboarding torture aimed at my ears!
Suddenly a breeze began to blow at my back and I turned to see the waiter and waitress aiming a fan they had brought to the table in my direct path from behind! I guess it’s yet more evidence of being treated like a Queen in Cambodia. A big, white, sweaty mess of a mortified Queen.