First off, I´d like to thank everyone who left comments on my homm post last week. The internet situation in Siem Reap, like everything else, is a little slooow. I read and enjoyed all of the commentary – and for any of you who missed it, Noy added some separate comments with additional thoughts on the homm.
I missed Friday´s Top 10 Scents of Summer post, so here are my comments and additions to the Posse list. (Note: since I don´t have any of these here to smell, I´m doing it from memory, which you all know is impeccable!) The second part of the post, for any of you who are interested, is about Siem Reap.
Guerlain Apres L´Ondee – Well … okay, I´ll work with you guys. I think of it more as the best of spring rather than the best of summer. If the heat gets above 90, it can get a little sweet and powdery on me. But Apres would appear on any of my best of anything list.
Malle Carnal Flower – Joining Patty and Lee on this one. Bryan, are you out of your mind? (Insert smiling emoticon here.) Don´t get me wrong, I loooove me some Carnal Flower, in cooler weather. It´s my favorite tuberose. But not in a miserable Washington, D.C. summer.
TDC Sel de Vetiver – see, this is what I love about these group posts. Because now I get to respectfully disagree with my olfactorily refined blogmates and say how repulsive this thing is, and my three esteemed blogmates are off their respective rockers. Sel de Vetiver smells like cat piss on a big ol´ box of Morton salt. Hope you´re enjoying reading this, because they’re now going to change the blog security and kick me off.
Hermes Eau des Merveilles – Water of Wonders, water of miracles. By sheer coincidence, I spritzed this on during my sprint through Bangkok´s giant new inoperable airport (Motto: Sawasdee Ka! We build a gazillion-baht first-world airport and you still have to deplane your 747 using the steps!) …. Where was I? Oh. The first perfume I´d sprayed on with abandon in some time, its subtle funk perfect for our arrival in Siem Reap (Motto: our passport control people look like they´d love to cut your throat, but at least you only have to walk 75 feet to your gate!) I love Merveilles. You already know that. Salt, summer, sex. I bring out its stanky side on my skin, prompting giggles when SAs say things like, it´s perfect for tennis! One of the fewer than 10 bottles of fragrance I have actually worked my way through.
Hermessence Osmanthe Yunnan – I´ve bucked the whole Hermessence trend, so I´m totally unreliable. But I like this one a lot – not too sweet, fruity-floral but delicate as a paper crane. But I like Paprika Brasil too, so consider yourself warned.
Santa Maria Novella Eva – Patty turned me on to this one. She said it all – citrus, a dash of pepper, light and refreshing. I also love its sorta-retro bottle.
Bvlgari Au The Blanc – another total winner. I like all the Bvlgari teas, even the Rouge (more than most of you, I think) but the white is the winner. My go-to summer staple when I don´t even want to think about what I´m putting on. I get a particularly enticing hit of herbaceous artemisia, one of my favorite smells in my garden – I have it growing near the paths so I can smell it with the lavender. I have almost finished my second bottle, which is pretty much unheard of in my life. While I´m blathering, I´ll add that the Bvlgari Femme, whatever its official name is, is totally underrated, and I´ve seen the light on the Omnias as well (Crystalline is my favorite.)
Divine L´Homme de Coeur – It´s lovely. Really, it is. But I couldn´t do it in summer. I bet it´d smell excellent on Lee, though.
Nicolai Balle de Match – This does deserve its popularity. They even make moist towelettes in this scent, I believe. It should be perfect – I like an unsweetened citrus – but there´s a note in there that´s too balsam-y for me. I feel like I´ve put on too much, no matter how lightly I apply it.
Nicolai Fig-Tea – they put this on for me!!! How sweet is that?!?! God, I don´t deserve these people. I´ve worked through most of my teeny bottle. Fortunately it´s easy (and relatively cheap) to get more. I´m going to nominate this for a special award because it´s so refreshing and tea-ish and figgy and you go, yeah, that´s going to last about 45 seconds. But it doesn´t. It lasts a really long time, which is a tough trick in the summer scent category. Don´t take my word for it; ask Maria and Louise.
Okay, so if I bump Carnal Flower, Sel de Vetiver, L´Homme and Balle de Match, I´d add, off the top of my head (remember, I´m not looking at my fume closet):
Worth Courtesan! Hah hah! Big surprise! I know, I know. You´re floored. By the way, Patty got her bottle in the mail, I see she´s selling it on the Frip. Be the first on your block to feel the musky fruit love.
Guerlain Vetiver – I discovered this right before I left. What I mean is, I smelled it for, what, the 43rd time, and said – whoa! That right there is the perfect vetiver for me! It´s summery and refreshing and the vetiver isn´t stomping me into the dirt like the Whomping Willow. I´m getting a bottle ASAP.
Ormonde Jayne Champaca – okay, this is a bit of a cheat, since I just figured out on this trip how much I loved it. But I used up my decant and now I just stick the empty atomizer under my nose. I can´t wait to get some more of this. Champaca, tea, and memories of Thailand.
Floris Summer Limes – limes. Period. A limited edition, and I don´t think they released it again this summer, but they do periodically. The fragrance equivalent of a tall glass of unsweetened, iced lime juice.
PART TWO — ANGKOR WAT, SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
There is nothing I can say about Angkor Wat that hasn´t been said before, and much better, by other people. It exceeded my wildest expectations. Even Diva and Enigma, my spoiled, cosseted farang children, were blown away. We spent the better part of two days exploring the temples in the staggering heat. It´s monsoon season and the first day there´d been a major downpour an hour earlier, so when we got to the main temple for sunset we were almost alone. Sunset at the main temple, empty of tourists, is one of the visual highlights of my life. We rode the elephants. We drank liters of water. If you can visit Angkor Wat and not leave with an armload of bracelets and Buddha threads sold by child beggars you´re made of sterner stuff than I am. I´m counting on the Buddha threads because the mosquitos were fierce, in spite of our best efforts, and they´re having a big outbreak of dengue right now.
In Siem Reap, one of the highlights was our tour of Les Chantiers Ecoles Artisans d’Angkor, where they teach orphans and the children of the poor some native craft-making so they can support themselves. It is both uplifting and heartrending, depending on how you look at it. There´s a special school for painters there, full of deaf-mute teenagers, so they can make a living and support themselves. The young man who took us on the tour told me a story about one of the Buddhas they carve, a Buddha image which has always creeped me out. I wrote it down word for word, as best as I could remember, so I could tell it to you. Here it is.
Once there was a snake, a cobra. And he followed the Buddha everywhere.
And this snake wanted to be a monk.
But he can not, because he is a snake.
And one day the rain came. So the snake, he made himself into a place for the Buddha to sit, to keep him up from the rain. And the snake, he lifted his head over the Buddha, to keep him dry.
Which explains, in a nutshell, everything I do and don´t understand about Cambodia, Buddhism, Hinduism and the Khmer people. What I don´t understand about last week could fill several volumes. How can the Cambodians, the most gentle people I have ever met, have spawned the Khmer Rouge? How can a country of Buddhists have Angkor Wat, every remaining bas relief of which is, if not devoted to lovely dancing apsaras, devoted to endless battle stories? Do the people avoid the word “Khmer” because it freaks them out, or because they think it freaks us out? How many people can you fit onto a moped? (A family of six. Five teenagers. Mom, three kids and a dog. One man and a giant basket of piglets.) Are the insects the tuk-tuk driver is eating for breakfast small crickets, or small grasshoppers, and what part is he spitting out? Is Khmer food the best food on earth? (Yes.) Have they considered paving the roads to cut down on the dust and mud? Is it better to give the begging children at the temples food or clothing?
If Thailand is visiting a foreign country, Cambodia is visiting another planet. I am a fickle, fickle woman. I loved my fast-paced city boy, Bangkok, with all his flash and wiles. But I have fallen very, very hard for the quiet, peculiar charms of Siem Reap. Siem Reap, with the Psaar Chaa (Old Market) where you can buy weird tee shirts and catfish (heads? or tails?) and fake antiquities and compasses and gorgeous Khmer textiles, sold by women so delicate and lovely that my size-small butt barely fits into their largest drawstring pants. I ate amazing, unrecognizable bowls of … things … and drank endless glasses of “lime juice,” just lime juice and water for 1000 riel a pop, at 4000 riel to the dollar. But bring your dollars, that´s all you need. It´s the land of the $2 tuk-tuk and the $5 footrub that lasts an hour, until you are begging for mercy, and ends with a glass of mystery tea.
I´m thinking that according to Buddhism, all this crap is transitory and meaningless, but we brought back so many beautiful things, many from the Artisans d´Angkor, I had to carry them in woven bags onto the plane. Also, my bag was too heavy at check-in in the Siem Reap airport. We were all very sad. I was sad. The ticketing agent was pensive. I said, I have many beautiful things. They said, too heavy. I said, these things, they are so fragile. Please. We thought for awhile, together. They shrugged. Okay, whatever.
I´m an American. I was taught, hey – if you´re a snake and you want to be a monk, well … you go, girl! You be that monk! Anything is possible! So I can´t understand it. I can´t understand the relationship I´m in with that strange, dusty city in that strange, dusty country. It could end badly. Two months there and maybe I´d be climbing the wall. But all I wanted to do, as much as I missed the rest of my family, was stay. I´m such a doofus. I had to bite my lip not to cry all the way back to the airport (in our tuk-tuk, sitting on our bags – we could probably fit a whole extra basket of piglets in there, plenty of room!) I’ve had three days to get over my hopeless crush and I’m still mooning around like a lovesick 13-year-old.
I ate some durian ice cream. Siem Reap still has a lot of French vestiges, including good wines and pastries, and several stores sell excellent homemade ice cream. I figured it´s probably the most palatable introductory foray. I managed to swallow two bites while the waitstaff watched and giggled and egged me on. It was like licking the bathroom, with an emphasis on sucking on the tropical scented cake they toss in the urinal. It took six hours to get the taste out of my mouth. But who am I to judge? If you´re a fan of durian, or grasshoppers, or that fermented fish sauce they´re so liberal with, a hearty bite of Stilton would probably leave you retching in the street.
Photos, Siem Reap: gonomad.com; buddha and cobra image, momobis.com
My goodness, I stumbled upon this blog by pure accident and you have just whisked me away to the scene of my engagement. We were in Ta Prom temple (The Raiders of the Lost Ark Temple, where all the massive balsam tree roots intertwine with the ruins) and standing in the Chamber of Redemption. This was a tiny little stone room, standiing all alone in the middle of Ta Prom and it was built to have a strange echoing ability – especially if you thump your chest – the noise seems to reverberate both inside and outside you and it is a very strange sensation. My Davey got down on one knee (in the mud, yes it was rainy season) and finally proposed after having lived together for over 12 years. I should say that this was premeditated as he had the ring with him. So, what was a girl to do – here in the most beautiful place on earth? Of course I accepted.
I loved Cambodia and bought many perfumes at the Artisans D’Ankor shop in Siem Reap and also at the airport. I still have some of their Orchid perfume.
I would love to go back at some time but as written above, I fear that it will change so substantially, very rapidly, as has happened in Hong Kong as to be unrecognisable.
I agree with you that the food is divine and the people are beautiful.
Thank you for your wonderful writing – you really captured the essence of the place for me. I am very grateful,
Yours, (in Tabac Blond)
Jayney — thanks for your memories! Absolutely you would have had to say yes at that point.
I’ll admit we were distracted at Ta Prohm. The mosquitos were fierce, they are having a dengue outbreak, and nothing we did in the way of clothing/spray was keeping them away from my 10-year-old, who is famously mosquito-attractive. We packed it in early.
I want to go again before it’s Disney World.
found it – thank goodness for google – it’s bangkok haunts, by john burdett. definitely worth reading – especially if you’re not the squeamish sort.
i can’t remember, and i loaned it to a friend. i’ll try to bring it to mind. it’s new, it’s about their hungry ghost beliefs, the elephant game, and murder and sex – and it’s highly entertaining. and now you want it even more. i’ll get back to you…
Beautiful post, March! I love Cambodia, too…I have, every time I leave that country, bawled in public, which mortifies my dear friends…
Am so glad you went to Artisans — it is a special place. As for the story of the snake, I will explain a bit more about that when I see you in person next. Has to do with cycles of reincarnation…you kinda have to go in order, become human first, etc.
As for the question of how the Khmer Rouge arose in Cambodia, reams of books have tried to address that question through different means — examining psychology, sociological aspects, the historical context of the Cold War, the secret Kissinger-mandated bombings of the country and support for the brutal Lon Nol regime prior to the rise of the KR, etc. There are some fantastic books out there, many by Cambodians, that have grappled with how and why the KR came to power — can give you a list, if you like! They are great reads regardless of whether one is haunted by this question or not.
Cambodia is still quite a rough place, the warmth and courtesy of many Cambodians towards foreigners aside. Shortly after I arrived in country, a very accomplished, hard-boiled fellow journo told me, Don’t read the police blotter your first week here. I read that thing wherever I go, so could not resist. Whoops. He took me for a nice stiff drink afterwards.
The contradictions between religious and cultural ideals and real-life violence are unfortunately not limited to Cambodia… but I also remember feeling jarred by the contrast at first until I started scratching around in the country a lot, and then remembering the ways in which every place I’ve been, lived, traveled to has actively trashed its prevailing rhetoric. They are not unrelated, the idealization of certain notions and their dramatic abuse in real life. There’s much to discuss here — I’m looking forward to hearing more of your insights when we meet up next! So good to have a fellow Cambodia-phile with whom to chat…can’t wait.
thank you for the beautiful travelogue. i just read a mystery set in thailand/cambodia, and between it and your adventures, i have new destinations.
Oh, what book?!? I would like to read something like that when I get home.
So here I was checking PP to see what everyone else put on their Top Ten lists, and I run across your notes and this travel story! My shameful secret is that as much as I adore perfume, smelling, reading, sharing, & writing, I’d really almosst rather read stories like this, travel vicariously and otherwise, and read about food than do the perfume thing all the time! Your story wass so transporting and so touching, it really made my day.
The Cheese and I agree that going new places (even up the fricking road to the next state over for some BBQ) makes us feel alive. He comes by it naturally, and I come by it as a direct rebellion against my upbringing, during which a drive into Virginia to go bowling was planned like the Battle of Hastings. (My parents were worrywarts.) I married the Cheese because he got up one day and said, hey — let’s go to the beach. And I realized … we could! /:)
I love reading about the food. And local stories. We brought some good travel books, too.
My parents are control freaks who were somehow able to let go of all control while traveling – pretty pragmatic really – so I actually learned to travel quite happily and let go of parts of myself while doing it, often to be right back to them when I returned home. I’m happy to say that the older I get, the more profound the effects of the journey seem to be, it sounds like the same is true for you, it’s inspiring!
I read a fabulous book in France last fall that takes place in Bangkok, it’s rather subversive, about a Buddhist monk doing time for a misdeed on the Bangkok police force — it’s about east meets west, death sex religion and political maneuvering and perversion, and a fascinating fun read. Bangkok 8 by John Burdette, who is some high powered lawyer working in Honk Kong who gave it all up to live in the Bangkok underworld for a year and be a novelist.
Great, great post!
Thanks! It was fun writing it. That funky thing in the background of the second photo is the Old Market, BTW.
I agree with Patty. (On both counts — Sel de Vet was my first full bottle!)
You are a true writer, whatever that might mean to you.
All I ever wanted to be, from the time I could bang the keys on my dad’s typewriter (should I explain what that is to our younger readers?) was a writer. And I guess in these bits and pieces that’s what I get to be. So thanks.
Can I just tell you how much I’m enjoying your travel stories? Honestly, you should sell these stories to travel Mags. I can almost feel the dust and the atmosphere, and I’m missing a place I’ve never even been to before.
But if you make one.more.crack about Sel de Vets…. [-x
=d> Patty: So true. Sel de Vetiver is not cat pee. Trust me, after many years of cleaning up after my kitty, I WISH it smelled like Sel de Vetiver! b-(
Aw, P — you know I’m just funning you. Can I promo the Frip some more? The stuff you have in there now!!! UFB. And all those intro set you have, and have you said even ONE WORD about it on the blog?:-?
I don’t think so.
Hey, if I don’t email you Weds telling you I’m back, you start working your perfume mojo, babe.
March, thank you for your beautiful descriptions. I hope your boat trip goes well tomorrow! *sending safety vibes*
In Bertolucci’s film Little Buddha, which my DH and I have seen, oh, a dozen times (or maybe a gazillion), the cobra flares its hood over the Buddha as he persists in the meditation that will lead to his liberation. That meditation is one of my favorite film sequences.
The battles you see carved in some Buddhist temples may be battles against the armies of Mara, illusion. They may actually be internal ones.
How is it that I have still, still not seen that movie? What’s wrong with me? I hear it’s wonderful. Something to do in August when I get home…. I’m looking forward to the sheer, obscene deadness of D.C. in August, btw. Anyone with any pride is gone.;)
March, your attention to detail and realism astounds. It’s hard sometimes to capture the enchanting without making it sound fake, but you do it very well. Thanks for sharing it. –Ellen
It’s the details that grab me. The overall story is the part I have trouble grasping — just ask any of my big picture friends.:-” But the details, hon — I’m on them!
Lovely top 10 list, M, but thank you doubly for the perfect travelogue. I’ll get there, some day. I hope. It sounds like everything I’ve dreamed it would be.
R, I think as I said up above somewhere, in 10 years it will be completely different, the tourism/building is on fire there. And I wonder whether we’ll even be allowed into the temples at Angkor. Some are very unstable.
What a lovely, thoughtful post on your travels, March. I have visions of you possibly writing for National Geographic?
Naw. I know some of the NG folks and their m.o., and I’m afraid I’m not up to their standards.:-” To start with, they’d probably want me to check facts…
Ahhh. I was in Siem Reap last year and got the same type of story at the airport. We cooperated and put some of our carry-on items into our checked baggage. When we arrived in Phnom Penh all those very items were missing from the luggage. Despite that incident and the explosion in tourism (of which I was a part)I would go back in a minute. Hope you got to see the floating villages on the Tonle Sap!
Dang — I am soooooooooooo glad I didn’t check that stuff. It never even occurred to me they’d steal it — looks like they have an endless supply — I just didn’t want it broken.
I wonder if in 10 years they’ll even let you walk through Angkor? The tourism will be that intense. I can’t believe the stuff they let us climb on, either.
Loving the posts about the trip almost more than about the scents (almost) :d
Tom — I can’t remember which scents got your vote, but I know we shared some. I miss my perfume closet a little, I admit it.:”>
March, really, your writing about your amazing trip has been… enthralling. Again, thank you for taking the time.
The last part of your post makes me feel that the first part is meaningless in the greater picture, but of course it is not. I’m glad to see the love for the Bvlgaris; I feel this line is underappreciated, somewhat. Au The Blanc and Rouge, and Crystalinne, have been what I’ve worn the most this summer.
Thanks — you keep your fingers and toes crossed for me tomorrow too. I’m dreading the Great Sail. Gad, I hate boats. Good thing the Cheese doesn’t read the blog… I hope I come home with happy stories.
Yeah, fragrance and Siem Reap is a weird combo, but there you have it — life is like that. And I’m glad to hear from a fellow fan of the Bvlgaris.
Oh, Marchele !
We are perverse humans.
[I love that Buddha- thank you !]
I have major wanderlust, but that will have to wait.
Until then, I have you to regale me.
And a VERY fertile imagination, Dear Saints Preserve Us !
[Thus spake the closet Catholic]
I want you home, safe, and I’ll settle for ‘relatively parasite-free’, ok ?
Many kisses to your lovely eyes, and kinder.
SOME of us smell divinely sylvan in Sel de Vet.
Breathtakingly, delicately forestiere, if you will.
Are you chiding me for my unfaithfulness to the Cheese? He’s very tolerant of my infidelities. I can see an affair with Vietnam in my future.;):-”
Relatively parasite-free is my goal too. I’m doing pretty well on the sunscreen front, no terrible burns yet. Tomorrow we sail, I’m a bit nervous about that (we are the crew, with Capt. Cheese/Queeg/Crunch barking orders). Keep your fingers crossed for me.
I am living vicariously through your posts, March! Thank you!
Marina — guess what the fourth biggest tourist group is to southern Thailand is?!? Russians!!! I have no idea why, but there you have it, according to the hotel stats.
Everyone here is Aussie besides us, tourist-wise. They are ENORMOUS. I can’t figure it out. Size-wise they’re like the relationship between us and the Thais. Is it something in the cattle? The kangaroo meat?:-“
What a beautiful post, thank you!
I agree with you on Sel de Vetiver – smells like rolling in algae.
As for durian – puh-leeze. To me it tastes like a cross between French onion soup and custard. Both perfectly nice tastes, but custard made from onion soup? Not really. However, DO try durian chips, they’re divine – taste like macadamias, only better!
Hah — another diss at Sel de Vetiver!
Durian chips, huh?:-? Well, that makes some sense. Okay, if I see some I’ll try them.
There’s a crepe guy here across the street. We eat them for dessert. Tonight the couple in front of us ordered chocolate and cheese, a combination not on the menu. Ugh. That is just wrong.[-(
Delete this one.
Sorry-threading tough this a.m.!
Nope, no deleting! I’m homming right back at you, baby.
I keep trying to catch homming on the street. They’re pretty sly about it. Haven’t seen any jooping at all, though.
This is so beautiful, March. I can only pay homm-age to you…
This is so beatiful, March. I can only pay homm-age to you…
Beautiful post! Isn’t it wonderful to have that sort of crush on a place? And I’m extremely impressed that you tried the durian ice cream.
I’m w/ you on not feeling the love for Sel de Vetiver. I keep on trying, but it keeps on refusing to work on my skin. I need to go dig out my Fig Tea and Osmanthe Yunnan. Mainlined them last summer. This summer I’ve been mainlining Champaca. I am going to have to break down and get the parfum version at some point.
Hey, what else do YOU love in the summer? I need to know what else to add to my must-try list;) Glad for the affirmation on Sel. What is the deal with that thang? I have such an iffy relationship with vetiver…
What a wonderful post!!! Thanks so much for the report on Cambodia.
I’m surprised, though, to see how frequently I DISagree with you on summer ‘fumes. :d I just love Sel de Vet–and I always get compliments on it (this does surprise me; it doesn’t strike me as the “compliment” type==but I guess I am wrong). And had you been here reading all the blogs, you would have seen that there were astounding numbers of US on Bryan’s side about CF. 🙂
Miss you–but love reading your reports!!
J — you want the truth? I actually went back and checked to see if Carnal Flower was on my Wrong Scent, Wrong Time post, in case I’d written how I’d discovered how great it was in the heat!:”>
I did see CF, Merveilles and Sel de Vetiver (?) on my very quick browse of the other Top 10 blogs. So maybe I’ll be posting a big fat mea culpa when I get home.
Truly blessed to know you, I am. Thanks for this lovely piece of the Far East in my morning coffee. 😡
You’re welcome! I’m thinking it’s time to pack your rucksack and take a road trip. C’mon, you’re young and studly and unmarried (right?) You are overdue for your slumming through Asia tour…:-w
Yeah, I’m young alright, but studly? no way heh :”> I guess I could tick the “unmarried” box, though J and I have been together for a long time, 9 years this September to be precise. I now regret frittering away my 20s on… y’know that’s the worst thing, not being able to remember anything worth remembering…
I’ll definitely buy a rucksack!
There is no place like home…
But the world is so big… There are so many places to know…
Cambodia is now in my wish list. I hope to be there soon…
Cambodia is now on my official everyone-visit list. And they’re building Siem Reap up so fast, I’m glad I got there now. I bet in 10 years it’ll be huge.
There’s nothing like a sense of loss to make you realise how much you’ve loved a place. I’m putting Cambodia down on my ‘must visit’ list, alongside Laos. Heaven knows when I might get there.
Lovely to read your voice, M.:x
Hey, Lee — you would lurve Cambodia. Angkor Wat is extraordinary. The Cheese liked Laos a lot, although he says it’s very quiet. Although I’m not sure he spent much time in the main cities.
I want to go to Vietnam. And we totally missed the north of Thailand. I hear Chiang Mai/Rai are awesome.
When I’m sitting here, having my first cup of coffee for the day, reading your amazing story I can honestly say that perfumeposse.com is the best blog I’ve ever read! Thank [email protected]};-
Hey, you’re welcome! Thanks for commenting. Glad I’m not grossing you out with your morning coffee.