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