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Travels with Pavel: 10 February 2005

Lazy day. Woke up to loud Khmer pop or rock or whatever it was from the next room. Lunch was in a quiet restaurant overlooking a valley of cashew-nut plantations. Cashew fruit is quite juicy if without any particular taste, if you must know.

Pavel and I decided to leg it to a nearby lake, the area’s main tourist spot. We walked along unpaved roads – this place won’t see tarred roads for a few years yet, I think – and we were cloaked in the red dust every passing vehicle left in its wake, dispensing “Hello!”s on the way.

The entry fee to the lake had quadrupled from that mentioned in the Lonely Planet to US$1 for foreigners. Locals had to pay only 300Riels. Not such a bad deal compared to the Taj Mahal, which simply rips foreigners off when compared to the prices Indians pay.

Like any regular tourist spot now, the children ran the show – taking running jumps into the lake and making as much noise as possible. So we found ourselves a quiet place almost bang opposite the entry point and all the noise. The Boeng Yeak Lam Lake is actually formed over a volcano, several hundred thousand years old and the blue of its waters are the deepest I’ve seen anywhere. They seem to have a character to them, that is sorely missing in the pale blue and sunny sky above.

Yeak Lom Crater Lake

I’ve the dubious distinction of having to be saved twice from drowning – a couple of thousand miles to the west, as the crow flies – in the Bay of Bengal. But the lake seemed harmless, no sudden undercurrent to pull a nasty surprise and where we stood was a line of bamboo poles tied together headed some distance out into the lake. I decided to be brave (with Pavel the lifeguard around) and thrashed my way to the end of the bamboo line in terribly inelegant breaststrokes. Ok, but I felt like a winner anyway. So there we were, Pavel and me, hanging onto bamboo in a volcanic crater lake in the middle of Indochina and talking about more things and places Czech. Totally cool.

We walked back again in the red dust but this time with a thin silver moon hanging in a sky that had built up some character through the day – it was a lovely shade of pink-magenta. Back in our rooms, I watched a violent cartoon called Samurai Jack and then for the first time on TV, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I’d only read that always in comic strip form as a kid.