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When I first started thinking about making a trip to Fort McMurray in 1996, I had a certain idea in my head what it was going to be like. Coming down Beacon Hill for the first time, I discovered a beautiful city, almost magical. It was the exact opposite of the oil field dystopia that I had prepared myself for.
I had prepared myself in a similar way for Siem Reap, Cambodia. The location of our house building adventures with Kent and Lee, I had pictured a third world kind of place with lots of visible poverty. That was what I thought we were heading to as our tuk tuk driver departed from the airport. As Heather and I went for our first wander, we discovered a tourist district bustling with restauarants, bars, shops and market stalls. The tuk tuk traffic is intense, as is the number of cars and scooters. Walking is its own hazard, but after surviving the crazy side streets of Bangkok and Kanchanaburi, we made our way without incident.
We could resist getting a fish foot bath - several of those options popped up in our short 4-block journey. We sat down, paid $3 each, and had an absolutely delightful experience. At first, it was intensely ticklish having hundreds of fish nibble on the skin, but quickly it evolved into a meditative cleansing. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Our dinner was equally lovely: chicken and mango salad, Korean barbecue beef, and spring rolls. Washed down with a bottle of local brew, it was a perfect, yet unexpected, introduction to Siem Reap.
We are staying in a small boutique hotel about a block off the main drag. Heather booked a room with a balcony. I am sitting out here while typing this, the stars shining above, and one Hollywood style spotlight going back and forth. In some ways, Siem Reap feels like Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
Tomorrow morning, we will go on a 35 minute drive to the current house building worksite. Heather and I are eager to be on the ground to experience what this is all about. We learned that our house recipient is a 52 year old lady named Mern. Her new home will go up on Monday.