The first day in Phnom Penh, which I will abbreviate as PP partly because it is shorter and partly due to the big city smell, we met our tour guide, Sophea, from Mango Cambodia tour company. (We bought a one night hotel with one day tour at a fund raiser for a Cambodian school that a couple from Calgary supports- basically the impetus for this trip). We ate at a restaurant that trains street kids and orphans to be waiters and chefs. The food was absolutely delicious although Sophea ordered us a house specialty for laughs. Tarantulas!
I know this is a horrible picture of me but I wasn’t thinking about my hair while sticking a giant spider leg into my mouth. Sadly my hair has not looked better yet…darned 40 degrees with humidity! Bevan did not partake…but I didn’t want to be rude. Bevan says I worry about hurting people’s feelings too much. He cites our conversation with one highly educated ex-pat who lives in PP as an example. Me: so, what do you do here for work?
Ex-pat: I write gay erotica.
Me: good for you! ( with the enthusiasm as if he had started an orphanage) you can do that anywhere you want to travel!
After lunch we had a tour of PP. We were surprised to see more luxury SUV’s than we see in Calgary. Most had military or police plates – most definitely some government corruption…although we did see a very large beautiful building with a very large placard reading “Phnom Penh Anti-Corruption Office”. Coincidentally it was right across from a very large car dealership selling Lexus, Range Rover, and Rolls Royce!
PP has quite a modern riverfront that bustles in the evenings, and a new development for the rich called Diamond Island. The rich and poor really do live side by side, although Diamond Island developers are trying to push the slums out. Three percent of Cambodians are Muslim, and most live on the water in small narrow boats. An entire family will live and work (fish) from here. This one had much more belongings than the others.
The next day we went to the countryside and visited some Buddhist temples. This was not a very spiritual experience as we were swarmed by women selling stuff inside the temple. They literally were grabbing things out of my hand. It was 10 degrees hotter than the sun in there so we didn’t have much patience and we left. On the way back to the van there were some young beggars in training. How can you say no to these little faces?
I gave the big guy money to buy a new shirt! Smelly!
The next day was a highlight. We travelled with Sophea, a lovely man who laughs continuously, and his brother to the village they grew up in. We stopped and had a close up view of the rice fields and water buffalo. We then had a tour of the village in an ox cart! Almost every person we passed, young or old, waved or hollered hello from their home! We felt like celebrities. We even had a small following!
We finished our day off with dinner at an amazing little wine bar close to our hotel. We had to leave our hotel at 4:30am to catch our 6:30 flight to Laos. The hotel must have asked staff to be ready to help us with our bags because there were 2 staff members sleeping outside our room. They didn’t stir at all! The security guard was fast asleep at the entry. He didn’t wake when we opened up the main gate for our driver who had pulled up. We must be very quiet people!