Phnom Penh

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November 22nd 2012
Published: November 25th 2012
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Our first glimpse of CambodiaOur first glimpse of CambodiaOur first glimpse of Cambodia

The bridge to immigration.
Day 1
The boat from Chau Doc in Vietnam left at about 7:30am, so two rickshaws delivered us and our luggage to the dock. I didn't believe the lady at the hotel when she said two rickshaws would be enough, but somehow everything fit. I did feel like I was going to fall off and Eleanor clung to me like a baby koala, so it wasn't exactly a relaxing transit.
Arriving at the jetty we didn't have to wait long before we boarded a speed boat. One stop to pick up passengers from the fancy hotel and we were on our way. As one of the crew was handing out visa application forms, I remembered that Dean and Eleanors' visa photos were in my suitcase, which was packed away under the deck. Not to worry, I was informed. We filled out the arrival and departure cards and handed them in, along with $24 each. For $4 each, our application was going to be 'handled'.
We disembarked at the Vietnamese border control to have our passports stamped, although nobody told us what was happening. I guessed that's what we were doing, so we just enjoyed the comforts of the waiting room; a
Mission successfulMission successfulMission successful

Back to the boat for the last part of the trip to Pnomh Penh.
fan, second-hand smoke and a public toilet which wouldn't be in my top 50 in the world. After 20 minutes, we were told to board the boat. No explanations given but it was good to feel a breeze once again.
Not long after that stop, the boat slowed and moored next to half a dozen others. We had arrived at the Cambodian checkpoint. After gingerly walking along a 'monkey bridge', we found ourselves in a lovely courtyard (complete with chickens and dogs). Once again, we were not told anything so took our place in the queue. Eventually we discovered the passengers on our boat didn't need to be in a queue. Our visas were being 'handled'. After waiting for about 20 minutes or so, we were given our passports and told to line up in another queue to have them stamped. Dean and Eleanor didn't even need their photos. Eating deep fried bananas to celebrate, we jumped back on board for the rest of the journey.
Arriving at Phnom Penh, I was keen to find some air conditioning. It was really hot. The hotel wasn't far away so we walked along the road, dodging tuk tuks, 4WDs and buses. Brad was already there, so Dean was happy as Larry. A quick shower and change of clothes and Dean departed with Brad to drop off laundry and visit S21. Eleanor and I watched them go and then set off in search of some 'Western food'. We hadn't had any for ages and ended up at a brilliant fish and chip place. Excellent. We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon and then spent the evening strolling along the riverfront before dinner. Lots of dancing and exercising people of all ages were oblivious to the crowds and appeared to be enjoying their activities. The Royal Palace was lit up and outside were large groups of people mourning the recent death of the king. To comfort them, hawkers were moving amongst the people selling food, drinks and photographs of the royal family. Eleanor and I walked away from Dean at one point when he started haggling over about 20 cents.

Day 2
Brad and Dean hired a tuk tuk to take them out to the Killing Fields. Eleanor and I read, did some maths and watched a bit of television. When the boys came back, we went out for lunch (although Dean
The royal palaceThe royal palaceThe royal palace

Many people were paying their respects to the king who had recently died.
felt he had ingested enough grit from the roadtrip to almost bypass lunch). When Dean left us to have a massage from a blind man, we explored a couple of markets nearby and then caught a tuk tuk to the Central Market where Brad purchase some new sunnies and a CD for the drive next day. The afternoon passed quickly and before we knew it we were wandering around a night market. Yes, even though we were officially 'marketed out' about a week ago. With lightning in the background, earnest youngsters singing Cambodian love songs on stage and more badly sewn knock-off tshirts than you could poke a stick at, we strolled around until it started raining.
Dashing under cover, we plotted our next move. Dinner. Dean led us to a place where the main selling point was not the A4 folder menus filled with plastic pocketed pictures of the culinary delights on offer, but the kick boxing on TV. Before too long, the boys had joined the betting ring and Eleanor and I said our goodbyes. They were in for a long night.

Day 3
We had booked a car to drive us to Siem Reap for 9am.
Night marketNight marketNight market

Just before the downpour.
The boys were looking shabby and the Camry hadn't arrived. Which wasn't too bad because Brad was yet to check out of his room. Once the car turned up we piled in, popped Brad's Cambodian love songs in the CD player and settled in for a ride that was at times hair-raising, most times dull. However, our driver was a great conversationalist and he provided a potted history of Cambodia that has left me wanting to find out more about the complex past of this amazing country. So when we were interrogating him about the ins and outs of Cambodia, the time flew. When Radio Khmer talkbalk (broadcast by satellite from Melbourne ABC) was in full flight, then time stopped. It was amusing when Dean heard the driver say he listens to the ABC radio broadcast from Melbourne at 12, so Dean asked him to turn it up. Eleanor and I were left wondering when Dean had mastered the Khmer language.

At lunch, I was too hot to eat but sat in my own misery watching the others. Too befuddled to contemplate ordering anything but I didn't really mind. I tried to concentrate on the pool at the end of the road, two and a half hours away. Then something happened that nearly put everything Dean has done so far on this holiday, way down on Eleanor's "Funniest Moments List". A man walked past holding a tarantula. Not a hairy one, just black and fairly biggish. I let that pass, hoping he was walking far, far away. Then I saw Dean's eyes light up and knew the man was behind me. I jumped up (Eleanor says I yelled) and tried to push past Brad out of the way of the tarantula. Äpparently I am on top of the list now. Even above 'Bug Eye' Korean immigration photo. I nearly burst into tears, imagining tarantulas everywhere. I asked our driver about them and he explained that he just shows it to the customers. Oh joy. Then he continued to tell us about deep frying them and eating them and where in Phnom Penh you can buy this delicacy for $1. He was also interested in foreign spiders and asked about the big ones in South America, so Brad was able to enlighten him a little.


25th November 2012

A bit like a kiwi fruit?
All hairy on the outside and all mushy on the inside, I would imagine, a bit like eating an unpeeled kiwi fruit but wrigglier. Stay on the top of that list, Janey. I appreciate you working hard to beat the others. X

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