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Published: June 11th 2017
We've made it to Phnom Penh after a very long drive over extremely bumpy roads!
Yesterday we drove from Siem Reap to a village near the Sambor Prei Kuk temple complex for our homestay (about 3 1/2 hrs drive), The scenery through rural Cambodia is very pretty. We passed through little villages on the way. The houses are all on stilts, mostly made of wood (some with a thatched material) and some of concrete. There is almost always several skinny white cows in the yard, sometimes water buffalo.
Rural Cambodia memories: green rice fields, water buffalo, palm trees, stilt houses,
"Cambodia People's Party" signs, skinny white cows, Buddhist temples, pink water lilies, warm smiles.
(The power just went out in our hotel! Hope it comes on soon. I can keep working on the blog though, since the app doesn't require wifi. Oh, it's just come back on, yay).
On the way to our homestay we stopped at a sticky rice vendor (it was really tasty, made of rice, coconut milk, sugar, salt, and black beans). It is cooked in bamboo, right by the side of the road. There were a whole line of sticky rice stalls.
We arrived at our homestay around 4 pm (I will ask Sowann the name of the village). We were greeted by the local guide (his name started with a T but was hard to pronounce so we called him Mr T), and introduced to the homestay family and shown around. We have the top floor of the homestay. We sleep in one big room, on thin mattresses on the floor (which were quite comfortable) and we each had a mosquito net. There was a happy loo on the top floor, which was great so we didn't have to climb down the steep stairs in the pitch dark to go to the bathroom at night. The "shower" consisted of pouring a pail of cold water over your head from the big container of water.
We had cold drink (food is included at the homestay and soft drinks/beer costs $1). Susan and I each had an Angkor beer, then headed off to the local school to watch local kids playing soccer. Sovann, Mr T and several of our group joined in. And boy, was it hot. It was really hot just watching! Mr. T said later how excited the kids were
to have us visit. We gave a small donation (to be used to buy small items for the school) and Mr. T said later how happy the kids were to get it.
The group had decided earlier not to visit the Sambor Prei temple complex as most of them were templed-out and Sovann said it was quite a small temple anyway and mostly ruins (I would have been happy to have seen it though).
We did a really fun optional activity after going to the school. We had rides in ox-carts to the rice fields to watch the sunset. The scenery and the green rice fields were beautiful. The ride to the rice fields was pretty bumpy because some of the path was quite muddy. The carts couldn't make it all the way so we walked for a bit too. The path was muddy in places and in one slippery spot Susan held onto a stump for balance which turned out to be covered in fire ants! She got bitten a few times but I had some After Bite with me which she used and so it wasn't too bad (now the bites are fine she says).
We then came back to the homestay and were cooked a wonderful dinner (the family even made special vegetarian dishes for us), and chatted with Mr. T until Susan and I crashed about 10. It was so touching talking to Mr. T. He is so happy to be a local guide and to work with tourists. He has had a hard life, while he was young the long lasting Cambodian civil war was going on and his family was very poor. He worked in the rice fields as a child. He used to hunt tarantulas for the family to eat. He basically taught himself English.
Unfortunately I had some stomach issues that night which made the prospect of a shared squat toilet rather unpleasant (thank god for Immodium is all I can say).
It was a bit of an adventure using the happy loo during the night. Turn on flashlight, try not to shine it in anyone's face, lift corner of mosquito net without untucking it too much, climb out from under mosquito net without close-lining yourself on the rope the nets are hung from, find door to bathroom, put on communal flip flops (no shoes allowed on
top level of homestay), position self on squat toilet, take care of business, don't fall over using toilet tissue (kindly provided by homestay), toss tissue in gargage, use pail of water to "flush" toilet, make way back to bed, climb under mosquito net again without close-lining yourself, re-tuck mosquito net snugly under mattress, turn off flashlight. In my case: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Considering the stomach issues (and the rooster crowing punctually at 4 am, and the barking dogs, and the really loud frogs) I actually slept pretty well. Susan slept pretty well too. Usually villagers only have power for a few hours in the evening, but they left the power on for us so we had fans going all night, which made it very comfortable for sleeping. There is a Buddhist holiday doing on right now which means the monks start their chanting (actually they play a recording) at 4 am, which Sovann warned us would be very loud. However, because the community knew we were visiting the monks dispensed with the recording and just did live chanting, which wasn't very loud at all.
The family made us a very nice breakfast (really tasty omelette, fresh baquette, and
a noodle dish), 3 in one coffee (basically an instant coffee with sugar and milk which was actually quite tasty) and green tea. Then we were off for our long drive to Phnom Penh.
The road to Phnom Penh is under construction but as it's the rainy season no work is being done. The paved parts have lots of potholes and the dirt parts are extremely bumpy. It was mostly a very slow and not very comfortable drive. Apparently the road will be completed by the end of 2016. It was first constructed in 2003 but evidently not very well because it requires reconstruction now.
We made one stop at "Spider Town" which features gross things to eat including spiders (and a few live ones too as you can see), The funny thing about this place is the second the minibus doors open you are swarmed with little kids wanting to sell you fruit (bags of bananas, sliced pineapple, etc). Before we were even off the bus you start their sales pitch (sister, hello sister, buy banana, etc). They try to make you promise not to buy from anyone but them and ask you all kinds of questions
Sign in bathroom
In case you didn't know ...
about where you are from etc. It's quite overwhelming and we were really happy to get back on the bus.
The day started out sunny but the rain started after our Spider Town stop, and it is still raining now (close to 7 pm). We had a late lunch in Phnom Penh (I had an excellent Fish Amok and Susan had an equally excellent Khmer forest hot and sour soup). We did a taste test between Cambodia and Angkor beer, and decided we prefer Angkor. We also had excellent coffee. It is a small, very strong coffee served with sweetened condensed milk. Delicious.
We got to our hotel about 4 pm and will meet our group for dinner at 8. We've dropped off some laundry with the hotel, and I've been working on the blog. I'll add the photos now and then have a shower, and off to dinner. Tomorrow will be a difficult day as we go to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Memorial at the Killing Fields.
PS: Just finishing up the blog after dinner. A note about showers here. The shower in Bangkok was great, lots of water pressure and
lots of hot water. However it would be perfect if you were maybe 4 feet tall. Had to lean way back to shampoo my hair. The shower in Siem Reap was at the regular height, had lots of water pressure, but besides occasionally verging on lukewarm was cold. The shower here adjusts to height, is thankfully fairly hot, but very low water pressure. I think I prefer hot and whimpy to cold and powerful.
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