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Published: June 13th 2017
Geo: 11.5588, 104.917DAY THIRTEEN (1/15/13) — Phnom Penh
You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
Life is so very different here. It's different from the USA of course. And it's different from Vietnam. Dramatically.
After breakfast, our group boards two high speed motor craft and head north to Cambodia. We stop on the Vietnam side of the border and mill around while they review passports. And we stop again at the Cambodia side, but this involves no work on our part … just a look-see from a few officials and we're on our way. The vehicles have roofs and windows but no air conditioning. So between the open windows and the roar of the engines, I dig deep into my brief case for my serious headphones so I can hear Bill Knoedelseder's "Bitter Brew" audiobook about the Anheuser-Busch dynasty. They hand us box snacks (sandwich and chips) but having just had breakfast, I pass. We don't talk much because of the noise – everyone seems to settle into reading and occasionally napping.
We pull into Phnom Penh four hours later. The first striking difference is architecture … an abundance of buildings
with Asian influence.
We transfer to the Raffles Hotel Le Royal, which they call a 3-star hotel but I would say that's on a 3-star scale. The French colonial ambiance has been welcoming the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, President Obama and other celebrities for over 80 years.
We are greeted with a ginger tea that has a ginger rod and an orchid in it. We are escorted to our rooms, which have lovely colonial furniture and a balcony overlooking a double set of pools which are VERY inviting. Buffet lunch in the hotel is superb … lovely sea bass and lots of other fine choices. A cake arrives to celebrate Morley's anniversary (they celebrate 25 years on Feb. 6) and there is buzz about what we will do to celebrate Jackie Knight's birthday, our 30-something new friend from Down Under.
At two o'clock we head out to the Apsara dance school which trains young children in the art of traditional Cambodian dance. Many students are orphans and they learn the dances to give them a trade … the hospitality industry here loves dancers for hotels, restaurants and other tourist functions. The children are quite lovely and the dance is
quite pretty. Much of it reminds me of scenes from “The King and I”.
My nasal drainage is getting me down and I now must accept the fact that I have a cold; so Larry and Joe Adorjan head out to get Dianna and me some meds. They return with Dayquil. Perfect!
We relax before we head out to celebrate Jackie's big evening. Everyone is more dressed up than usual. We dine at Topaz, a wonderful restaurant that is beautiful and tasty. We dine with Larry and Jacque Knupp, the Dos Santos, Jennifer Sank and Larry. Jackie gets a very colorful birthday cake. (Later, the butler for her room delivers at chocolate cake from the hotel, as well!)
Former King Sihanouk died in October and the country is still in mourning. His photo is everywhere, frequently draped with black ribbon. We pass Grand Palace where the official mourning is taking place. Sihanouk, who was 89, came to the throne in 1941 and led Cambodia to independence from France in 1953. Despite long periods of exile and his abdication in 2004 due to ill health, he remains an influential figure. Sihanouk abdicated in 2004 in favor of his son, King Norodom
Sihamoni. The palace looks lovely with its nighttime light; we will check it out in daylight tomorrow.
We have drinks with the Morleys in the Elephant Bar before retiring. The shops, the restaurants, the bar are all very much in colonial theme.
Again, I am mindful of a Broadway musical, “Flower Drum Song”:
I am going to like it here.
There is something about the place,
An encouraging atmosphere,
Like a smile on a friendly face.
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