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Published: December 5th 2011
Moving onwards we arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. The journey was a fairly easy 6 hours and the bus dropped us off at the central market so we enlisted the help of a Tuk Tuk to help carry our stuff around (That 4-5kg Stone Baphuon Lion and 3kg stone apsara seemed like such a good buy at the time) while we found a hotel to stay at. We looked at a couple of options and realised that it wasn’t all that cheap for a fairly standard hotel room. We ended staying in a sort of two bedroom apartment, which was great as it had a large communal area for the boys to charge around, but it did lack a kitchen, not that that matters as food is hardly expensive here.
As we’ve been to Phnom Penh before we didn’t visit either Tuol Sleng or the killing fields again, which was fine as there is no way we’d want to take the kids there anyway, the innocence of childhood fades fast enough without us helping it along. We did visit the national museum and the royal palace which were ok to kill a day or two and were surprised to
find that just south of the royal palace there is a huge brand new children’s play park which would put most play parks in the UK to shame. We spent a lot of time at the play park which in the evening was completely rammed with local children and also there were some lovely child friendly cafes around, so we utilised them too. Phnom Penh surprised us by just how child friendly it was, but we’re finding this is the case in a lot of cities with a large ex-pat/NGO presence. It was also a lot cleaner than I remember, which is never a bad thing.
From Phnom Penh we went on a trip to the south coast, taking a 4 hour bus journey to the town of Kep, hoping to utilise the beach as it’s been ages since we’d seen the sea. Turned out the beach was a bit crap, a tiny stretch of brown sand that’s hardly worth a mention so we spent next to no time on it at all. We did visit the crab market, but found our experience rather lacking compared to a lot of other accounts that I’d read about. There was literally
nothing happening, not how I’d expect a market to operate, there was no one in the water collecting crabs, no one appeared to be selling crabs, so of course no one was buying any crabs. If it hadn’t of been labelled a crab market I certainly wouldn’t of been able to tell it was one. We went to one of the local restaurants which we found a little overpriced, and the quality was severely lacking so a little disappointed we left, enjoying the quiet unlit stroll back to our hotel, one good thing about Kep was the complete lack of traffic.
Due to its lack of size Kep has no ATM’s and as we didn’t have enough money to pay for our hotel (my card got blocked in Phnom Penh the day we left) we needed to make the trip to nearby Kampot to use one there. We talked to a Tuk Tuk driver and managed to tie in a trip to Kampot with a tour around Kep, including a trip to a pepper plantation. It was actually a really nice trip, relaxed and unhurried, the pepper plantation was pretty good as fresh pepper is literally served with every
meal here so it was interesting to see where it came from and it also had loads of fruit trees which the boys really enjoyed walking around, pointing out all the hanging durians and jackfruit. The tour also stopped at a local cave which was pretty naff but had some really good views over the countryside, but the most enjoyable part for me was just driving around seeing how people live in rural Cambodia. Everyone was smiling and waving, which isn’t unusual, but I’m not sure how often they see young western children in these parts so the boys were definitely a novelty.
We also took a trip to Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island), looking for that perfect beach to play on and the beach was quite nice to look at but sadly had a lot of sharp rocks, which led to a lot of cut feet. Other than that it was a really nice day trip as the beach was deserted and we weren’t hassled once by any touts or hawkers as there was hardly anyone about.
After Kep we spent a couple of days in Kampot doing generally not a lot and enjoying it before moving
on to Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s premier seaside resort. Before we left we did visit a local doctor as Gabe had a couple of lumps appear under his armpit, he said there wasn’t a lot he could do, we’d have to see a paediatrician in Phnom Penh and as they didn’t appear to be painful or bothering him in any way it wasn’t urgent so it didn’t matter that we wouldn’t be back in Phnom Penh for a week or so. He also didn’t charge us anything which was really nice.
We took a taxi to Sihanoukville which was quick and of course convenient as it was door to door. We stayed at Serendipity beach and for some reason I really wasn’t expecting much from Sihanoukville, probably due to the beaches in Kep but the beaches here were really nice. The sand was soft, pale and powdery, the sea calm, clear and warm and the sun was shining. Almost perfect... This is of course Asia and beach development is rampant so the beach is also covered in deckchairs, restaurants, bars and hawkers. Even with all this though it was easy to see why it was so popular and easy to see
why we ended up spending nearly a week there. We hit the beach every day, spending some days on other beaches in the area. There was a private beach owned by a huge resort nearby which we tried, which was simply spectacular as it had none of the nuisances of the other beaches but they tried to charge us about £10 each just to sit on it. We were told they would charge but we didn’t expect it to be this much so we just moved down a bit where it was still deserted but the sand hadn’t been raked.
The best time of day in Sihanoukville during our stay was the evenings. We were blessed with spectacular weather for our entire stay, glorious sunshine with very little cloud cover and this combination gave some of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. Every evening we were treated to an incredible natural light show, our jaws literally dropped every time the sun did. Sadly serendipity beach isn’t facing west so we couldn’t actually see the sun drop down over the horizon but this didn’t stop the sky from turning all the shades of red, orange, pink and purple possible...
Sadly not everything was as perfect for us in Sihanoukville. Faye’s iPod got stolen out of her bag from the beach, we assumed it was lost until a small boy told us how they do it over dinner one evening. Also my Laptop hard drive crashed and failed turning itself into nothing more than a fancy paperweight. Thankfully I backup to an external hard drive so other than a blog I was half way through and some movies nothing important was lost. I managed to find a PC shop in Sihanoukville which replaced the hard drive (for a much larger capacity one), and completely restore my operating system within a day for the grand price of £40 including labour... so a complete bargain.
Also while in Sihanoukville, Nate had a small bite on his stomach, which in the space of a couple of days literally spread all over his abdomen in small sores. We at first thought it might be chicken pox as he was playing with a local boy in Siem Reap who looked like he had old chicken pox marks on his arms and legs, but it now meant that both the boys now
needed to see a doctor.
The journey back to Phnom Penh was quick and painless and of course the first thing on our agenda was to go see the doctor. Thankfully I managed to book an appointment at Intenational SOS
via email in Sihanoukville so we had an appointment the next morning. We saw a British paediatrician and although I’d originally only booked an appointment for Gabe, she was happy to check us all out. First off she looked at Nate’s stomach and instantly ruled out Chicken pox as the distribution was all wrong and said it’s probably a Strep infection
, a highly contagious bacterial infection which is quite common in youngsters and it’s also probably the cause of the lumps under Gabe’s armpit, although at this point he was starting to show the same type of infection as Nate under his nose, she also asked if Faye and I were showing any symptoms and that’s when I showed her my knee. A day or so before I had a small spot on the side of my knee and within a day my knee had swelled quite considerably, and got red and hot, I knew it was probably infected but I
didn’t associate it with what the boys had. She was probably more concerned by my knee than the infection on the boys, if the infection finds its way into the joint it could destroy it permanently. I was pretty glad we saw the doctor so quickly after hearing that and thankfully Faye wasn’t showing any signs of infection.
So in short we all had different manifestations of the same disease and we left the clinic with a sack of medications to clear it. The antibiotics for the boys came to about £11 each, which of course is nothing to us, but I couldn’t help but think about the little boy they were playing with, the one who they undoubtedly caught it from. Is he taking any medication at all? Heartbreaking and again makes me so grateful that we come from a country with universal free healthcare.
Our only other errand while in Phnom Penh was to sort out our Vietnamese visas, a completely painless task as we got our guesthouse to do it for us. We didn’t even have to fill in any forms and at $60 for a three month visa it was even cheaper than
the one month visas we picked up earlier in the year from China. All that was left to do after receiving our passports was to board the bus back to Saigon, a city we’d left only a few months previously, only this time we’d be meeting up with Faye’s parents, something we’re so looking forward to for obvious reasons...
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