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Where to begin? It has been a couple of days of no blogging- mostly due to free, but slow at our hotel- The Pavilion. Of course, we are now at an internet cafe using paid-for but slow internet. Who knew?
On the last episode of Dave and Carrie in Cambodia, we were going to pack up and head to Phnom Penh, the capital city. We got up for our 9am bus, and were picked up at our hotel by a in-city bus. We didn't really understand what was going on, but this bus was taking us to the big bus. We didn't realize that right away, and almost left our luggage on that bus. Sadly, I believe I left my book there (it was very good- Devil in the White City- at least for the 150 pages I read before I donated it to the bus). The 6 hour bus ride was uneventful- comfortable enough for me to sleep the whole time! Carrie had a smooth ride a few seats up and took some good pics of the country-side. There was a stop along the way for a quick lunch. We didn't eat, but we did take a picture of a certain type of fried food... (cricket!)
Our arrival in Phnom Penh was a bit chaotic as well. We got to the bus station and there were a million people handling our bags and saying ''Hello! Tuk-Tuk?'' We got separated briefly, and ignored all the tuk-tuk drivers until we were reunited (don't worry Ellen, it was only like 20 seconds). We then grabbed the first Mr. Tuk- we saw- a nice kid (18?) named tukAndtree. He took us to our hotel (The Pavilion- A+) nice and quick. Along the way we past a French restaurant which looked quite good, but we have been unable to find it since. Anyways, as soon as we got dropped off, Andtree tried to close the sale to drive us for the next few days. We begged off, telling him that we didn't know if we had a tour scheduled thru the hotel. We took his cell # and told him we would call him if we didn't. He looked very sad and told us that whenever he gives his number to a foreigner, they never called. We promised him we would if we needed a ride.
Walking into the hotel, Cambodia seemed to disappear. It has nice high walls, and the sounds of the street just go away. There is a beautiful pool, trees everywhere, and a nice patio with a bar. Heaven! The room is spacious and clean, although, like the rest of Cambodia, there are ants occasionally hanging out in the room as well. After a torrential downpour, we stopped at the bar for a made-right-there leek and bacon quiche. Magnifique! We walked around the central park area that was near our hotel. Lots of things going on here- from volleyball/soccer type game to badminton to multiple groups of people doing calisthenics. We tried to get to the river to walk around, but literally could not confidently cross the street. We stood there, paralyzed, hoping to have a Cambodian to follow, but none were in sight. Oh well, we walked a different direction, ultimately heading back to the hotel for a dip in the pool, and much needed showers.
Dinner was on the river, at Happy Herbs Pizza (we requested no Happy Herbs). The day was overwhelming, and the next days activities were sure to be depressing, we went home to sleep.
Breakfast at the hotel was nice, fresh bread, eggs, fruit, passionfruit juice, coffee. We had tried to call Andtree the night before, but apparently I saved his name in my phone, not his number. Oops. We waited till the time he told us in the hopes that he would just be waiting there for us and lo and behold, he was outside and very happy to see us. $15 got us a driver for the entire day, and we went to the killing field and then the Phnom Penh prison.
The regime of Pol Pot was terrible. The killing field (just one of many throughout this country) has a memorial there with 9000 skulls that they found. We teamed up with an Aussie from our hotel (Claire- we would spend most of the next day and a half with her) and got a tour guide that had lost every single person in his family. So sad! The memorial was somewhat simple, but quite eerie when you saw pieces of bone and clothing coming out of the dirt. The guide told us stories of babies being beaten against trees, and people having their throats slit by palm tree leaves (quite sharp). And there didn't seem to be any reason that these people were being killed- just killing for the sake of killing. Of course, we don't know all the history, but the cruelty really leaves an impact...
Off to the prison- S21. No fun place either- set in what used to be a high school, and run by a former math teacher. It saw 20,000 people go thru and only 7 survived. Torture, beatings, starvation. The most haunting part of the whole visit was the galleries of photos of those taken in. We took no pictures- too depressing. We saw mother's holding their children, and guards that became prisoners once they knew to much. That's all we will say- to depressing for this fun little blog. But, no matter how depressing, you really must go if you come here.
Lunch was at a place called Boddhi Tree. It was a very nice setting, good food too (almost all the Khmer food that we have had has been good). We waited for Claire to get done with the prison (here was another exhibit that Carrie and I were to drained to go to). We forgot to take pictures of lunch but we had Fried Ginger with Chicken and a Fried Noodle dish. Afternoon was all about taking it nice and easy- we went to the hotel, enjoyed the pool, did a bit of reading.
The three of us headed down to the water area to take a walk around. There were tons of people everywhere- selling food, eating, playing sports, break dancing- every activity imaginable. We saw a bar- the Foreign Correspondence Bar and headed up to watch the sunset with an adult beverage (Margarita and a Angkor beer for me, a Passionfruit cocktail and a Lychee Martini for Carrie). Turns out the sun doesn't set in the direction we were looking, but we got some good views of pretty sky, and a stand selling fried insects (and snakes). And we may or may not have seen Girard Depardu. After that it was off to dinner at Khmer Borane. The three of us split a bottle of wine and 3 dishes (and we ordered a fourth once we saw the plate size, but three would have been enough). We had pork and crispy rice (so-so), fish in palm sugar (really good, but came with bones), ginger chicken (good, but not special), and chicken fried rice (always good). As we wrapped up our meal, we were approached by a guy. We didn't really know what he wanted at first, but he asked to join us. Turns out, all he really wanted to join us. His name was Taka and he was travelling by himself thru Southeast Asia. He was Japanese, but currently lives in North Carolina (via Brown University in Rhode Island). He has been/will be travelling for about 3 years on and off and had some great stories (like being robbed in Johannesburg). As the night got later, we tuk-tuked off to The Pavilion to enjoy a couple of drinks on the patio. Then off to bed.
Slept in, breakfast, and headed to the Russian market. There were tons and tons of stalls, but they all sold the same thing. They really could have gotten rid of 96 of them and you still would have had all the products. We also walked past a food market to buy 'groceries.' This was no Japanese fish market- there were fish heads sitting there with tons of flies on them (no ice), and chickens defeathered just sitting on wooden boards. If you think about that market and the restaurants that we ate at, you would just eat crackers your whole time here. Carrie and I prefer to think that our chefs have gotten their food elsewhere. Just a few token purchases, and some stifling heat (Jean- your thermometer told us it was 100+)- so off to the pool.
Lunch was at Frizz's. It was really nothing special, but I think that was based on our dish selection rather than the restaurant. Vegetable spring rolls and rice noodles in a coconut sauce. Definitely not the most exciting meal in Cambodia. The afternoon consisted of this blog (which is sucking away all our time, so Jeffrey- you better read this!), and two attempts to see the Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace. First try- women must have shoulders covered. So we went to blog and buy a 1$ scarf for Carrie to wear. Second try- we made it further in only to discover that you needed sleeves and wraps are not allowed. 10 minutes later, and after closing time, someone told us that they offered T-shirts to 'rent,' but we were not offered one. Oh well. Carrie was dealing well with it until she realized that it was in her 1000 Things to Do Before You Die book. I told her that she better not die, cause we ain't gettin in. Or, someone out there can send her a 999 Thing to Do Before You Die book.
Reading by the pool, the first half of National Treasure 2 on Starz, and off to dinner at Friends (it has a Khmer name, but I don't know it). It was a Tapas place, with great food, but most importantly it was a place that took in street kids and taught them hospitality skills. They have lots of programs- really great stuff like teaching them how to sew, mechanics, etc. It sounds like something we should have in the states- a way to help the kids back into society, rather than just housing them and feeding them without teaching them skills.
The food- Smoked Eggplant with French Bread, Chinese Spinach Ravioli, Mushroom and Leek Spring Rolls, Chicken Cashews and Mangoes, and Mekong Fish with Khmer Spices wrapped in a Banana Leaf. It was awesome. They even had Diet Coke as opposed to disgusting Coke Zero! And now here... Tomorrow we are off to Vietnam and up the Mekong Delta. We'll let you know how it goes!
And check out our video of traffic in PhnomPenh!