13 September – Phnom Penh
Slightly quieter night than the previous one, although I did hear that woman screaming out what seems to be her mantra, a couple of times.
I’m not really sure what’s going on there, and I’m not sure I want to know, anyway.
Awake a bit after 7.00am, but just can’t get up so lay there for a while. I feel so tired; so lethargic.
Eventually summon the energy to actually do something, and head out about 8.30am.
Bypass the hotel’s breakfast; not making that mistake again; and end up around the corner in sandstone sculpting and wood carving street.
There’s a coffee cart there so we have an iced latte; yep, still trying to find that caphe sua da equivalent; and just sit and watch the world go by.
I’m not sure I’m capable of doing much more at the moment, anyway…..
The iced latte is a little on the sweet side, which sounds funny when I’m sort of comparing it to a caphe sua da, but it’s not bad. I am looking forward to the real thing, though.
There’s a street food vendor next to us, and the girls running it are doing a roaring trade with the locals. Lisa always ‘requiring’ breakfast, is keen, but also a little apprehensive. Right at this moment, I can’t stomach the idea.
With a little pushing from me, she plucks up the courage. Next job is to find out what it actually is.
She asks the young coffee guy, but English isn’t his thing. He does however get one of the girls to come over who explains it’s rice, egg, and a choice of chicken or pork.
Lisa decides on chicken, as she was always going to.
So far so good, until it turns up, and she finds the chicken is actually pork.
Being the trouper that she is, she just decides to deal with it, and in the end, it didn’t matter, as the pork was nice. It also came with a watery looking soup, with what looked like chicken bones in it, and that too, was really good.
And the cost of breakfast on the street?
$1.00. Yep, a dollar.
Breakfast, iced latte, and people watching done, we head off for a little aimless walking around Phnom Penh, as well as dropping off some clothes that need to be cleaner than they currently are.
Hopefully they’re ready in time tomorrow, before we leave for Vietnam…..
Still knocking back countless offers of tuk tuk services, we eventually find ourselves down by the river.
Once there, we walk south, which is downstream. But it’s not really, as it’s still flowing the other way.
Just all too difficult….
A bit further on we come to what seems to be some sort of religious celebration. Lots of flowers, incense sticks, and heaps of small birds in cages. All very vibrant and colourful, as well as interesting.
The celebration and crowds soon gave way to large hotels and resorts, and as such, interest in the scenery quickly diminished.
And now not having anything to keep my attention, I became more aware of how I was feeling.
And in a word, crap. The muscle aches of last night had been joined by a headache, as well as a congested feeling in my chest and throat.
Dealing with it, but only just.
We head back to the main part where the celebration was happening, and then on to the area where I sit having my afternoon beers. With no plans, and because of how I feel, we just sit on the wall and do that watching the world, thing. It’s rather warm, but at the same time, we are very thankful for the cloud cover.
A good hour of doing absolutely nothing, but at the same time, doing plenty, it was nice to have a bit of down time.
Well, when I wasn’t trying to understand my river flow issue…..
World watched, bum now as sore as my legs from sitting on hard concrete, we headed off in search of lunch. Over the busy road that runs beside the river, and manage to upset a girl on a bike in the process.
I’m not sure what I did wrong, but she wasn’t very happy with me.
Back into the street the hotel is in, and we find a small local restaurant a few doors down. Beef and onion on one of those hot sizzling plates, along with rice, while Lisa has minced beef with rice and egg. Food was really good, and the complimentary iced tea was a welcome change from our usual can of Coke.
Total of the bill came to 16 000 Riel, ($4.00) so I broke a $10 note. I then received my $6 change in Riel.
Yep, 24 000 Riel, and never before during the whole trip have I had this much Riel. And we leave tomorrow.
I don’t seem to be very good at this….
Back to the hotel for a recovery session, as well as some much needed paracetamol. By the end of the recovery session the paracetamol had made some difference, but the sleeping thing was pretty much a failure.
Maybe because we haven’t done anything today….
Back outside to try and actually achieve something, and we only get as far as the coffee cart around the corner, from this morning. Which I’m more than okay with.
Another iced latte, along with more world watching.
Including the dog that snarled at Lisa every time she looked at him. She didn’t even have to say anything to him, he just got angry whenever she looked at him. Was rather funny, but also a little concerning, and in the end she just had to look in the opposite direction.
Coffee done, we made the dog happy by leaving. Dropped Lisa at the hotel and then went off to do one of those ‘last’ things. Final beers down by the river, as well as a goodbye to my beer lady.
Oh, how I love those goodbyes….
Down to the river and she sees me coming, and I’m quickly doing my thing, in my usual place.
And as always, there’s plenty around, as well as heaps to look at.
While I’m sitting there, a young boy and his sister approach me. They’re selling little prawn cracker type things, and he comes over to give me a fist bump, which was nice.
He then starts talking Khmer to me, which didn’t really help either of us, and I’m really not sure what he wants, as he’s not really trying to sell me his prawn crackers. He then starts to give me a little shoulder massage, which I quickly put a stop to. He was a nice little kid, but it was all a bit strange.
As well as a bit awkward. I suspect it was a begging type thing, and there’s certainly no shortage of that around here.
I go back to contemplating the world, including river flow direction, and then Lisa arrives. She heads up to our beer lady, who immediately recognises her and looks back in my direction. Only a little thing, but I love it. Just makes that goodbye a bit harder to do, though.
We sit and take in the sights of an area that I’ve really enjoyed over the last few days, and it’s an area of Phnom Penh that I’m really going to miss. Regrettably, the time comes to do that ‘goodbye’, so we head over to our beer lady.
I ask her if she’d mind if we took a photo, which she obliges, but I’m not sure she understands why. And with my Khmer being worse that her English, I’m not going to be able to explain why it’s important to me.
Her friend, who is sitting nearby, then asks where we are from, and it turns out her English is excellent. We chat for a few minutes, and I’m really happy that she’s there as I can explain to her the significance for me, of the last few nights I’ve spent down here.
It’s only a little thing, and I’m not sure why it’s so important to me, but these little ‘interactions’ / ‘relationships’ with local vendors, just mean so much to me.
Goodbye done, we reluctantly head back to the hotel to get ready. And when I say reluctantly, it wasn’t because I was about to tackle that bloody shower….
Seriously, worst second choice hotel, ever. Although that might be a little hard to prove….
Shower done, more paracetamol taken, we head off in search of dinner. But because it was good, the search comes to an end around the corner at our restaurant from last night.
Once again, it’s full of locals, and there’s no one else in there that looks like us. Beef with pate and noodles for me; beef, egg and noodles for Lisa. Plus a beer of course.
And, just like last night, we can’t fault it. It’s just great food.
23 000 Riel, (just under $6) and slowly but surely, the Riel is disappearing from my wallet. Only taken eight days to start getting the hang of it….
Final dinner in Phnom Penh done, we head off for a bit of a walk. We end up in Street 172, which we’d actually walked down earlier today, and not surprisingly, it looks very different from this morning.
All lit up with lots of bars and restaurants, but fortunately, nothing like Pub Street in Siem Reap.
Having not seen it at night before, it’s a bit hard to get a feel for the place, but it does seem very quiet with not too many around.
We find a place doing the usual 50 cent beers and sit on the footpath to do that people watching thing. An old guy, who’d approached us earlier trying to sell silver bracelets, finds us again and comes over to chat.
I think I know where this is going to end up, but he seems a nice enough guy. Now I’m not sure how good he is at selling his bracelets, but I can tell you that he is very good at talking.
He tells us about when he was moved from Phnom Penh in the 70’s and forced to work on farms. He then couldn’t get back until the 90’s, and by that time he’d lost contact with his family. He spent the next 10 to 20 years trying to find them, but in the end he has no idea what happened to them.
He also told us about fighting in the war, and then later working for an NGO.
I can’t imagine what he’s seen and experienced over his life, but he just seems to take it all in his stride. I guess he doesn’t have much choice.
Our chat, well, he’s the one doing all the chatting, goes on for so long I ask him if I can buy him a beer. He politely declines as he can’t drink following an operation he had years ago.
He continues talking, and while I’ve found it all very interesting, after 45 minutes it’s starting to get on a bit. I try and find a polite way to finish him up, but he doesn’t really get the hint. Eventually he finally seems to have run out of things to talk about, and goes to move off.
He hasn’t asked at any point if we’d like to buy a bracelet, which I was a little surprised at, but as he’s about to leave he does ask for a ‘donation’ so he can eat.
I sort of expected it, so duly obliged.
While our chat went on a little longer than I hoped, I did enjoy getting the opportunity to meet him.
Beers done, we head back towards the hotel in drizzling rain, enjoying the coolness of the water, as well as anything else that was on the ground, splashing on my thong clad feet. Nice…..
A quick stop at a convenience store for a couple more beers that I probably don’t need, as well as an ice-cream for Lisa, that she also probably doesn’t need.
Total comes to $2.65, and now that we’ve been here for a week, I decide to use what I’ve learnt over that time and pay it in a combination of Riel and USD.
Well, that was the plan, but do you reckon I could work it out?
Absolutely no chance, and in the end I give up and just handover $3USD, much to the relief of the young guy behind the counter.
While frustrated that I can’t get my head around it, that was soon forgotten when I saw a couple of 100 Riel notes in my change, that were in pristine condition. Nice little 2.5 cent souvenirs, seeing as all the other ones I’d received looked older than Lisa, and also in as poor a condition.
Hey, had to get at least one in….
Into the room, and then the precarious balancing act on that ridiculous spa bath thing to wash those rather black feet of mine, as well as my thongs.
Onto the bed for the usual beers that I don’t really need, as well as Trip Advisor that I should really cut back on, and as per normal, I just don’t want our last night to end.
Happens every time.
Well, apart from when we were in Hue on our first trip…..
That drizzle we walked home in is now somewhat heavier, so I head outside onto the communal balcony to have a look. Perhaps also to see night time Phnom Penh, one final time.
Come to think of it, I tend to do that on final nights, too.
There’s not too much going on down below; music is coming from a restaurant over the road, and the only person I can see, apart from the occasional bike that goes past, is a girl heading home with her food cart.
She’s soaking wet, but I suspect she’s done this all before.
I then look across the road at the currently being renovated / repaired Suite Home Boutique hotel. The very hotel we were supposed to be staying in, and I wonder how close I came to be actually standing on their balcony, looking at the G Eleven Hotel across the road. How, when, and why, did it change?
I’m not angry. Or bitter, for that matter. Disappointed? Maybe slightly, but I’m not losing any sleep over it.
And would it have altered our visit?
Probably not. But maybe. Who knows….
I then look down at the girl with her cart. In the rain. And I then think my mild ‘first world’ problems, really are very minor and insignificant.
She pushes her cart inside, and then heads back out into the rain, before returning a few minutes later.
I then start to wonder what sort of a night she’s had. Was it worth her while? Did it make a difference, or did she barely cover costs?
I don’t know. And I’ll never know. Regardless, as she heads in to dry off, I realise I don’t have any overly significant problems at the moment.
Back to the room, and putting off the inevitable for just a bit longer, I think about what we’ve seen and done here in Phnom Penh.
While we’ve had almost three full days; three nights only gives you two full days, but that fairly early flight on Wednesday morning gave us the best part of that day; I feel like we haven’t really seen that much of the place.
Not being overly interested in the usual tourist ‘sites’, I’m not concerned about missing any of those. But we haven’t even really looked at any of the local stuff like markets.
I think in the end, that early start on the day we arrived affected us somewhat, and then there was yesterday’s visit to Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields. And then finally to today, where I really didn’t expect to feel the way I did when I woke up this morning, it all conspired a little to impact our time here. The heat was also a factor, which played a fairly significant part at different times, too.
So yeah, slightly impacted, but still pretty happy with what we did.
Would I return?
Yes. Yes, I would.
In fact, I think I would return to Phnom Penh before I returned to Siem Reap. And I’m not sure too many people would understand that.
But for me, Siem Reap is all about the temples, and now, even though I’ve only seen a very small, miniscule, in fact, number of them, I don’t have any great desire to either see them again, nor see ones that I haven’t yet seen.
Whether that’s right or wrong, reasonable or unreasonable, it’s the way I feel.
I guess it’s that ‘sites’, versus ‘sights’, thing.
Now 11.30pm, and it really is time to call it. I’m knackered, and I feel ordinary. Hopefully both of those feelings, with a little help from more paracetamol, are dealt with by the morning.
As that steady rain before, now becomes a torrential downpour, I think about our day tomorrow.
For the fourth time in five years we shall see Vietnam again. And in doing that, embark on a journey that most of this whole adventure has been planned around.
Yeah, really looking forward to that.