12.02.2012 - 13.02.2012 28 °C
Hello hello, and welcome to Cambodia! I arrived safe and sound in Phnom Penh yesterday afternoon after a nice but long day of boat travel. In the morning Cat, Em and I had planned to wake up early to see the sunrise, but unfortunately slept too late and just missed it. Regardless, I still got a few nice photos from the deck outside our room on the floating hotel. We quickly packed and went down to the restaurant and had a quick eggs and baguette as we had to say goodbye quite early.
At 7am we all got on to a beautiful long boat and went across to what appeared to be a floating residential area on the Mekong, with lots of buildings on stilts. We got off at a fish farm and Dien explained to us the fishing industry on the Mekong as well as feeding some crazy fish in front of us. It didn’t catch my fancy all that much, but it was interesting that apparently they keep a boat running near the fish compartments to vibrate the water and keep them active and swim around.
Soon enough we were all back on the boat again and got off at a small village in the An Giang province. This province has a large Islamic community, and we visited a mosque where Dien explained the history of Vietnamese migration and the different cultures and races that have inhabited the land. We had noticed that many of the children looked different to Vietnamese children that we’d seen in Saigon, with darker skin and eyes, and we learnt that this was because in that particular region many people had moved there from Malaysia and Indonesia. The children were beautiful and would run out to you to say hello and chase you around a little bit, with some knowing how to hi-5 too! The village also backed onto enormous rice paddies, just like what you see on postcards of Vietnam, and as we went down to take a photo Em slipped getting up and got sexy green muck all over her legs. It was a pretty decent stack but she handled it well haha.
We’d kind of separated from the group (I was taking too much time stealing photos of children) and had to quickly catch up, where everyone was waiting near the gift shop. In the shop were mainly local handicrafts, as we had seen fabric being made and there were typical little purses and bracelets and knick-knacks, but I didn’t buy anything. We then went back to the boats but got onto a new smaller speed boat which was to take us to Cambodia. Off we went and only stopped off to sort out our visas ($23 – 20 for the visa and 3 as a typical bribe) where I bought some peanut-butter/chocolate oreos that I’ve been so fond of and flavoured iced tea, as I still had plenty of dong to use up. The stop off to the Cambodian border wasn’t much further up, and we just had to get our passports stamped and checked so it wasn’t too long of a process.
We got back in the speedboat and at one point stopped on the side of the river where a large boat was waiting. We were to switch boats with people that were going to Chau Doc, so we got into the big one and they got into the small one – I did pity them as they had far more people than us and it looked quite cramped. Lots of children had come down to the hill and were sitting near the boats, but contrary to what many people had told me about Cambodian children, they didn’t seem very happy to see tourists. Some were, some weren’t, but they were very beautiful.
This boat was super nice and had an outdoor area out the back where I sat for a while, and then went inside for a while too. It was a pretty long journey, but we finally got in at about 3.30. Kat and Em were planning to stay at Top Banana so I got a tuk-tuk with them, but Top Banana was full so we went to the Eighty8 Guesthouse. No regrets there, this place is really nice – almost like a small resort! And I think I have a crush on one of the little Cambodian bar boys, maybe I’ll be able to fulfil my dream of a Eurasian baby after all! (Don’t worry mum, not any time soon). We got some cash out and I tried the beef loc lac (I think) from the bar, which is a traditional Khmer meal I’d heard about. It was pretty good. We also had a number of cocktails – watermelon mai tai, long island iced tea, mojitos and something I’m not sure about the name of – capioskia I think? They were all pretty good. We met some people and Cat and Em wanted to go out but I wasn’t really in the mood, so after they left I just spoke with some of the bar staff, Vinas and Red, because I was hoping to find a small village nearby so that I could get out of Phnom Penh. For some reason I wasn’t enjoying it (in the few hours I’d been there), probably just because I really liked the small villages we’d visited on the Mekong and the fact that everyone I was meeting seemed more interested in getting drunk and partying with other foreigners. That’s fun and all but just doesn’t seem to be what I want out of this trip, not yet at least.
At around midnight I was starving and a bit bored but the kitchen was closed so I went out onto the street and had a walk around. A few people were out just sitting at tables by street restaurants and were interested in why I was wandering around pointlessly. Some of them were friendly, some of them were just strange, and I’m still not sure whether they were being rude or if I just couldn’t understand their behaviour, but regardless I felt a bit uncomfortable and moved on. I did meet one guy who knew a bit of English and invited me to play chess with him. Unfortunately, I don’t remember how to play chess, but we had a beer and a chat and it was nice to hear a bit about his experiences in the change in Cambodian life over the past three decades. He was also interested a lot in my life as a Westerner, but after a while I felt a bit uncomfortable again and I went back to the hostel, which is just across the road. I just listened to music and fell asleep…
Today was a pretty lazy day – I do feel like I should have done more and ‘cease the moment’ but it was nice just to relax and get a feel for the city. I slept in a fair bit but at around 10.30 the girls told me that they were going to Sihanoukville, so we got up and had some breakfast. They left around 11.30-12ish and I just lazed around the lobby for a while, trying to think of places to go next as I wasn’t very excited about spending too much time in PP – for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it. I also got to catch up on Facebook which was good (as pathetic as that sounds), as it’s banned in Vietnam.
I remember a point I’d read on wikitravel about a local community cinema called ‘The Flicks’. It’s about an hour walk away from my hostel but I firstly went to the Wat Pagoda, which is right near my place. It was quite beautiful, and I saw an old lady feeding five cats (stray I assume) leftovers by the temple which was sweet. I kept walking and somehow ended up at the Central Market (I think..) and had a very quick look around. I found some sunglasses I really liked and got two pairs for $7.65 or so. I probably could’ve kept haggling down a bit more but frankly I was happy with the price.
I continued to walk and finally arrived at 95th street for the Flicks Cinema. I waited outside for a while until the first session at 4pm. The place is pretty cool, it has a good bar and lots of interesting posters on the walls, as well as a big stock of Fair Trade t-shirts which is good. Inside the cinema rooms are a range of mattress/pillows/couches to rest on – it reminded me a bit of the cinema Kirk runs in the Gilmore Girls. You pay $3.50 for a days worth of validity (you can watch as many as you please for whatever is playing that day). The movies I watched were ‘Life in A Day’ (DEFINITELY recommend), ‘A Joyeux Eventment’ (A Happy Event – I think I wrote the French verison wrong), which is a French movie about a pregnant woman. Lastly was The Rum Diaries, about a journalist (Johnny Depp) in Puerto Rico. They were all really interesting, except the last one, but still it was nice to relax for a while and I met a few people, including an American girl, Iliana, who has been living here for 6 months and I might catch up with her tomorrow night.
After that I walked for a while and my stomach was eating itself so I got some beef stirfry at a street-side restaurant. I was a little worried about the hygiene of my meal and drinking the ice in the iced tea but whatever, I was too hungry. I got a tuk-tuk home and here we are!
Tomorrow I’m meeting up with Matt (from the boat) in the morning and we’re going to S-21 and the Killing Fields which I’m really excited about but building myself up for. Might catch up with Iliana in the evening.