Friday, July 26, 2013
07.26.2013 - 07.26.2013 30 °C
[left][center]Breakfast at our hotel in Pursat at 7:30 am and then we would be heading off to Phnom Penh. I had a Cambodian breakfast of fried noodles with chicken at the hotel. This was one of the better dishes I have received as it was covered with lots of greens, carrots, mushrooms and baby corn. Before this I had a fresh coconut and happily drank the coconut water dry. I am now a fan of coconut water. All the times I tried to learn to like it in Vancouver because it was good for me didn't gel. Maybe I just needed to do it in the right setting and now I am hooked. I doubt that the canned coconut water can measure up to fresh coconut water.
We loaded up the van with our luggage and off we went. I had now been sitting in the front seat of the van after my bad bout with car sickness. I generally do not ever experience car sickness but with the bumpy dirt roads and the winding driving due to piles of dirt everywhere, it was too much for me.
We made a stop at a nearby women's cooperative which wdas operated by the government. There women made goods out of cotton, silk, wove mats, placemats, carvings out of wood and various types of stone, silk wallets, purses, kramas (the traditional Khmer cotton scarves.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krama, etc. We saw women weaving large mats, one young woman was disabled and her wheelchair was nearby. We also watched two women weave silk fabric on large looms. Another woman, a mother had her baby nearby and she was taking thread and spinning it onto a large spool using a bicycle wheel to spin with. We went to their store after our short tour and bought many of their goods as we not only found unique items but we wanted to support them as well.
We travelled for about an hour and a half when Sing turned off the main road onto a dirt one. Rainbow had asked us earlier if we liked surprises and I think everyone said that they do as long as they were good surprises. Soon enough it was announced that we would be taking a boat and going to see the floating village. We got into a boat that had plastic chairs for us to sit on. None of the chairs were secured to the boat and there were life jackets but no one put them on despite a few of us not knowing how to swim. In hindsight it might have been a smart idea to put them on.
It was truly an astounding experience. An entire floating village on the Tonle Sap River. Many homes, businesses of every kind that you would find in a landlocked village. Gas stations, grocery stores, cell phone stores, hardware and more.
Some of the homes had satellite dishes attached to them. We saw a father and son in a hammock while looking at their iPad. We also saw a sight that made your stomach flip, a woman holding a cut watermelon and she was washing it in the river.
Garbage is a real problem in Cambodia. People litter everywhere. At the village the children, would eat and just drop their wrappers, food bits and anything they didn't want onto the ground. This made it so much more work as there was constant littering and whenever you had to dig up any soil it would be littered with garbage which would have to be pulled out. It also didn't help as there were no garbage bins to be seen. Disposal of garbage seems to be dealt with partly by burning it and that just causes more air pollution. Other times it just sits there. I saw large heaps of garbage in Phnom Penh and I expect that in the city trucks would pick that up as the pile was larger than the last time we were in Phnom Penh some three weeks ago.
We got back on the road after thoroughly enjoying our little boat ride and went to the roadside restaurant that we went to for a beverage the last time we came this way. Last time the place was not very busy at all. This time the tables were filled with customers and we got to sit in a private room at the very back. Chairs were covered with white fabric and the bathroom was one of the nicest I have used since coming to Cambodia. It was now 12:30 pm and Leah said we are just here for a snack and would be going for a very late lunch at a French restaurant in Phnom Penh. We had a snack of french fries with three different dips, ketchup, soya sauce and lime juice with salt/pepper and msg. While we ate we watched a silly soap opera from the Phillipines. We had a lot of good laughs and it was great fun.
Soon we were back on the road to head to Phnom Penh. It was about another one and a half hour trip before we arrived. Along the way we saw a lot of political rallys as today was the last day that the parties could promote themselves. Tomorrow was the day before the election. Once the ballots closed they will be counted and the results known in a day or two. Large sections of downtown roads were closed for the parties. There was a very noticeable police presence and a large amount of military were stationed everywhere.
We arrived in Phnom Penh around 4:00 and Sing dropped us off for a very late lunch/dinner at a French restaurant called comme a la maison. There is a reason why you should not go for another country's food when you are not in that country. It is never quite right unless you are in a larger city such as Vancouver, Boston, New York or Seattle. There the food is prepared correctly. A valiant effort was made by this restaurant but it didn't quite cut it. I ordered the seafood with pasta and the sauce was like a tomato paste. The seafood was decent but nothing special. I had a Perrier water with my meal. Some of the other meals were quite good. After we finished eating, we walked to their adjoining bakery to order our dessert. We came back to the restaurant where I had a very tasty apple tart. This was the best part of my meal.
We left there shortly after 5 pm and went back to the hotel we stayed at last time, Indochine 2. I was excited about getting there as I would be reunited with my camera (that I had left in the safe at the hotel in Siem Reap) and also pick up a necklace with my name in Khmer that I had ordered when we first arrived in Phnom Penh.
We met in the lobby at 6:00 pm and walked along the main drag and soon ended up at the Phnom Penh Night Market. It was expected to be closed. I stimulated the economy getting some last minute items along with my teammates and then we went back to the main street.
Just outside the market, there was a sugar cane vendor using a sugar cane machine, the same type as what we were buying for Ron. Rainbow bought a sugar cane juice and we all shared this. Oh how things have changed. Three weeks ago we were such strangers, now we drink each other's water, beverages and taste each others meals and desserts. We have really gotten to know and care about each other, bonded and become a family.
I haven't always recorded the temperature in the blog as I often didn't know what it was. Humidity year round is a high between 80 to 90% and higher so you felt that much hotter. Most days I think it was between 28 to 33 degrees. You would shower, feel really cooled off for about five minutes until the heat and humidity got to you. I have to say that I think I fared the heat much better due to having gone to hot yoga regularly. The hottest day in Phnom Penh in the past 12 months was on April 6th at 40 degrees. The hottest day relative to average temperatures was July 21st when it was 39 degrees. We were still in Prahos Kbal that day. Apparently the coldest day in the past 12 months in Phnom Penh was May 4 when it was 20 degrees.
Several of us went into an interesting store called KeoK'jay which means bright green or fresh in Khmer. "They are a social enterprise that employs HIV positive women to produce environmentally friendly fashion. Our producers earn a fair wage that allows them to care for their families and actively contribute to their communities. Every step in making a KeoK'jay product is considered with the producer, the customer, and the environment in mind, from design, to materials, to production, to packaging. We aim to provide comfortable, useful, fashionable and washable products. Our creative team works side by side with our producers, delivering designs that are inspired by Cambodia and that resonate with our international customers." - from website for Binky Higgins which carries KeoK'jay in the United States.
Their products are very reasonably priced and the quality is high. Maxi dresses for $31, regular length dresses for $25 and t-shirts for $21 to $22. I bought two t shirts and returned the next day with some of the other women and bought another t-shirt and a dress. I also really like that their products are made from recycled materials, that they use garment factory cast-offs, vintage buttons, cement bags, newspapers and cardboard.
We then went to the massage place recommended to us by Sammy, a waitress at the Indochine 2. The majority of the group went for foot massages which I think were $7 for an hour. Lily opted for a head massage. Only Linda and I wanted an oil massage and so upstairs we went. The massage was pretty decent and our cost was so very little, only $8 a person for an hour massage. As it was election day tomorrow, my masseuse told me that she has to travel back home to vote and that it is about two hours away. We had been told that traffic was going to be heavier in the days leading up to the election as many people would be travelling to their home district to vote as you cannot vote outside of your district. I wasn't clear if your district was where you were born or where you were normally a resident. She was also very sweet and giggled when she saw my tattoos. She is also shorter than me. I met more women shorter than me in Cambodia than anywhere else I have gone to in the world so far. Like I said, my kind of country.
After massages for all eight of us were done, it was now around 9 pm and we wanted to go to get something to eat. We went to a restaurant nearby called La Croissette which served pizza, burgers and other familiar dishes. We ordered pizza, a couple of chocolate mousses and I ordered a cheese plate. Cheese plate was very good. Lily had been talking about how she missed cheese and I had been wanting cheese. Some had drinks and I had my first Singapore Sling since I was about 19 years old. It actually tasted pretty good, as I thought it would be too sweet. After we ate, we wandered back to our hotel with a pit stop at the corner store for snacks and some special beverages.
I had also somehow lost my Cambodian dictionary somwhere and I picked up another at the store as I hope to return to Cambodia one day in the not so far future.
Kailey and Linda came to join Lily and I in our room for some chill time and we ended up staying up too late. No sleeping till likely close to 2:00 am. It was really our last night to stay up as it would be an early bed tomorrow.