Alice in the land of smiles

Trip Start Nov 15, 2008
Trip End Feb 28, 2009

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Sunday, December 7, 2008

Everyone here (even when they're not trying to get money out of you) smiles at you. Not in the touristed-out way that Thai's smile at you but in a curious and joyful way, so that you're not sure who is laughing at who, what the joke is and why, but aren't we all funny looking and isn't it fun. All the kids wave and say hi as you fly by on spluttering tuk tuks or, as we experienced, a rickety old tin can bus from Phnom Phen.We took 2 buses yesterday, for 5 hours each, we were in Phnom Phen for about 20 minutes and got straight out of there. We have a day to investigate P.P on Wednesday/Thursday when we pick up our Laos visas but until then we are extremely happy with this hostel/villa we sought out in the dark last night. Arriving tired with sore arses from the bumpiest ride ever, in a bus which kept scraping it's underside on the non-road as we travelled through stunning Cambodian countryside, we were welcomed by very friendly staff including the owner, a big furry Australian called Hugh who runs the place with his Aussie wife and their 15 month old William (i'm not a sex-pat, he tells everyone who will listen, between tokes on his bong). We ate some fantastic food and then the party started and about a dozen of us (Aussies, Londoners, Israelis, French, etc) all danced the night away in this little wooden, river-side villa.

Zoe and I slept in the "floating bedroom'because that was all that was free when we arrived last night and it was the windiest night in days. You'll have to wait for the photos to believe it, but it only had 3 bamboo walls and in the morning we woke-up (surprisingly, in the same place, not having drifted to sea) to a view of the river and the lush green fields oppostie. Stunning, if not a little too windy. Tonight we have a proper bedroom.

Today I went for a swim in the river with 2 Kiwis and we're having an easy day, we'll check out the market and head back to prepare for party night tonight. The bar-man knew my drink from a mile off (vodka, soda, fresh lime), very impressive, another one to steal for Jacks. Tomorrow the adventures happen, there are caves and waterfalls to explore and we will visit Kep, a small town up the coast, famous for its French Colonial buildings.

Now we've been gone 3 weeks I realised I haven't had that LDA-pain in the base of my neck for 2 weeks. I love it. How am I going to come back? I've also passed the one-year mark since Dec 3rd. Happy Birthday Xavier, I was thinking of you. So that's it, new story now.


Southern Cambodia is a real pleasure, I loved it much more than
Thailand. the Khmer people are great, especially the children, everyone
should visit to spend time with the children. There's an orphanage up
the road from our villa where you can go and play with the kids and
loads of NGO projects to raise money for them. The kids we met on the
beach were amazing, snotty, dirty things but they just wanted to look
at you and touch you and we tried teaching them songs, which they
loved, but it was frustrating for them not to understand and they get
quite tough with each other, pushing and hitting. But the older ones carry around the babies all day long. They even started on
us when we stopped entertaining them. These kids have nothing, but they
all know how to say hello and my name is and they smile all the time.

Our visit to the cave near Kep was a bit unspectacular, but the bike
drive through the countryside is stunning and the fruit and pepper
plantation is interesting. Pepper is a big thing in Kampot province and
agriculture seems to make a reasonable living for the people. The
raised houses they live in are lovely, but it is mean looking work,
harvesting the rice crops. Women and men work side by side all over
Cambodia and the kids look after each other and sell pineapple and
mango to us in bags. 2 for a dollar. "Hello lady, wan some pineapple?
Mango? 2 for 1 dollar." If you smile while you haggle you never have a

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