Plane, Train, and now, Bus!

Trip Start Feb 17, 2013
Trip End Mar 21, 2013

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Monday, March 4, 2013

Note from Dayna:  Several days ago, I temporarily delegated the blog writing to Tom due to a head cold I can't seem to shake.  We realized what a great team we make!  Because it still takes a great deal of time to edit what he writes (I am the Grammar Nazi, after all), upload the pictures and label them, we have decided he will write while I do the finish work!  He's funnier than I am, anyway!  So, enjoy.

Today was a travel day for us which meant getting up and going early.  Breakfast at 7 a.m., bus at 8 a.m.

We learned this morning that the hotel we are/were staying, The Pavilion, is actually owned by the royal family with a long term lease to the hotel firm.  The main building, in which we stayed,  was the new king's grandmother's home.  It was built in 1933.  We should have felt very safe because the barracks for the king's bodyguards surround the hotel on three sides. The upside here is that we would be the first to know if there was going to be a palace coup!  The old king that just died was much beloved by his people but had no power.  His son, the new king, is also powerless so he should also be loved by his equally powerless masses. The chance of a coup here seems minimal.

The bus company, like everything else in this country, seems to work on Mormon Standard Time.  We were a little late getting out of town.  But nobody, including us, seemed to care.  Now, for the benefit of the big tall guy in the corner office at work, the bus was outstanding.  Mike, even you would have had plenty of leg room!!  Very comfy and impeccably clean with a hostess on board serving water and a light snack.  Wi-Fi on the whole trip!  And movie screens . . . the downer here was that they showed two Adam Sandler movies and one of the endless Planet of the Apes series.  It was embarrassing to be an American on that issue. At least we had a good reason to sightsee out the side windows.  As I mentioned once before, it is not good to watch out the front window of any moving vehicle in Vietnam and Cambodia.  Bad for the heart!

The highway between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is undergoing major rebuilding.  But, highway construction in Asia is not like that in the western world. Things happen somewhat haphazardly here so traffic wasn't too affected by the level of activity generated but a government project.  In a few years there will be a beautiful four lane highway that will substantially reduce traffic incidents and Western heart failures.

On a more serious point, we were witness to some of the world's truly poverty stricken people.  In the rural areas, people still live in grass shacks, drive oxen carts and pony carts as a means of travel and business.  The shacks are, in many, if not most, cases one room and totally without power or running water. Many lack doors or any type of cover over the window openings. But since there is nothing worth stealing, "non perspirus minutes dingus."  This is the dry season but in the wet season most of these shacks are up to their stilts in mosquito infested water.  You could take any homeless person from the USA to Cambodia and they would feel better about themselves!  My fading memory makes me think that Cambodia is today what the Philippines was 40 years ago when I was there.  "A chicken in every pot" they already have . . . their dream is a (1) lightbulb in every house.  Flush toilets and running water are only found in Oz.

Speaking of flush toilets and running water, that was something our bus lacked.  (Pretty good segue, huh?)  We stopped once for a quick piddle stop and another time on the 6 hour trip for a lunch stop.  Both very nice clean places.  I'm sure the Cambodian boys take their dates there to impress them!

By 3:00 we were in Siem Reap, with bags collected and our hotel's courtesy tuk-tuk driver smiling and jabbering away in English and doing everything he could so we would ask him to be our guide for a temple tour tomorrow.  (We did). Cambodians are about the friendliest people you would ever want to meet. Cynicism aside, they are hardworking and helpful in every way to the foreign hoards that infest and fertilize their country with dollars.

Which brings up another point.  Money.  (I am so good with transitions!). The Dollar is king here.  Everything is done in dollars, except small change.  And, I mean EVERYTHING.  If you ask for anything quoted in Cambodian currency, they look at you like you are the village idiot.  However, all small change is returned to you in Cambodian money.  If you are supposed to get $3.50 back in change, you will get $3 dollars US and 2000 in Cambodian money that is worthless outside the country and nobody will exchange for anything.  By the time we leave here we will have $50 in paper Cambodian "nickels and dimes." Souvenirs for the grandkids.  But I digress . . . .

Our little pension,  Pipeli Pension, is close to down town.  Very small, only 9 rooms with a pool and swim-up bar.  What more is there in life?  Our room is very nice but not extravagant.  We do have a bathtub big enough for two on our very private balcony and it has a nice table where they will deliver room service breakfast every morning.  Something we always have at home . . . Not!

We finished the day by freshening up and walking down to the Market and Pub Street area for dinner.  The name says it all. Forgot the camera but we will get some pix tomorrow.  We had Khmer BBQ which is like a hotpot dinner.  Everything is delivered raw and we cook it in a grill with a surrounding pan of chicken broth and vegetables.  The meat for the dish was chicken, beef, pork, squid, and crocodile.  FYI, crocodile tastes like tough chicken.  The weather is surprisingly pleasant by the way.  But, I may eat my words tomorrow.

An early evening and a busy day of temple crawling tomorrow.

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