Fire(works) in the Sky

Trip Start Sep 05, 2012
Trip End Sep 04, 2013

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Flag of Cambodia  , Krŏng Phnum Pénh,
Friday, November 9, 2012

We ate breakfast early and then returned to the room to finish packing and then check out. I have now become pathological about checking rooms when we leave them as so far this trip had cost me my iPod, and I am currently negotiating the return of my phone from Vietnam where I left it! We checked out of the hostel, shouldered our packs and walked the five hundred yards to the bus station where our 'VIP‘bus was currently waiting. We waited in the baking sun with a few locals and a French couple until the driver deemed it was time to let us into the air-conditioned nirvana that was the interior.

We boarded and found our seats "Oh for f*cks sake, they really are taking the p*ss" I exclaimed rather loudly. Whenever we buy tickets for these bus journeys, the vendor will always ask where we want to sit? ‘Oh, anywhere that there is lots of legroom'; and every time we end up crammed into seats with less room than two Albanian asylum seekers in a lorry on the Calais to Dover ferry. This time was no exception, we had two seats, one which had loads of legroom, the other had about five inches into which the occupant had to squeeze. Fortunately the bus wasn’t full so I nipped over the aisle to sit in an unoccupied seat.

I would like to say that we enjoyed the trip to Phnom Penh, but then I would be lying, in Cambodia, any coach journey has a few universal constants, Poor roads, non-existent suspension, and Cambodian karaoke blasted at 120 decibels. As soon as the bus leaves the depot, the TV comes on and it starts, the only way to bear it is to retreat into an iPod or music on the netbook. So in a rather antisocial manner, Dan and I retreated into our music and I carried on writing the blog. There was a rest stop halfway, at a small warehouse in a real backwater town. The temperature was touching thirty seven degrees and yet infuriatingly, they turn off the engine and force you out of the bus for twenty minutes to be immediately set upon by food hawkers.

After about five hours we entered the suburbs of Phnom Penh, and slowed to a crawl, the last hour was simply spent doing on average three miles an hour, plodding towards the centre of town. Finally we parked up at the Sorya bus station in the centre of Phnom Penh, grabbed our bags and chose our tuk tuk driver based on personal hygiene and sobriety. The trip to the Hotel was the usual craziness, which I managed to grab a video of for you to hopefully get an idea of the chaos of an Asian city. We passed the Orressey Market which had a lot of barbecue food stalls outside, all looking great, and promised to come back here to sample the food at some point. Arriving at our hotel, our driver ‘CK’ offered his services if and when we decided to take a tour out to the ‘killing fields’.

The hotel room yet again was lovely, and we dropped our bags and decided that we wanted a walk and a beer after that journey. Walking own towards the river we located the nightlife area of Phnom Penh, bordering the riverfront, and sat at a bar watching the world go by for a few hours, taking advantage of happy hour prices. Four beers later we decided that we needed to go back and shower, otherwise there was a danger that we wouldn’t make it back at all and the night could get very messy.

We showered and busied ourselves settling into the new room and watched a bit of TV. I started to hear a few loud bangs and pulled back the curtains to see a huge fireworks display over the city. We moved out onto the balcony and watched as this poorest of countries expended thousands of Dollars in coloured gunpowder explosions, though they were very nice.

After the fireworks, we decided that we would do the ‘killing fields’ tour tomorrow, so contacted CK to get him lined up to drive us at eight thirty, and then left the hotel to have a quick explore of the local area, wandering the streets aimlessly for an hour or so. We were interested in some street food but there really didn’t seem to be anything appetizing, which is something we have noticed about Cambodia; China and Vietnam had amazing street food which made you want to dive in and sample it. Cambodia so far hasn’t had that, mainly the food on the streets seemed to be based around baguettes and vegetarian fillings or maybe a slice of some unappealing pate.

Eventually we decided to have a liquid dinner, so stopped at a small bar called ‘The Black Cat’ for a couple of beers, and then moved just down the road to the ‘Walkabout’ pub, not the chain of faux Aussie pubs that you find in the UK, but a grittier, spit and sawdust, no nonsense kind of place quite close to the hotel. Arsenal were playing Fulham, so we sat and watched the game, which was entertaining, and chatted, drinking a few beers, casually swatting away the half-hearted efforts of the bar girls to engage us in conversation. Finally we headed back as we had to be up early for the tour, and we wanted to be fully prepared as it promised to be a challenging day. On the way back we saw possibly the greatest anti-theft device ever created, and then, arriving back, we saw the security guard responsible for keeping all our possession safe in this state, now that’s vigilance eh?
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