Trip to Phnom Penh 31/07/10

August 2, 2010

So on Saturday I decided to travel to Phnom Penh again, its not that I really want to be in the city, but PP has something that little bit special. I wanted to try to feel the pulse of the city a bit, get under the skin of it, so to speak. As a bonus I was also meeting Hanna and Annie, a couple of volunteers at SSF who where leaving Cambodia and starting their journey back to the UK.

I set off early(ish) Saturday morning (0700) and headed to national road number 4 to try and flag down a taxi / mini bus. I didn’t have to wait long.

I climbed onto the front seat of the mini bus, sat back and simply absorbed the experience. As we got closer to PP we had to make more frequent stops, no we weren’t dropping passengers off, it was more to do with, what could only be classed as impromptu road taxation by waiting police. The driver would hand me notes of money, we would pull over where directed, and I would hand the said notes out of the window, miraculously they disappeared and we where suddenly on our way again.

After numerous more stops, I decided to alight the minibus at a market place… Too be honest I had absolutely no idea where I was, but decided it was as good a place as any to have a wander around. I was stopped numerous times by people who pointed at my tattoos, occasionally people would take my arm and run their fingers over the ink. This didn’t bother me at all as it was all done with a smile and with genuine interest. It also broke the ice and allowed me to just sit and chat with people for a while… (albeit in my god awful khmer) but I think they appreciated me trying at least.


After wandering around a bit I decided I should go and find Hanna and Annie. I asked a scooter rider if he knew where the Sunday guest house was. He nodded furiously and we negotiated $1 for the trip. After riding around for about 20mins it was clear he had no idea at all of where he was going. We asked directions approximately 5 times before we finally found the guest house. My driver, clearly delighted with his feat of navigational expertise, attempted to demand $2 for this impromptu sight seeing tour, I handed him $1 and thanked him politely for the journey.

I checked into Fairyland Guest house, which was next door to Sunday, (If i had trouble finding the Sunday guest house, then there was now way they would understand Fairy) it was probably one of the pricier places i’ve stayed, at $13 with an air conditioned room. But the rooms where lovely and had a TV as well. ( I found this useful as I could listen to Khmer on the TV). The view was also pretty nice. If your interested in this guest house then its on street 141.

After a shower to cool down I went to meet Hanna and Annie, we headed to the end of the street for a cold drink then off to the Russian market. (ok i need to confess, i absolutely love the iced coffees over here, try it with the sweet milk. dteuk gork gaa-fay, just incase your interested).

The Russian market, like most markets is covered, because of this its hot, now when I say hot I mean its really hot… its like a sauna in there… I love it… your hot, your wet, you have the hustle and bustle of the market, the smells the noise, the chaos, what better way to start to peel away the layers of a city and get to grips with it…


After spending about an hour walking around the market, we decided to go and grab something to eat. I was still on the lookout for apple pie (I have a thing for trying apple pie in every country I go to, it brings back good memories of my gran’s cooking). We eventually found a place that seemed to fit the bill, however just my luck it had sold out of apple pie 😦 instead I was offered a sorry looking apricot crumble. I mean who puts apricots in a crumble?

I sat there for a while poking disappointedly at my unappealing apricot crumble, I would occasionally gaze out of the window and down onto the street below. I could sense that that is was going to start raining. (the air cools a little, you can smell the moisture in the air, its pretty refreshing).

As the rain started to fall I started thinking, maybe I was looking at this all the wrong way, maybe just maybe I had been presented with an opportunity. An opportunity to continue my quest in search of the elusive cambodian apple pie. Of course I wanted to find it a good apple pie here, but would I ever really find an apple pie that was as good as my gran’s baking? would I even want too? Maybe the ultimate goal is irrelevant, it could just be something to aim at. Whats important is the journey, having a reason to move in a direction, any direction at all. With that thought, I moved towards the cake counter and ordered a large piece of cheese cake.

After stuffing my face with cake and iced coffee, we decided it was too hot too continue wandering about, so decided to head back to the guest house to play a few games of cards (Switch and Shit Head, some of you will know these games).

Later that evening Hanna, Anni and I grabbed a tuc-tuc to the riverside and ate dinner. It was nice spending time with the girls, they had both dedicated time out of their lives to help complete strangers on the other side of the world. If I was wearing a hat I would take it off too them. They where now heading back to their homes in the UK and back to uni to finish their studies.

Later that night, it was maybe about 0330 – 0430 in the morning (now back at my room of course), I was laid on my bed with the lights out and the windows open allowing me to hear the city outside. Initially I could hear voices in the street below, followed by a woman singing. I have no idea what she was singing but the sound echoed through the ally-way below. I got up from my bed and stood at the window for a while, watching the street and listening. It was a beautiful thing, it was one of those experiences that cost absolutely nothing at all, yet made me appreciate and accept everything within the universe at that single moment in time….simply perfect.

I woke pretty early on Sunday, ok I woke at 0800, it was early enough. I wanted to purchase a couple of things, first off i needed a hard-drive for a server I was building at the school, I also needed another Khmer phrase book, and maybe if I had time I could look at and maybe price a scooter. This was going to be a bit of a mission so I decided to call my good friend Sovann (he’s a tuc-tuc driver and knows every where). He arrived at Fairlyland within 10 mins of me calling. I have no idea how he does it.

We managed to get a hard drive and a phrase book within about 30 mins. Ok may as well look at a couple of scooters then. 3 hours later I was riding my new 250cc XL Honda Degree through the streets of PP. Sovann being the kind soul that he is, refused to let me ride back to Kompong Speu alone, just incase I had any problems. He jumped on the back and we started the 1 hour journey back. Actually with me riding this bike it didn’t take that long at all. Sovann seemed a little worried, when I say seemed a little worried i probably mean screamed. However the noise of the engine suppressed his vocal projection of fear from disturbing my carefully developed riding style.

So there we have it, another weekend in PP, and now I have wheels to go and explore anywhere I like, who know where Im going to end up 🙂

peace & love dx


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