A Taste of Phnom Pneh

29 Jan

THIS IS AS-IAH! Actually, the real term is ‘The is Africa’ but Stefanie and I invented our own slogan about Asia due to recent events. “This is Africa” is the term Leo DiCaprio uses in Blood Diamond to explain how anything and everything happens in Africa – good or bad, but mostly bad and how nobody can do a thing about it. AS-IAH because 1: we needed something that sounded like Africa and 2: we are practicing our Spanish.

Thailand was breezy and easy, but Cambodia is another story. The landscape, the people, the poverty, the rules, the corruption… everything I mentioned in my last post. It hasn’t been all awful. In fact, I’m really starting to like it here. However, I did have one bad day where it everything goes wrong and you start to feel homesick. It sounds so trivial now, but sometimes you just get stuck.

Siem Reap was amazing, but Stefanie and I had to make our way down south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia‘s capital. We booked a 6hr bus ride to PP through our guesthouse. The bus was supposed to have a/c, toilet, tv, etc. Not bad for $5! A minibus was picking us up one hour before departure and would bring us to the station. Stefanie and I made a breakfast call to Jessie and then went upstairs to gather a few last things. Our key wasn’t opening the door, so the front desk guy took a look, but he couldn’t open the door either. Needless to say, after prying the handle off the door and shimmying a metal twig around for 30 minutes, the manager finally got the door open a mere 5 minutes before our minibus arrived. PHEW!

We piled into the minibus, picked up another passenger and then went around town picking up packages. We even went to an Apple reseller store and picked up three huge packages…. a little strange, but then we remembered that some bus companies make deliveries, like in Canada. With only 20 mins before our big bus was scheduled to leave – our minibus overheated and broke down. 30 minutes later, we were back on the road, but then we pulled over by some hair salon and told we had to wait 5 minutes. Umm HELLO, our bus is about to leave!!! I kept seeing other minibuses go by and a few big buses from the same company, so I knew we were close by. Still, we didn’t budge and then after 20 mins. the guy told us the bus was coming here. Knowing that we probably missed the right bus, we sat waiting for another 15 mins until this broken local bus came spewing our way. Oh jeeze….

The local bus wasn’t as horrible as I’m used to; however, you couldn’t sit in the last 3 rows on the right side because the a/c unit would drench the seats each time you went around a corner. It was pretty hilarious. The a/c was virtually nonexistent and the driver played this awful music throughout the whole trip. Another thing to look out for when taking a local bus is timing! Local buses seem to stop in every little town and corner along the road – continually picking up more people and dropping someone else off. It takes forever to get from point A to point B. However, we got into PP faster than we predicted. There’s a first time for everything!

We had a guesthouse in mind and climbed into the back of a tuk-tuk. The driver claimed he knew the place. They all say that. He brought us to some busy, but seedy hotel. There was no window in the room and it smelt a little dank, but after checking out some other guesthouses in the area – we decided to just head back to the first hotel. We paid the $10 rate and settled into our room for the night. Stefanie and I checked the sheets and smelled the worst body odor, so Stef went down and asked for more sheets, but they told her no! Can you believe it? They said they were clean, but Stefanie insisted they weren’t. Honestly, you could smell the stinky sheets from the doorway! Thankfully, someone soon showed up at the door with fresh, crisp sheets.

That night, we wandered around the corner and found the original guesthouse we wanted to stay in – it was so close! We booked a room for the following night and then went looking for some late night dinner. We found a restaurant, took one look at the menu and kindly left. Big ants, cow intestine, frog!! No thank you! I wasn’t in the mood for being adventurous with a grumbling stomach. We ended up eating at our hotel and my meal was pretty awful anyways.

After such a long day, I really needed an injection of home. Traveling is never easy, but I was so exhausted and fed up that day. You really appreciate your own country when you start traveling the world. I love Canada. It is so easy.

PP is not my favourite city. In fact, I don’t like it at all. It is chaotic and it has no charm, no order, boring architecture, average food (good coffee though!). It isn’t a walkable city because of the crazy traffic. Crossing the street is an art form – you need to have great timing and reflexes, perseverance, speed and above all, guts!

Nevertheless, the sites around PP are historical, eye-opening and heart breaking, so it is definitely worth a visit. I will try and blog tomorrow night about everything we’ve seen and done here in PP. We have another early morning tomorrow, so I want to crawl into bed. We are traveling down to Cambodia’s beaches – we need an escape from the city. We are not sure how long we’re staying down there, as we’ve heard some mixed reviews. The mainland beaches are supposed to be average, but the islands are raved about. Only time (and money!) will tell.

I can’t wait to beat the heat with a dip in the sea. It’s been around 33-34 C degrees out! I’ll update soon about PP and our trip down south. Hopefully, it won’t be as stressful as our first bus trip in Cambodia but after all, THIS IS AS-IAH!

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