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Day 8: To Phnom Penh, the capital, BY BOAT!

Day 8: To Phnom Penh, the capital, BY BOAT!

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On Day 8, Mateo and I headed off to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. We woke up extremely early, around 5 am, to catch a van to the port. The van showed up around 6 am, and we packed into the van, now full with 10 people plus the driver. That is, all the seats were filled. Then we stopped at three more placed until we had 16 people packed into a van fit for 10. It was good times.

The van ride took about 45 minutes, since the roads outside of central Siem Reap are mostly packed dirt and full of muddy potholes. As we did on our way to Siem Reap, we saw many locals living in small grass huts held up by stilts to avoid flooding. The nicer places would have corrugated steel roofs, but it was obvious we were looking at a great deal of poverty, and as we progressed the complaints about having a packed van seemed trivial and trite in comparison.

We boarded our boat and discovered that many people were staying on the roof of the boat for the trip, so Mateo and I did the same. We originally thought that the inside was full, but later discovered that most people just opted for the rooftop.

That was an important point, since neither of us remembered to put on sunscreen and it was a 6 hour boat ride. My thighs have turned bright red, and it hurts quite a lot just to walk, but that is no one's fault but my own, so it is gaman time for me (gaman means "grin and bear it" in Japanese, and is an important part of Japanese culture).

The boat ride was quite pleasant, though. The Tonle Sap lake is quite large, and the color of the lake is a consistent brown. One of the more interesting things about the lake is that there are floating communities on it. People living a good distance from shore on collections of boathouses bound together. There are smaller boats that go from community to community that sell fresh vegetables and supplies, and the people that live there seem to sustain themselves through fishing and the such. One shocking community had two live pigs in a floating pen next to their houseboat. As our boat passed by they smiled and waved.

The 6 hours passed by quickly, until near the end when both Mateo and I realized that we were sunburned. We spent most of the time reading (I am reading "A Separate Peace" for the first time), sleeping, and looking at the scenery.

As we pulled into Phnom Penh port, we were both very happy that we booked a guesthouse in advance. The port was a sea of taxi drivers, tuk tuk drivers, and guesthouse employees beckoning us to use their services as we stepped ashore. The man from our guesthouse was there as well holding a handwritten sign saying "Welcome Mr. Mateo." We jumped in a van with him and headed off to Smile Guesthouse with the other guests for the night.

The room we have at Smile has been the nicest we have had so far. There is a fan, an A/C, AND a TV. This has been the first room with a TV we have had. Flipping through the channels, we discovered that Cambodian television is an odd mix of international (British, American, Thai, Chinese, etc.) stations and Cambodian stations, as well as some stations showing very poor copies of bootleg movies.

We decided to get something to eat, so we went off down the street in search of tasty vegetarian goodness after dropping off our laundry at the guesthouse laundry service. We found a place and had a good meal, but when we went to pay I only had a Hamilton in my pocket, and the meal was only one US dollar. The restaurant couldn't break the bill. This is a country where breaking a Hamilton is a major issue. That's something.

Every evening our guesthouse plays The Killing Fields, which is all about the horrible reign of the Khmer Rogue and Pol Pot who were responsible for millions of deaths during the years of 1975-1979. It was a good movie and it made us want to learn more about Cambodia's recent bloody history.

That is it for today. Take care and I'll see you out there.

  • Hi Hon ~.~

    Sounds like a good time all in all. So did you pay the restaurant or just say "zannen" and walk out without paying?

    Are you going to come back a hippy? How's the beard growth? :P

    Things are good over here. We arrived at the airport this afternoon and I drove Michael up to Tonbara. Alicia was there and we met everyone but it was very informal. I think he was a little relieved. So we are going around the town introducing ourselves on Friday. It's kinda nice that they are giving us a couple days instead of how they did it for us when we first arrived 3 years ago. Tomorrow I have the day free. Alicia is taking Michael to Matsue to show him around and maybe help him get a cell phone. I was invited but I think I need recooperation time. I don't feel like doing more travelling right now. SO I'll catch up with them on Friday. Alicia leaves on Saturday.

    The new folks are really nice. I think your gonna like them. I took some of them out last night when some people had embassy nights and I found us a great place to eat. Fortunately we were the only ones there so they were able to be patient with my serious lack of Japanese skills. The cool thing was that no one seemed to notice that. Tehy were all amazed at my japanese prowess. Little did they know that it was all a charade. Anyway, thye hardly drank any alcohol so we were able to just enjoy each other's company and get to know one another. It was really fun. I think there are a lot more men this year than women (lucky for me *wink, wink*). But perhaps group B will be different.

    Love you ~.~
    • OH NO! You are just TRYING to make me jealous now. :P

      I am becoming quite the hippy indeed. The beard is very visible now. You will see it in each of my daily pictures. I don't know if I wil shave it or not yet when I return. Would you like to see me in it in the flesh? :)

      I was able to borrow a buck from Mateo for the food, but I was just surprised that such a small bill in America is such a big bill here.

      Love you!

  • Well..hmmm....


    I admit I'm curious but a little scared too :P
    I guess you'll just have to use your judgement on that one and surprise me.

    What day are you coming home? I have a small window of opportunity to pick you up between the kenshuukan and the orientation. I think the 26th and 27th. Will those days work or will you guys just take the bus up here?

    • Well, I think I will have to go to an ALTIA Orientation on Aug. 28-29, so I am planning on staying in Kyoto for a few days and then going up to Nagoya for orientation. I have to check with Craig, though.
  • While I am most certainly not your wife (no nookie for you!), I have GOT to see pictures of you with a beard :) I'll trade you some of me with a ponytail! Score!

    My ACTUAL reason for posting though, is to mention that while I was at JMU, Dith Pran came and talked to one of my history classes. It was his story that was featured in The Killing Fields. He's a super awesome guy, very quiet and soft spoken, and he hung around after class to meet the students. I got to talk to him and shake his hand and ask him some more questions about his story. Sadly, I can't remember them all now, but I still have his business card upstairs.

    • Oh wow. I would love to meet Dith Pran. That must have been a great experience. The Killing Fields was a good movie to watch while over here. It made me understand the situation much better.

      (I will make sure to post all my picture-a-day photos on Flickr when I get back.)
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