Friday, May 30, 2003

30 May 2003, Phnom Pehn, Cambodia

The Killing Fields..... very very sad.

Such happenings.... A mad 35 hours involving 2 five hour boat voyages and a dose of Bali Belly....

The town of Kratie is the launch pad for seeing the rare and endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin. It involves a five hour boat voyage down the Mekong to get to Kratie and then a half hour scooter ride followed by a trip out on a local boat.

Five hours in a cabin with a tape of a Thai Musical (done Karaoke style) blaring out all speakers loud enough to drown the engine noise! Add diesel fumes, a screaming 5 year old and a couple of local haggling over the price of deep fried dried fish. As cultural experiences go it was certainly something! We eventually retired to the roof of the boat. Peace and quiet, just the beating sun to contend with.

There were however amazing views all the way up the Mekong. Tiny floating fishing villages, cows being washed in the river, tiny shanty towns built of sticks and reed next door to expensive temple complexes. Village women washing their clothes in the river and tiny naked children on the banks of the river waving as we swept by.

In Kratie we retreated to air conditioning for a quick cold shower, bite to eat and a rest before seeing the dolphins. Sadly, during the rest the contents of my stomach decided to rebel. I looked after the inside of the bathroom while Random set forth in search of dolphins.

We decided that one night in Kratie was sufficient and, being recovered from previous bilious bouts, we jumped back on the boat for the second part of the Thai Musical Karaoke special!

We are back in Phnom now and planning a quiet few days around town before heading onto Siam Reap. We were going to catch the boat to Siam Reap... however we are scared we might catch part 3 in the Thai Musical.... so we are booking local plane tickets instead!

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

28 May 2003, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

A quick recap......


Went to see Cath Walker / Wardle perform in the Mousetrap at West End on Saturday night. The play was great, as was the backstage tour and champagne in the stars dressing room! All this and time with my niece Natasha (who is very cute by the way)!

A very quick 24 hours and I was back on a plane.... Cambodia here I come.

Met Random as agreed in Bangkok airport. He's lucky I recognised him what with jet lag and him having added a beard since I saw him last! Facial fungus aside it was good to catch up.

We are now in Phenom Penh. Last night we headed to the Foreign Correspondance Club for a drink, a meal, and some catching up on Australian culture.... yup this seems to be where Australians, who don't want to be too culturally challenged, meet for a beer and to relive the high points of colonialism. It was expensive in Cambodian terms.... but lovely to sit on the balcony above the river and watch the crazy world go by. Motorscooters, push bikes, cars and trucks all moving to a traffic code I didn't understand and wasn't sure I really needed to know more about!

So far five people and one plastic garbage bin is the record we have seen... all on the ONE motorscooter.

This morning we faced the difficult decision - culture or shopping first? Well we went for shopping (of course) and headed to the Russian market - where I think I spent a small fortune in Cambodian terms.

We headed to the Silver Pagoda and Palace.... which was great... even better after I worked out that I was dehydrated and started drinking serious quantities of water!

After a wonderful siesta (in airconditioned comfort) we headed to the Seeing Hands Massage Parlour. This is a theraputic massage place which uses blind people to do the massage. I have to say blind doesn't necessarily mean soft of touch. I had every painful piece of my back and shoulders beaten, pummelled and generally elbowed until I couldn't help but feel a wonderous relief when my hour came to an end! Random was whisked away upstairs for his massage which left me wondering was he perhaps being offered things that didn't fall under the title ''ethical' massage. He assures me this was not the case at all!

We have hired to Cambodian motor scooter drivers for today and tomorrow. It seems $5 US can buy you a personal driver, errand runner and general tour guide for a day here. Danny (the scooter driver) has convinced us that we are paying too much for accommodation (his cousin has a lovely hotel closer the river for less money), that we need his services tomorrow and that he knows someone who would love to look after us in Siam Reap. This evening he (and Song our other driver) took us across the Chinese bridge to a rather unique bar for drinks. The building (if you can call it such) is a series of wooden platforms with roof and hammocks build out over a lake. Apparently it's a great spot to watch the sunset from.... tho it was cloudy this evening. Random ordered a local beer and a Johnny Walker. We receieved an esky containing my order (red wine - which tasted like red alcoholic Fanta) and his order (a can of beer and a BOTTLE of Johnny Walker). Needless to say we were a little bemused by this..... and all of this for the price of two glasses of champagne in an expensive bar in Sydney!

The motorsccoter rides are definately exciting.... there seems little rhyme or reason to who goes in what direction at what particular time. The only common rule seems to be if someone honks their horn... MOVE OVER..... honking ones horn makes driving too fast on the wrong side of the road while driving a semi trailer and talking on the mobile phone not just legal.... but entirely culturally acceptable!

Tomorrow we are heading out to see the Killing Fields and the Museum associated with Pol Pots Regime. Our trusty scooter drivers assure us that the dirt road is easily done on a motorscooter and that my desire for a vehicle with four solid wheels and some metal protection around me is entirely unnecessary. In fact I would be unAustralian if I chose any mode of transport other than motorscooter!