Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Finally, a sleep in, which is to say that I didn’t get up until 7am – oh, how the mighty have arisen! I headed down for breakfast which I enjoyed almost as much as the conversation I had with receptionist, Kamera, who gave me some meaningful insight into his life in Cambodia. I then headed off, map in hand, to complete the second half of the self guided walking tour I’d started yesterday. Again, I kept getting caught out by the scale of things which was much smaller than I expected.
I quickly found myself back on the main drag where I decided to avail myself of a $6 manicure and pedicure… which I promptly ruined by putting my shoes back on! Sadly I didn’t think to bring thongs/flip flops and had no time to sit around and watch paint dry. I had a bus to catch!
Back at the Cashew Nut Guesthouse, I settled my accounts and in return was gifted a KHR100 note folded intricately into the shape of a heart as a keepsake to bring me good fortune. I was so touched by the gesture that I almost cried! Followers of this blog will know that I have said that I am doing this trip for next to no money. I wish to withdraw any insinuation that I have anything less than enough. My time in Cambodia has refreshed my perspective on what it means to be poor and how truly wealthy I am on a global scale. The fact that I am here at all means that I am a person of exceptional privilege and I feel embarrassed and ashamed that I have thought myself to be otherwise. Although KHR100 is only the equivalent of AU$0.03 (which might still buy you something in Cambodia), it’s the generosity of spirit with which it was given that reminds me that what I have, I have to share.
My bus arrived shortly after and the entire staff came out the front to wave me goodbye. It’s only been two days but I already feel like I’m leaving old friends behind which only gives me more reason to return.
I splurged a little on my return bus trip to Phnom Penh with Giant Ibis, paying the princely sum of US$13 for a seat of my own in a luxury coach with air-conditioning, wifi, snacks and movies! Of course, the show outside the window was far more compelling than the (hopefully) last instalment of the Rocky franchise (although I did enjoy watching my elderly Cambodian travel companion on the edge of her seat every time Sylvester Stallone swung into action). Far from being time lost to travel, the six hours it took to return were well spent just watching Cambodian life go by – I saw 3 weddings, kids playing all manner of games, cows and oxen, endless rows of sunken front yards which I soon observed were meant to be ponds (and of the hundreds I saw, only two had ducks – hundreds of ducks!), people selling food by the roadside (just pineapples for a stretch, then just melons, then just sugar cane and so on), grain drying, rubbish piled high, houses on stilts, destitute villages, impossibly high haystacks – all this before the sun set spectacularly on another day in the life of Cambodia.
It was well and truly dark by the time we arrived in Phnom Penh and only half an hour behind schedule. Luckily, Mok and his tuk tuk had waited to ferry me through the chaotic traffic to the Alibi Guesthouse on the other side of town. Although the night was still relatively young, I was out of steam for the day so opted for a night in enjoying the ambience created by the French colonial architecture and the air conditioning in my spacious and comfortable room.
Besides, tomorrow is my last day in Cambodia and it’s going to be a big one!