Thursday 12 April, 2018
Day 15 / Kampong Thom to Phnom Penh
[Missed Day 14? Read the previous post here]
All through the night I am paranoid that the mosquito net isn’t closed properly but upon waking I have surprisingly few bites so I’m relieved. However as the day goes on, I find I’ve been bitten more than I first realise and progressively discover more bites all over my legs and feet.
I try to go for a run just after 6am as it’s still fairly cool but like yesterday get growled at by numerous dogs along the way. At the 1.5km mark, three dogs stop and stand in front of me as if they are guarding their territory so I decide to cut my run short, turn around and go back. I’m feeling defeated but come back to breakfast set up on the table, made by the students, which is a nice surprise. Food always makes me happy.
Chhim says they have not made a vegetarian breakfast for guests before so are unsure if we will like it. We get bruschetta and sliced mango which are both delicious, so we go down and to say thank you for our breakfast in Khmer “Orkhun ahar pelopruk”.
Afterwards we pack our stuff before heading down to chat to the students and present our bikes to them.
It’s been so great seeing the students learn life lessons, building business skills, do Japanese study and harvest cashews. The Khmer are genuinely friendly and generous people, and it’s true what they say that the less you have, the more you give.
Chhim decides to take us into town with the three of us plus bags on his motorbike (true Cambodian style!). He drops us off at the bus stop, chats to the security guard to ensure we catch the right bus and organise our tickets before we part ways.
The bus, which is passing through from Siem Reap, it waiting outside Stung Sen Restaurant (USD $5 each to Phnom Penh) and we have about 20 minutes before they are set to leave. We run across the road to grab some bread and water for the trip before it sets off. It’s more like a minivan than a bus, with about 12 passengers in total. The ride is pretty straight forward and there is one stop at a gas station at around the half way mark for us to stretch our legs and use the bathroom. Along the way we see a group of locals running a car wash.
The traffic flows pretty well right up until the last 10km into Phnom Penh where it’s bumper to bumper. We get dropped off a bit out of town, probably to allow tuk tuk drivers the chance to pounce on us and drive us back into town. However we decide to walk, stopping off at a vegetarian restaurant we had spotted from the bus earlier called Vegetarian 1000.
After a feed ($3 for fried noodles, noodle soup and two free sodas) we continue walking until we see RS II Guesthouse that I had pre-booked, again for its location and vicinity to food and the markets. It’s in a pretty busy area across from the Royal Palace, and probably the most touristy place we’ve stayed the entire trip. I go for a wander to the markets while Cheye has a nap.
As we head out for dinner later there is a New Year’s party happening in the cafe downstairs. The music is pumping and people are either dancing outside or eating buffet inside. We wander down the busy street and decide on Kabbas Restaurant which has a mixture of Khmer and Western food. The Cambodian Curry, Rice Paper Rolls and Green Mango Salad all sound good so we order that along with a few drinks.
The place is full of westerners and it’s the most touristy place we’ve eaten at on the entire trip but the food is surprisingly good. The front of house waitress is hilarious and great at her job, making little jokes to all the customers as she greets them and takes their orders. The place is packed and we notice it’s probably the only restaurant on the street with all tables filled while the rest sit there empty.
A young boy comes in trying to sell souvenirs and gifts from his basket, but I’ve read that you shouldn’t buy from children as they are exploited and taken out of school to try and make a buck for their parents / owners. He tries the first table, then as he approaches us I simply shake my head as if to say “No thanks” and he continues walking to the next table without stopping.
We get carried away chatting as it’s a nice atmosphere at the restaurant, until we notice people waiting for a table so we decide to settle the bill (less than USD $12 for three dishes and two drinks) and go for a wander down the river. I feel like my legs are being eaten by mosquitos again and that night the itching becomes so unbearable that I subconsciously scratch myself so much during my sleep and wake up with scratch marks and blood on my skin. Don’t forget your insect repellent like I keep doing!