After my post yesterday I went back to volunteer at the school for 3 hours to help with the class. The afternoon class was much smaller, about 6 students. One girl came back and was very eager to learn. During the break, all the kids from the school (120ish) come out to play in the small playground. Little kids on the 3 swings, boys shooting marbles, and girls with some game I couldn’t figure out on the floor. Many of the little kids parade you and latch on to you, yearning for affection and attention. One little girl, in particular, held on to me and wouldn’t let me go the whole recess and after school.
I hugged and high-fived the kids goodbye. Most of them had old bicycles, a few walked home. I didn’t see any parents at all picking up the students. I hopped on the Tuk Tuk the school provided for my transportation home. And all the way back, I saw some of the little kids walking home alone, kicking rocks, and some stopped by a river by themselves. Regardless of their family background, they never fail to wave and give you a huge smile when you’re passing by. They genuinely enjoy your company and presence there.
I got back around 5:30, Chad & Frenchie had just gotten back from their day at the Angkor Wat. We ordered some beer, my new favorite SE Asian beer being Lao Beer. Our guests of the night: There was an older French-Canadian MILF that was traveling by herself who joined us at our table, and soon a Pakistani guy traveling alone for a week (works in Singapore) joined us too. A generous guy came to us and asked if anyone was going to Phnom Penh the next morning and needed tickets, he had 2 and didn’t need them due to a change of plans. Perfecto! “We’ll take em!”
Frenchie has become our travel family. It’s been day 3 of us 3 stooges. It happens often, when you click with someone while traveling, you easily hang out for the next 48-72 hours until you part ways to the next destination, “BFF Status” as cheesy as it sounds. It’s full disclosure. You and that person are thousands of miles away, the degree of separation is way too far, you are completely yourself with no masks. (Or it can be vice versa, mask identity and they will never know.) The first is easier though. So he happened to be going to Phnom Penh also, so our group walked together to the travel agency and made sure he got one on the same bus, at the same time. Then we went wandering to the Night Market in Siem Reap, there are many streets of them, but one main area. Just to go shopping and see what’s around. It’s fairly safe out here, the only annoyance is little beggar children that latch on to you.
Cambodia Fish Spa: Seriously Gross!
We had heard about this live fish massage thing at the night market that you must do. We ran across it. A fish pond the size of a jacuzzi, with 10-20 people sticking their feet in, while baby fish (the size of goldfish) attack your feet and suck. It supposedly removes dead cells from your skin. We decided to try it for 30 min (of course with an ice-cold beer). Kids and parents were there too. “When In Cambodia..” It tickled the whole time, whether it did anything, cleaned off “dead cells” or not, as long as I come home alive & disease-free, I’ll look back at it as an experience.
Thereafter we wandered off, Chad in search of fried Tarantula’s. We didn’t end up finding any, maybe next time! We picked a Khmer restaurant and had some dinner. I am addicted to the Red Chilli here and eat it like bread. I had it with every meal, and in every meal, I manage to always masochistically kill myself with the spice. The red chili here is even spicier than Thai Chilli!! We had fantastic conversation between our friends from different countries.. discussions with the Paki guy about India VS Paki border war.. the Paki’s take on the US war.. How it’s even unsafe for his own people in Pakistan and his family, yet everyone loves to blame them for everything as if their own lives arent at risk as well from the Taliban and Al Qaeda who take up less than 1% off the population there is a country of millions.
The french-Canadian milf left afterward so it was Frenchie, chad, the Pakistani traveler & I. We went to “Pub Street” which is a row of posh restaurants & pubs for travelers. For some reason, maybe cuz we thought it was funny, we went to the only club on that block with music from the late ’90s like Black-eyed peas “where is the love” and usher “Yeah”. Angkor Beer pitchers were 2.75 each. Great, we’ll take 3.
Provocative Cambodian girls gogo danced on stage and pulled guys up, asking them “do you need a girl tonight?” I sat and observed. Tuk-tuk drivers outside crowding people walking out “Tuk-tuk? Tuk-tuk?? I take you for cheap!”
The Bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
Today, the 3 of us caught the 7 am bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, Took about 6 hours. Without realizing when taking the free bus tickets, they were regular city busses, older and rockier. We usually get the highest class buses which would be no more than 2$. Oh well, an experience. Over half of the bus was filled with locals, the bus driver turned on the tv with Cambodian dancing & singing, BLASTING IT. I thought to myself, this has got to be a joke. It feels like a horrific dream! Not the kind where you’re driving on a 1way highway into fire necessarily, but more like the clown movie “IT” with clowns and green trolls in-sync doing the Russian roulette. It was ridiculous but I couldn’t help but appreciate the randomness and experience.
We stopped for 20 min at a bus stop for food and restroom. I had been feeling disgusting from all the heavy curry and meat I’d been eating, so I got 3 hard-boiled eggs for the eggwhites. They were also selling fried crickets. Chad & Frenchie had one each. I think I’ll wait til later when I have a few beers into before I try it. Fried tarantulas, on the other hand, I’m not so sure. It’s what happens when you are traveling with boys, they make it ‘normal’ to do and eat such things. But hey, as I read in a Medical Anthropology textbook once, which made a good point, insects are really the seafood of the ocean!
When we arrived in Phnom Penh, tuk-tuk drivers, like 30 of them crowded the bus, barely allowing a walkway for you to come out. They are very aggressive, 4-6 at a time showing you a paper “Come with me! tuk tuk $1! cheap hotel!” blah blah. We ended up choosing the least aggressive one of the group to take us. $1 ride for 20 min to the street we’re at.. “Street 93” which is where most travelers stay. This city is the cheapest I’d been although the biggest city in Cambodia.. $1 for a large bottle of water, 50 cent beers, etc. We found a guesthouse on the lake, a triple for $5. I like. It’s a great view, the water muddy – not to swim in, but still wonderful!
Chad & I quickly hopped on a tuk-tuk to the Embassy of Vietnam to get our visa’s. We decided on Vietnam over Laos, more to do, and I get to try some real pho! The visa ended up coming out within 30 min which was good, we got back around 5, swooped up Frenchie and went to the Killing fields (Khmer genocide which killed over 2 million people in 1979) in Cambodia. Horrifying and incredibly chilling experience to say the least.