So my 27+ bites did a great job of keeping me awake, I think it must have been about 2am when I finally drifted off. I could of cried when my alarm started ringing at 5.15am, especially when the itching was still killer! We finished packing our bags and made our way to the bus station to catch the TCT Mondulkiri express to Phnom Penh. We chose TCT as they had the best reviews online. Now I’m not saying the mini bus journey was bad, but it wasn’t great either! It all started with the standard, lets fill the bus with boxes, fruit and any other crap we can find to drop off along the way. Next was the woman throwing up, the ants and the screaming child. However, we made it in the advertised 5 hours, even if the drivers over taking was some what risqué.
Upon arrival in Phnom Penh we were met by a horde of tuk tuk drivers, none of whom knew where our guesthouse actually was. After a quick phone call we were quoted $5 dollars for the journey, which Kyle swiftly bartered down to $3, and we were soon back at Good Morning guesthouse. Being greeted with, “Hello”, “How are you?”, “Welcome back” and “Where have you been”, makes me love coming back to this place even more. As it’s our third stay we’ve been bumped up to the biggest room, with two double beds, ceiling fans and aircon! Aircon! Buzzing!
We spent the day lounging around and arranging our Vietnam visa and currency. I also took Kyle to the chemist, where he finally treat me to some Tiger Balm, hello itch relief. Vantha came back later in the day from his home town, he showed us some pictures of his family working in the rice fields and him cooking up a storm in the kitchen. We even got some fresh watermelon from his farm, it was delicious.
After eating traditional Khmer meals for 2 weeks we decided to treat ourselves to a burger…bad move! After an amazing nights sleep, we both woke with bad stomachs! Mine was obviously worse, so I’ll be avoiding the Western food for quite some time. After a couple of hours I decided it was safe to go on an adventure, so we headed to the Central Market. Mainly for locals, the market is filled with stores selling clothing (badly made copies of stuff, like you find on eBay), trainers, fruit, jewellery, electronics and meat…the smelliest meat ever! Neither of us could stomach walking round the meat section for very long. Especially when they started chopping up live animals in front of us.
Bartering was harder in this market, the old walk off tactic didn’t even work! Items had a price, with a dollar moving room max, if you pushed for anything more than that they just weren’t interested in selling to you. Still we made a few purchases, some shorts, necklaces and a coconut…all for less than the original asking price so it felt like a mini win. Needing a break from the heat we headed to the closest “shopping centre” to abuse the air con. I use the phrase shopping centre lightly, it was actually more market stalls, just a little tidier and inside.
After 3 hours walking around we decided to head back to the guesthouse. Without our phones we had no idea where Good Morning was located, and were unsure of the names of any nearby landmarks. It took 8 tuk tuk drivers and a ride around the bus station to find one person who could point us in the right direction, and when they did it turned out that we were only 3 minutes around the corner! We had a relaxed evening, a good meal, a few beers and a game or 5 of cards. I must have learnt a trick or two as I actually won most games this time.
The next morning was spent looking at trains, accommodation and destinations in Vietnam. We’re finding it hard to squeeze everything into a month. Though I am excited to travel by train and give the buses a break, for a very long time!
We decided to visit the Royal Palace in the afternoon, and donned our t-shirts and long trousers in order to do so. It was fucking boiling!! The palace and pagodas are huge, decorated in whites, golds, oranges and reds. The buildings are beautiful, and the insides filled with intricate carvings and delicate paintings on the ceilings. It was nice to see many of the kings outfits, and some of the women’s outfits from evening performances too, all bright and covered in jewels. There were many Buddhas around the buildings and many people praying, it was peaceful sitting in the shaded areas and observing.
Next we headed to the river front and had a walk along the banks of the Mekong river. The benches were filled with Khmer people chilling out after work, eating street food and doing their daily exercises. It was during our stroll that we stumbled upon the OunaLom Pagoda, built using donations from locals and tourists. It was nice to see the monks inside maintaining the building and preparing to update the inside of the pagoda.
Once we returned to the guesthouse we were given our passports, which now include our visas for Vietnam. This now makes it official that we will be leaving this beautiful country and embarking on a new set of adventures tomorrow. After another 6 hour bus journey of course.
I have been so surprised by Cambodia as I initially had my reservations about coming here. The people have been among some of the friendliest I have ever met, and even if they can’t speak English a smile still goes a long way. Like Dara once said, it’s against the law not to smile here. I’ve gotten used to the constant sweating and the freezing cold showers, its become a fact of life here…and to be honest sometimes the cold water has been just what we’ve needed. I’ve enjoyed not really having a plan, and just going where ever takes our fancy. Learning of hidden treasures like Mondulkiri, and getting to meet an elephant. I would highly recommend a home stay, or teaching in a school, it was an experience we will never forget, and it’s amazing to know that we were able to assist the children with a brighter future, whilst being so well looked after by such a beautiful family.
From the people to the scenery, Cambodia has been awesome and I can’t wait to come back!
Love Carrie xxx