|March 10th bus to Phnom Penh, about 8 hrs
Onto the bus at 7am, this time a beaten-up local bus, broken armrests, holes in the wall panels. We were just hoping that the engine was capable, as we have seen so many vehicles parked on the road with their innards spilled out, bleeding oil, with several mechanics working laid out underneath. We got talking with a young medical Dr returning to Phnom Penh, he wore a face mask throughout the journey. Nickie wished she’d got hers handy, as all around us the men, coughed, hacked up years of sputum, sneezed and wheezed…. ..though Nickie was coughing, noseblowing and wheezing just as vigorously. This part of Cambodia seemed greener and we saw much farming and cropping, especially rubber and coffee. The ladies like to wear winceyette pyjamas for daywear, (shades of Kopeopeo fashion). The bus made a road side toilet stop near trees for a boy and girl, the boy just did his thing with modesty, poor girl had to bare her bottom to squat. Nickie made a mental note that having a sarong would preserve dignity if she needed to go “al fresco”. Nickie then amused herself for the next hour making up some tips for long distance bus travel.
Sarong to sit on so you don’t superglue yourself to the vinyl seats with your own sweat. Sarong is also essential for roadside potty stops. Keep a stash of loo paper tucked in your bra/pocket. Have a handful of small notes , cos it happens when you are about to burst some lady appears demanding a ransom to get to the loo. Earplugs, so you don’t get too grossed out listening to the men gargling phlegm and you don’t go crazy with the driver honking the horn at anything in his way….about every 2 minutes. And the syrupy sweet thai music dvds can get a bit much. Sarong is also handy to hide under, when looking ahead at the suicidal way the driver passes on blind bends, crossing yellow centre lines on the brow of a hill. Sarong also makes an OK pillow….Small bottle of hand sanitiser. Have your own chopsticks/spoon if you plan to eat at a roadside restaurant. Lip balm. Rescue Remedy , even 4 drops has a calming effect.
See photos taken from the bus window. About 50ks of roadworks into Phnom Penh really slowed us down and finally at 4.30pm we grateful to the attendants who assist us to get our bikes off the bus. GPS directed us through the melee of motorbikes, tuk tuks, large 4WDs, pedestrians, bicycle rickshaws, there seemed to be no order to it all. This place could do with some traffic lights or roundabouts! Nickie felt very overwhelmed and refused to ride- it would be suicide. Footpaths are just more space to park on, and used for shop displays we couldn’t get past, and so we pushed our bikes on the road. We slowly inched through some very “3rd world market areas“ and Nickie was thinking “we are heading to the slums, not a 5 star hotel. Then we came upon the market ( see the photo) and not knowing we could go around it via the next street we inched and squeezed past vehicles, hundreds of people , baskets of meat, fish, unidentifiable fleshy things, racks of clothing, hardware stuff, people squatting in the narrow one metre alley way, who wouldn’t budge. It was near overwhelming. Then Ohana Hotel appeared like water in a desert to a dying man, a moment that could bring you to your knees to kiss the ground. Thankyou Buddha. But there was no time to rest, and after a quick shower we walked just 2 streets to Vicious Cycles, a cycle tour company. Paid $12 US for 2 large 29” bike boxes to pick up tomorrow, and we could get a transfer to the airport in their van. Sorted! We ate at a very quiet little restaurant, while watching a large happy group of women do aerobics on the riverside footpath. It was like being in a rugby scrum pushing our way through the crowds at the night market. Pete got a couple of cotton shirts and Nickie some more Thailand –style cotton pants. At every corner we were touted to take a tuk tuk and after some death-defying moves to cross the roads, ( there are no traffic lights and no vehicle stops at pedestrian crossings, and poor street lighting) Nickie considered just hiring a tuk tuk to get to the other side of the road.
March 11th Phnom Penh
We love to people watch, and we can be shocked at how rude some tourists can be. At breakfast we watched a woman scream at the restaurant staff “Papaya, Papaya !!! Papaya!!!” Oh dear, papaya panic!!. Not a hello, or please or thankyou, guess she wasn’t happy with the 6 other types of fruit she could have and all the hot dishes, cereals and pastries. And all the while the staff member smiled and nodded but he didn’t have clue what she was ranting about. Today we read that Cambodia has been voted the friendliest country to visit, Phillipines second, Laos third. I hope that tourism doesn’t change that happiness and friendliness. It took 3 stops on our tuk tuk tour to buy strong duct tape for the bike boxes and we then spent a couple of hours rebuilding some bashed and ripped 26” boxes, hoping these to be big enough. With some careful packing everything fit in and each box weighs about 29kgs. We hopped on the scales too, curious to know what we had lost, ( 2-3 kilos each) though we have put on some weight this week cos we still have biker appetites but not been cycling. Nickie spent hours washing bike panniers and cycle shoes in the shower, a sad goodbye to the red dust of Laos. After a cool dip in the pool, we treated ourselves to “happy hour” fruit shakes , then a beer and hot chips. Yep git to watch the waistlines!
March 12th Phnom Penh
We are at breakfast early to enjoy the cool breeze on the balcony of the 6th floor restaurant. See the photos for the views. We skype Christa, all is well with her studies. She has been asked to tutor a 3rd yr scholarship female student from Samoa, so that will be some pocket money toward a trip to Vietnam and Bali she wants to do in November with 2 of her girl flatmates. 10am we meet Thorn, a tuk tuk driver, known to our friends Mark and Sue. When he asks if we will visit the Killing Fields, we explain that we know a little about Pol Pots time , and we would not be able to tolerate the experience…..too horrific, too sad. We still have uncomfortable feelings about visiting the concentration/ death-camp in Europe. We take a one hour tour of the city, which includes a stop to buy a second camera battery but unfortunately that is all Nickie can tolerate of the exhaust fumes, lungs and throat are burning. She understands now why about ½ af all drivers and pedestrians wear masks. We notice that Thorn walks with a limp, and he tells us that he has had 2 very serious events with landmines, when he was a farmer. He was ploughing the field and the mine literally ripped his brother’s body in half, Thorn was blasted 10metres and then had to spend 18 months in hospital, rehabilitating from an above knee amputation. His wife too has a below knee prosthesis due to landmine. The family land was “confiscated” and so he brought his family to the city. 90 minutes at the Royal Palace was a hot afternoon walk. Nickie treated herself to a pedicure/manicure, she’s never had such well- trimmed cuticles , fire-engine red polish. Feeling peckish, we had a light snack about 11pm, at a riverside restaurant… Pounce!.....here came the kids hawking copied Lonely Planet guidebooks, silk scarves, handmade cotton bracelets. One wee girl, bold as brass, had the gift of the gab - challenged Pete to play paper, scissors, rock. He lost and the price was $4 US for 4 bracelets!! She laughed hard. The more timid girl looked upset, her eyes said “ buy something from me”, so $6 US for a pink scarf we didn’t really want. We find out later the restaurant was selling them for $3. Then a wee boy of about 6yrs appeared with much nicer bracelets, pleading eyes again,…OK this was getting ridiculous….felt bad we had to shoo them away. They said this money was for school…mm.. well we hope it doesn’t go to their goods dealer…and at 11.30..shouldn’t they be in bed??
March 13th PhonmPhen
Today we fly home. Our treat before breakfast was an hour therapeutic massage at Seeing Hands , where all the masseurs are sight impaired. The style was a mix of Japanese Shiatsu pressure points, that hurt quite a bit on the legs and Amna style for relaxing. Delicious! We spend our last few hours blogging. Our man and van arrive on time and its easy getting through the small airport. “Did you deflate the tyres on the Bike?” the checkin asks us….”of course” Nickie replied , as Pete says “ Oh no” under his breath. So we expect burst tubes.
Well that’s it folks for this trip, we had a great time and we hope that you have enjoyed reading about it. So until the next adventure Cheers and Keep On Pedalling!!!!