We had the usual huge breakfast. A couple of eggs fixed the way we wanted, potatoes, some vegies, a little fruit, interesting bread, and some juice and tea. Then after all that, we start sampling all the other unusual stuff. We staggered back to our room and prepared to go into town – sunscreen, camera, hat, water, and umbrella. We then hired a tuk-tuk (a 125 cc motor bike pulling a carriage that we ride in) to take us into town. It costs $2 and takes about 10 minutes. We traveled at about 20 mph in light traffic, so it was very relaxing and pleasant. Lois bought a pair of Cambodian pants – think really baggy hospital scrubs in light cotton elephant print fabric. I bought a white Cambodian style short sleeve cotton shirt with the short Asian collar. Each cost $5 with a little bargaining. We also spent a couple of dollars on some small trinkets to take home.
After wandering through all the shops, we walked over to the canal to watch some guys practice in a dragon boat – see photos. One thing we didn’t buy was a North Face jacket. They were obviously pirated because of the cost: with all the right hang tags and labels. All that stuff is made over here. After the factory “officially” closes, the workers stick around and make some for themselves, which they then sell to supplement their wages. I have mixed feelings about this. North Face uses this cheap labor and charges us a fortune. The workers make very low wages. A NF Gore-Tex XCR jacket which is sold in the U.S. for $400 is marked at $60 in the shop here.
After shopping, we found a nice restaurant for lunch. Lois wasn’t that hungry so she ordered spring rolls and lemon grass tea. I ordered a chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms in a light tomato sauce, with some sauteed vegies. For dessert Lois had a chocolate cookie frappe and I had a scoop of coconut ice cream. Since this was a pretty fancy place, the bill was high - $17.50. Cambodian restaurants (the nicer ones at least) have some interesting ways of operating. When Lois and I order, both dishes are obviously started at the same time by the kitchen. If one dish takes 3 minutes to prepare and the other takes 20 minutes, the first person is done eating before the other person’s meal even arrives. The service is outstanding, although the “hovering” by the wait staff can be a little unnerving.
Today at 3:30, we met the rest of the Road Scholar participants. According to the guide, Bros, who we met this morning, there are 17 people in the group. We stay at this hotel until Friday, when we board the boat. Every day it gets into the low 90’s with a dew point of about 70 degrees. At home we think it is humid if the dew point is in the mid 50’s. It will be interesting to see if we can acclimatize to the heat and humidity in the month we are here.
The currency here is officially the Riel – approximately 4,000 to the dollar. I changed $100 into Riel at the airport and got a bunch of bills with many zeros. In error I gave the bellboy a 50,000 Riel note for a tip. I had just become familiar with all the Thai currency, and my head rebelled at being made to learn another one. Later I learned everybody here uses US dollars, so I changed my remaining Cambodian currency back into dollars. Keeping all the exchange rates in your head is just too confusing (U.S.$, Thai Baht, Cambodian Riel, Vietnamese Dong).