None of us were looking forward to an 8 hour “public” bus trip to Phnom Pehn, Cambodia, but there is always something new to see, and besides, we are on an adventure. The public bus was not so bad, there were only an additional 3 people, other than our group, not the crowd we had expected. Approximately 4 hours later we reached Moc Bai, the boarder crossing, and then things started to go sideways. To fast track the group, the CEO takes all our passports so we are not going through individually. We file off the bus, as we have to cross the boarder on foot. Now we stand in line with a hundred other people and wait. Next thing we know, Gary gets called to the front. I was too far back so couldn’t hear what was being said, only that he turned, pointing to me, and said ” hers will be the same”. Apparently they didn’t understand, or didn’t care, and took him off to the side, disappearing behind a wall. So there I stood waiting to get called up, but they just started calling the group up individually and one by one they got their passports and went through towards the bus- as did I. The CEO explained at that point that Gary’s passport was not stamped when we entered Vietnam! I remembered back to the fellow that went through the Hanoi airport ahead of us, and no sooner had he got done and started walking away, that he turned on his heels to come back… a guard turned him around and sent him on his way. In hindsight, I wonder if he was a seasoned traveler, and realized his passport was not stamped. The immigration fellow at the airport had been trying to get someone else to come and relieve him for at least 10 people before us, and he was visibly tired so – was it an honest slip up, or was this their way to get some money from travelers trying to leave Vietnam? We shall never know. I had our itinerary with me so Gary was not able to give them accurate information regarding our arrival flight, times etc. It was after all over 10 days earlier that we had arrived in Hanoi! But they wouldn’t allow him to get the information from me anyways. It was approximately 45 minutes later when he finally climbed onto the bus…and No it did not cost him a dong! He didn’t arrive in Vietnam, but he did get out. The sticky group, and the 3 extras were now ready to cary on to Phnom Pehn.
It was another 4 hours before we arrived in Phenom Phen. The city was much larger than I had anticipated, and was surprised at the new freeway leading into the city. We checked into the Diamond Hotel, and it was not quite what we were expecting. It was good enough, don’t get me wrong, I would stay here again, it was beautiful. But there are several Diamond Hotels in the city, so make sure you check the address to ensure no disappointments, we were expecting a pool. Once again, it was in a great location for easy access to many attractions that we were able to go to on our free time. But after settling in, and checking the weather forecast, it was time to meet up with the group for another Cyclo tour to familiarize ourselves with the area. Cambodia’s population so far in 2017 is just over 16 million, with just about 2 million 10 thousand living in Phenom Pehn. So again, another city full of people, and everyone seeming to be going somewhere. It was another successful cylco tour though. I wasn’t sure having an EMT was a good sign or not, but we didn’t need his services, so all was good. I enjoyed seeing all the school children out and about dressed in their neat uniforms. Thousands of children are kept home to sell things to tourists, they never get the opportunity to attend school. We were urged, as are other tourists not to purchase anything from these children as it only encourages the parents to keep them out of school to continue making money for the family. Cyclos are a fantastic way to take a lot in very quickly, although there are many more vehicles on the roads here, I felt safe, most of the time. We were out until darkness fell and the monuments all seem to come alive with the lights shining on them. Wat Phnom is a beautiful temple of the Buddhist faith. Built in 1372, it sits upon the only hill (man made) in Phenom Pehn. It is 27 metres tall, and is the tallest pagoda in Phenom Pehn. According to the legend, a 14th-century woman named Penh found 4 sacred Buddhist objects in the nearby Mekong River and placed them on this small hill. A temple was built to house the relics and the city was named for this legend. The name literally means – Penh’s Hill. Like most legends there are variations to the story, but they all follow the same premise. A short distant away from Wat Phnom there is a statue of Penh to commemorate her, and her find. As dusk arrived we headed closer to the hotel, and left our Cyclo Drivers near a park. There were people all over, having picnics with their families and friends. It was such a beautiful evening. It has amazed me since we arrived in Vietnam that there are no flies! With all this food that is cooked, stored, and sold on the streets and in parks and markets it just astonishes me there are none! And now our and CEO was looking for “something”. She stopped by a woman who had been cooking, and preparing for some time, and selling her food next to the side walk. She picked up a plate, and an egg and then proceeded to peel it, and offer us all some Balut. For those that do not know what it is, here is a brief description. It is a fertilized duck egg that has been incubated for 14 to 18 days, its then boiled or steamed, and the contents are eaten directly from the shell, by someone other than me! Probably half of the people in the group tried it, including Gary!
Shortly after the appetizer in the park, we headed to find some supper. Now we are talking about real food, and yet again, no complaints about this food. Absolutely love it. We do tend to drink local beer when we are on holidays, so we ordered the local beer here also and it actually has pull tab caps! This restaurant also sold Rum and coke by the bucket! Life is good again with no “ducks” around!
There is so much to see and learn about this country, and as it just so happens our CEO Minea was born and raised in Cambodia. I feel very privileged to have had her as our tour guide through this wonderful, country with its tormented past and the struggles for the future. Tomorrow will be an emotional day as we are scheduled to tour Choeung Ek (Killing Fields) and Tuol Sleng Museum (S-21 Prison).