Arrivals

30 Jan

It’s a special feeling to be on the eve of a little event that we dreamed up a year ago, and feel the excitement coming from the other participants as they converge on Phnom Penh from all around the globe. The facebook chatter as the guys packed bags, boarded planes, and then waited it out in transit lounges around the world, was really exciting.

Some excitement is a really good thing too because waking up it the unlit dungeon every morning is starting to mess with our zen a little.

Speaking of messing with our zen… last night we rode to the airport in the dark to meet Susan, one of the founders of Sustainable Cambodia. Armed with a GPS worth more than the motorbike (which i have named “Turtle” for obvious reasons), we figured it would be easy enough to get there. But since the traffic over here is chaotic and doesn’t move very fast, we gave ourselves half an hour to travel the 10km route…

Rule No. 8 : Try to avoid riding at night in the suburbs of Phnom Penh.

We were doing pretty well at picking our way through the traffic, but after 10 mins of travel I realised we were moving so slowly that we were going to be 20 mins late! Not wanting to miss Susan we tried to step it up a notch, so there we were zooming in and out of the other moto’s on poorly lit roads – which progressively became more deteriorated and even less lit.

A tuk tuk driver telling me we were going the wrong way should have rang alarm bells but it was not until all street lighting disappeared and we found ourselves riding through a busy market, negotiating trucks, hand drawn carts, effluent spills and speed hump after speed hump, that i realised we’d gone very wrong. The road did lead straight to the airport though, so we persisted until the gps route led us to a turn off the busy road and into an unlit building. Hmmm

We stopped just short of this, at which point a bunch of pretty girls in tight dresses and high heels walked over to us…

“what the hell are these girls doing standing around in the dark in this part of town” was my first naive thought…

Needless to say we didn’t stop to chat. A quick consult with Dave and we concluded that we were actually almost there, but on the wrong side of the airport. Oops. Back onto the turtle and finally the market road led us to the main road that passed the entry to the airport. It was wide and straight and well lit… i was finally going to have a chance to stretch the Turtle’s legs, and long legs they turned out to be!

You know how some old cars sound awful at 90km/hr but at over 100 they start to smooth out and actually sound better? Well the turtle is nothing like that at all. I’ve already mentioned that at 70km/hr it sounds like she’s about to explode, well at 90km/hr the experience is truly terrifying, and almost nudging 100 it feels like her remaining engine life can be measured in seconds rather than kilometres. Regardless of that we did get to 95km/hr! Yeah baby, Turtle’s got legs!!

Rule No 9 : don’t underestimate the Turtle.

While it’s nice to know that Turtle will manage more than a slow walk, we don’t plan to travel so fast as the conditions don’t lend themselves to it at all, so we reigned it in and arrived safely at the airport in time to briefly meet Susan and some of the gang from Sustainable Cambodia. We didn’t have much time to talk but it’s obvious that they’re passionate and caring people, we’re really happy to have partnered with them. Visa was there with her mum too, and with what little shyness she initially had towards us now completely gone, she wasted no time is teasing us about everything from taking the wrong directions to the airport to losing my parking ticket when we went to leave.

Back to today… our list of things to do included heading out to see the now drained lake in central Phnom Penh, get a haircut, work on the blog and meet up with Frank and John, our first two arrivals.

We got the blog out of the way early and headed out for a bite of street food at one of a thousand little kitchens that litter the sidewalks of this city. This one in particular was making some sort of little round food balls about the size of a tennis ball.

“what is it?”
“i have no idea”
“1 please”

There was a girl stirring a bucket full of some sort of white-ish liquid with some green stuff floating in it, and with a ladle she’d fill little cupcake sized holes in a tray sitting on a wood fire. After a minute or two another girl would flip these little balls, and eventually they’d be tossed into another pot of boiling oil to be deep fried before being drained and served.

We sat on stools about 30cm high at a little table and were served 5 of these little balls along with a small bowl of another white liquid. It wasn’t bad, but not so inspiring either, so we also ordered the other dish being prepared, which resembled an omelette but was actually just a skin of fried yellow something, with bean shoots, thin egg noodles and ‘maybe-chicken’ in the middle. This was served with a big bowl of green leaves, which I’m sure is picked from a several trees nearby, along with a few lettuce leaves.

I’d eaten one of these things the previous day, so i knew to refuse the cutlery we were offered and instead took a lettuce leaf, broke up the omelette with my other hand and put some of the filing in the leaf, along with the tree foliage and then wrapped it up with the lettuce a bit like a Vietnamese cold roll. This is dipped into a peanut-ish sauce and tastes delicious, the bill was only $2 for both of us!

Eggy Stuff

 

Devoured Eggy Stuff.

 

Rule no. 10 : street food rocks.

Belly’s full we set off for a street side haircut. This was easy to find as there are kids working in many of Phnom Penh’s streets, where an old chair and a desk with a mirror sitting on the kerb constitutes a hairdressing salon. There was the obligatory negotiation on price, which started at $6 and ended with $1.25, and then a genuine jostle for the business when they realised we both wanted to be cut at the same time. I sat there as a 14 year old kid went to work on my afro with a set of electrical clippers, while discussing politics and corruption in the Cambodian government.

The conversation was interesting, if a little one sided, but he was passionate about the plight of the Cambodian people and the widespread corruption that he put down to the high number of wealthy Vietnamese controlling the city. I don’t know enough about the situation to really engage in that conversation, but will try to learn more as we travel through.

Our first arrivals came in today, so we headed back to the hotel to met Frank and John this afternoon and went out for a beer or 3 and eventually some dinner later on. It was great to finally meet them and with 2 more Australians on board the beers came a little faster than usual. Dave was struggling to follow the Aussie accents, but had even more trouble keeping up with the rounds, and at 11 we said our goodnights and retired to the Dungeon, with a loose plan to meet tomorrow morning and go out to pick up another 2 moto’s, hopefully making Monday’s workload a little lighter.

Rooftop Beer

 

Rooftop View

 

“hey Dave”
“what?”
“we forgot about the lake”
“oh yeah!”
“tomorrow?”
“totally”

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