Day 17 - Saturday, Nov 8, 2003
Siem Reap - Phnom Penh

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Exhausting day.

- Boat to Phnom Penh -

Rambo Express Boat Ticket
Got up 5:30 and packed up and met Mr. Paul at 6 for the drive to the docks. Dodo had a small hangover but a big headache; not a pounding nauseous hangover headache but mostly (she thinks) due to sleeping poorly on her stiff neck, which has been bothering her off and on the whole trip. [Did I mention the hard pillows? And I am a delicate flower, you know.] The "Rambo" was a cramped, dark boat with a sloping metal roof for outdoor "seating" - Dan and Dodo chose the dark interior and Dodo tried to sleep a bit, while claustrophobic Claire fled immediately to the roof of the cabin, which then got so crowded she couldn't move around, and she ended up fiercely sunburned from the 6-hour ride with no shade. Dan had bought baguettes at the docks, so we nibbled at those and Dodo drank a Coke and eventually started to feel human again, but all 3 of us were sore and tired and cranky when we reached Phnom Penh at 1 p.m.
Then there was a ridiculous interval spent clinging to the boat rail as the baggage hold was unloaded… then the mobs of taxi drivers…

- Okay Guesthouse -

2:17 PM 2:18 PM
Claire hadn't looked up the recommended hotel and instead accepted the free ride to "Okay Guesthouse" (whose minivan was already crammed with backpackers, so our ride was a tuk-tuk followed by a hotel shill on a motorbike; this got surreal when the tuk-tuk had to cut through the limited-access roads by the palace (roped off - with string and stones and crude barriers for Independence Day celebration) and apparently had to bribe a cop at each end).
Dodo fussed a bit as the hotel had no hot water, but Dan and Claire wanted to be there, so we stayed. A double room was $3.

- Phnom Penh -

4:15 PM 4:16 PM 4:17 PM 4:18 PM 4:32 PM 4:38 PM 4:39 PM

Map of Phnom Penh

We washed up a bit and then walked to lunch at a swankier hotel with a shady patio - drank lots of coffee and "lemon soda" (a lovely fresh blend of sugar, fresh-squeezed limes, and seltzer) - then walked over to watch the boat races a bit from Sisowath Quay, and up to the old market. The whole waterfront and avenue by the river were RAMMED with people, all afternoon and into the night; it was massive.

More Phnom Penh Pictures

- Market -

4:52 PM 4:53 PM 4:56 PM 4:56 PM
We braved the mobs to go and peer at the frog legs and wriggling fish in the market, plus gorgeous heaps of mangosteens, rambutans, limes, and bananas hanging from the ceilings; garbage all over the ground and an awful offal smell… We ducked into a pub for gin & tonics and salted, sugared redskin peanuts. Then waded back through the crowds, cut through grounds of Wat Ounalom, and peered at National Museum in hopes of seeing bats, but it was too late; it was 6 PM, after dark, a bright full moon. Time for fireworks! Besides the nice little fireworks display, there were big lighted floats like giant seals and crests (or beer logos, only they weren't) moving slowly up and down the river. And the crowds continued; Claire was very amused at how many people stared at us, said hello, touched our arms; she said it had Africa beat for staring.

- Night in Phnom Penh -

6:14 PM 6:21 PM 6:39 PM
We reconnoitered at the hotel, reserved bus tix for Monday 8:30 AM, and Claire e-mailed Ruth; then we set out again with an ill-formed plan but eventually made it through the mob to a very nice Indonesian restaurant with 2nd-floor balcony tables looking out across the crowded avenue to the floats on the river. Yummy sweet-and-sour-tofu; gin & tonics; we were all pretty tired and when the crowds had ebbed, we just came back to Okay and crashed.
Walking back around 10:30 or so, we saw many families sitting on their woven plastic mats on the green; out-of-towners probably planning to sleep right there for the night. Huge influx of people from other parts of Cambodia for the boat races. Amazing shells, some with 50 people in them!

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