Happy Phnom Penh New Year

We were leaving today for Phnom Penh, really sad to leave Siem Reap. We had to make one last trip to the Blue Pumpkin; I had yet to try their mango Danish. We did not bring the computer this time; we had everything packed and ready to go. That Danish was worth returning for!! We took our things across the street where we were to get the bus to PP, a five hour trip. Normally, I would have to be drugged for such a trip, but I acquiesced since there were few alternatives. There was only a van waiting for us, but we were told it was taking us to the bus. They loaded our things and we drove to a bus station, showed our tickets, received our bus number, and then were loaded on another small bus. We were promised a luxury bus with a bathroom. This was a van on steroids, not luxurious in the least. We drove literally for one block and were told to get off and onto our REAL bus. This one was more like it. It was impeccably clean, it did have a bathroom, and the seats were comfortable with an extensive amount of leg room. The bus had a host too. After we took off, he came around to give each of us a bottle of water, the next trip was a snack box with a meat dumpling and a dessert turnover. The third trip was wet napkins. Most of the ride was on two lane roads with horns tooting most of the time. People do not drive on one side or the other, but wherever there is space. Blowing the horn lets others know you are passing. As we passed through each province, the host would tell us something about it. I bought a t-shirt in Siem Reap that has Same, Same on the front and But, Different on the back. This is the way I would describe the scenery. Just when you think they all look alike, there is a miniscule difference to set it apart. Many houses were on high stilts for the rainy season. Cows and water buffalo were grazing along the side of the road and in some cases across the road. Some areas had elaborate entry ways into temple grounds. They looked Buddhist. When we bought our tickets, we also booked a hotel through the same agency from their sister hotel. We were told there would be a tuk-tuk waiting with our names when we arrived and this would transport us to the hotel. Sure enough, a young man was standing by with our names on a sign. He took us to the hotel and when we pulled up the porters came running up to say there were no vacancies. We said we had a reservation. They told us to come in. They did not have our reservation. They wanted to know who we spoke with when we called. We went through the whole thing about the manager of their sister hotel calling to make the reservation, but there was nothing and they had no rooms. The offered their third sister hotel down the street. This would be a 4 star hotel and the room would be $45.00 a night versus the $30 we intended to pay. We agreed, though with some disgust. The tuk-tuk took us to the other hotel and we checked in. There are Visa and MasterCard signs all over the windows and on the reception desk. The clerk asked how I wanted to pay and I said by credit card. He says, we don’t have a credit card machine here. I point out the fifteen credit card signs all over the place while repeating what he just said. I thought I misunderstood him. No misunderstanding, if we wanted to pay by credit card, we would have to return to the hotel we just left, let them swipe my card in their reader and then return with the receipt to this hotel. They would provide the tuk-tuk for this transaction. Just out of aggravation and stubbornness, I still insisted on paying by credit card. Before we went back to swipe the card, Ron asked for a second pillow and was told “Yes, yes, yes!” Went we went down for dinner, Ron asked for the second pillow a second time. “Yes, yes, yes!” When we came back from dinner, Ron called down for a second pillow. Same story, no pillow. I also asked if they knew of anywhere there was WiFi in the city. They had no idea, but they had computers in the lobby I could use for $2.00 an hour. We found this restaurant that is a training center for reforming homeless children. They have a training center; they are student cooks, wait people, hosts, and so on. We went there for dinner. Very impressive. Friends the restaurant that trains former street children located at 215 Street 13
Telephone 012-802-072; www.streetfriends.org. The trainees have t-shirts with their logo and Student on the back, while the others have Teacher on the back. The place was packed. The food was good, but the service was exceptional. On the walk back, I noticed a café that has free WiFi between 5-7pm with every coffee purchase. I went in to ask about other times and it is $2.00 an hour. Great, we were planning for tomorrow to check on our reservation for Vietnam. We returned to the hotel, I turned on the computer to write and VIOLA, the hotel has WiFi and it is free. The desk people have no idea. This room is oversized with two beds, totally comfortable, but the pillows are so stuffed, they feel like they stuffed each of them with feathers from 10 geese, but forgot to remove the feathers first. I could swear I heard honking coming from them. Not getting the second pillow Ron wanted has given this hotel demerits. He uses it for his legs, not his head, so bounce to the ounce doesn’t matter to him. Overall, with the exception of a walking promenade along the river with flags from every nation, this is not much different from Siem Reap. The tuk-tuk drivers are just as aggressive and desperate for work as they were in Siem Reap. Sadly for them, everywhere we want to go is so close by, we really don’t need them. When we did, it was the hotel that supplied a driver.