An Evening at the River

S. and I left the orphanage in the evening to head into Phnom Pehn. There are some of the better restaurants, regrettably, in the tourist area near the Tonle Sap riverfront. We decided to take a moto taxi, as it is cheap and abundant in the outskirts of town where we are staying. Scott and I are at the maximum weight anyone would want to do this, BTW. So we get a bike and driver and as I’m putting on my gloves they start driving away. I hop on and we begin our harrowing night drive into town. First, we head down the rocky dirt road to the main road. From there, it’s a straight shot into town, though “straight” in this case means a lot of weaving and honking and insane traffic circles. No close calls for us this ride since the entire journey felt treacherous.

Earlier that day, we had seen a fairly hilarious near accident where a group of three riders on a bike had to slam on the brakes and powerslide to avoid hitting another two-up bike that pulled out in front of them. The female passenger on the target bike had a zinger of an expression. For some reason I felt safer riding bitch in Vietnam, but this was pre scooter accident and I lacked a realistic sense of the danger involved. Since I was so lucky in my own crash, I am not going to push my luck more than absolutely necessary here. The rush of riding open air in crazy Asian roads has to be experienced to be believed, but with patchy emergency medical care (at least in Cambodia) it literally is death-defying. In Chiang Mai, I will likely rent a bike and helmet and drive by myself. I’ll be over there too long not to try it.

We arrived at the tourist area walked for a while before S. started browsing for pants. There were many opportunists in the area: beggars, counterfeit travel guide peddlers, moto and tuk tuk drivers, hostesses thrusting menus. The area felt seedy and depressing as most tourist areas do, and it was weird to see white people wandering around again. Pale blokes stick out like fleas in cream cheese.

I ate some awesome green curry. At about half of what it would cost at home, the dish tasted basically similar though less coconut and sweet flavors. There was the addition of a sliced green vegetable that tastes similar to tomato (and may be tomato).

Upstairs in a hot open room overlooking the river, S. and I played a few games of pool, drank one beer each, and were charmed by the waitress in red.

Storms rolled in before we began to head home. With some difficulty in finding a car taxi, we made it back to the orphanage. There was supposed to be a key left by the gate so that we could get in, but it wasn’t there. S. had actually grabbed a small frog while groping around for it. Problem 1) No key, and everyone was asleep. S. clanged on the gate and one of the older orphans eventually wandered over and fetched the keys and opened the gate. Problem 2) We didn’t have any small bills to pay the driver. I ran inside to root through my money while S. was waiting and getting soaked. When I got back to him, the gate was locked again and I couldn’t get it unlocked with the key. So we get soaked in rain, then I run to the main room and peer into the mosquito nets to see where one of the administrators is. I find him, he runs and opens the gate and loans us $2US to pay the driver. Meanwhile I had a good, though broken conversation with the cab driver. He seemed to take all the delays and soaking rain in stride, like it happened daily.

June 10th, 2005. Categories / Cambodia

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