Packing up for Pnomh Penh

Just off Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville

Just off Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville

I did opt for the Pnomh Penh bus, and booked it for 12:30. I had a few things to do around town before I headed off for the capital. First up was to walk to the Rainbow Foundation’s bookshop opposite Monkey Republic. This is one wing of a children’s charity and the small shop sells and part-exchanges second hand books amongst other things. It’s also “guarded” by one of the softest dogs I’ve ever met.

Catcher in the Rye and King of Torts gave way to Around the World in Eighty Days and a random crime novel. It’s a dollar to exchange a book, so I handed over 10,000 riel ($2.50). 50c makes no odds to me, but every little helps the charities around here – of which there are a substantial number.

Down nearer the beach I met up with Claire again for breakfast. We returned to the Sea View where I’d had a delicious – if tiny – crumble on our first night. This time I opted for the $3 muesli with fruit and yoghurt which was delicious and filling. The muesli was more like broken up cereal bars – very sticky in its own right. Definitely a good way to start the day.

Claire checked out their rooms for her sister arriving and wished she could book them as they were among the best we’d seen. However, it’s the only place in the area we know of that takes pre-bookings by internet so it’s pretty much filled up for a week in advance.

Next, and last errand, was a quick visit to the Cambodian Children’s Painting Project (www.artcambodia.org). First of all I dropped off all our empty plastic bottles. The charity, I assume, takes them for recycling which is a source of income.

The aim of this little place is simple – to get children off the beach selling things and instead sat down and learning, devloping useful skills. In this case their artistic talents. The resulting paintings are put up for sale at $4 each. When sold, half of the money goes to the child’s family and the other half to the charity.

I picked two paintings – one of the Cambodian flag and the other a beautiful little piece of a sunset by an obviously talented 14 year old. These will be in the post homeward-bound in the morning.

We both finished packing and checked out of Thida’s. My tuk-tuk was waiting, as was a French chap going the same way I was. I said my goodbyes to Claire. It was a real pleasure to spend time with her – and saved us both some cash to boot! I hope her sister and her fiancé enjoy Sihanoukville, and have better luck sorting accommodation!

The bus trip was fairly uneventful. Four hours almost on the nose and dropped off in Phnom Penh somewhere along the Russian Confederation Boulevard. Some walking and a lot of ignoring of tuk-tuk and moto drivers later I finally made it to the Okay Guest House.

Which was full.

Well, it was when I got there and two Dutch (I think) girls stepped out of a tuk-tuk. The guy on the desk offered to let us share a room with 4 beds between us for $5 each which was fine with me but, understandably perhaps, the girls weren’t too keen. Once they walked off I asked if there was anywhere else to stay nearby and was told “no”.

I was all ready to hoik my stuff all the way to the lakeside area when he then asked if a dorm was OK. A dorm was what I had been looking for in the first place. He sent someone with me to show me up and I took it. It’s very basic, but at $2 a night I don’t mind. I can last 3-4 nights in that if I have to.

Douglas Adams strikes again

Douglas Adams strikes again

The bed’s passably comfortable but doesn’t have any covers, just a slip and a pillow. There’s a stand-up fan at the foot which works, but no lights over the bed – I have my headlamp, though. Both power points work, so I can power the fan and my other stuff. My only quibble about the room itself is the lack of secure storage. I’ll just bury my laptop in the corner under my bed or carry it around all day.

Most inconvenient, though, is the location of the toilet. Downstairs, outside, round the back through a corridor where the staff sleep, into a courtyard and along to the end. Definitely not convenient at 3am when you’ve had a few beers too many. Which means I’ll save some dosh by not drinking too much. It’s also home to the cold shower and is shared by quite a few people which could get awkward.

I dropped my stuff and set off to find the Myanmar embassy so I’d know what time it opened in the morning. For those looking for it, it’s on Norodom Boulevard, but far to the south. It’s locaton is roughly correct in the 14th edition Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a Shoestring – but on the other side of the road from that indicated. You need to look at the full city map, not the central area one.

Annoyinglyu it is at number 181 as I’d discovered online. However, the numbers down the Boulevard are not sequential! On the way down I passed numbers 269, 161 and 189 – in that order – before reaching 181. It’s also set back about 10m from the roadside so at night you can’t read the small sign to know what it is.

Either way, it opens at 8am Monday to Friday so I’ll aim to get there early in the morning and see how quickly they can turn a visa around in.

Dinner. Astoundingly despite this being my third visit to Cambodia it’s the first time I’ve seen a KFC! So – according to tradition – I strolled right in and picked a meal from the menu. This must rate as the cheapest KFC I’ve yet found at $3 for a burger meal (no large size available). I opted for the Special Meal – a lump of chicken, one of the bite-size burgers, chips and a drink – for $2.30. Chickeny bargain.

For those with a hankering, it’s also on Norodom Boulevard, somewhere near the junction with Ph 214. It’s built onto a “Pencil” supermarket which I visited. Groceries are also very cheap in Phnom Penh…

Back to the hostel for an internet check. I was going to have a beer in the bar but it was jammed with people watching The Killing Fields. Instead, I walked to a nearby sports bar and had a quick beer and a read of my book. Then back to my dorm to type this lot up on the balcony while beginning to feel very homocidal towards flying ants. I’ve not seen to many since I was in Laos. Stupid creatures.

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