Cambodia - November 1999

Susie Greetings From Cambodia!

just wanted to say a quick hello from phnom penh.  allison & i are staying here w/our friends, molly & kit, who are expats over here.  they live in a way cool old french villa w/a detached kitchen (they actually had to build the kitchen when they moved in as the owner, who is renting it to them, had 10 servants cooking his family's food over an open fire in the back yard). the house is terrific - very open air & when it rains (which it's actually been doing w/incredible ferocity since last night - fortunately, we did not have a day of hiking around outside planned!) it's like being in a tent - the rain sounds really awesome on the tiles of the roof & porches. 


phnom penh is a pretty typical smaller asian city (at least in my limited experience) - similar to hanoi, but with fewer cars and fewer paved roads.  so far, i think hanoi is prettier, but to be fair, we were out and about primarily after dark yesterday (our first day here).  on the people front, thankfully, we've seen very few amputees (one?) - which is different than i expected.  and, on the animal front, there are lots of cats to rub as well as the usual coterie of pigs & chickens


so far, allison and i have managed to stay out of trouble (and, more importantly, are still speaking - i think the halloween treats i surprised her w/in bangkok helped!).  some highlights:


- visit to ayutthaya, the old capital of siam - we took a bus ride there & then a four hour boat trip back - lots of crumbly temples & beheaded buddahas (apparently, it's not wise to piss off the burmese, who trashed the place in the 1700's)


- thais call the bathroom the "happy room"


- the menu at the restaurant where we were eating which listed one dish as: rice topped with santed beef or pork or children and basil leave - needless to say, we ordered fish instead (realizing that some of you would've ordered it w/children just to see how they were prepared...)


- the world continues to be my mall (and, apparently, allison's as well) and we had a successful return visit to the weekend market where we both i managed to spend 50 cents a minute (i'm not saying how long we were there!!) - we got some amazing thai embroidery & asstd chazarai.


- the power outage in our very nice hotel, right before we were about to get on the elevator to go to the 25th floor


- a successful flight to cambodia - it's the little things!  (especially as the plane was delayed 40 min so they could fix some mechanical problem - we were totally happy to wait! - then when we did get on the plane, we were in row one, which actually faces the back of the plane - it made for a very entertaining ride)


- world is our mall part 2:  molly took us to the russian market here in phnom penh (just what it's called, not where the stuff is from) and allison and i just may never leave - it's a nirvana of old wood objects (loom parts, betel nut boxes, baskets), silver, silk and jewelry - nirvana.  it's cool because since this city is not heavily touristed, there's still a lot of truly old, everyday items - not as inexpensive as i would've hoped, but beautiful and unique - carrying our bags back is going to be quite a strain on our arms!  interestingly, cambodians don't really bargain, they just set a very high foreigner kind of price & then, if you're a really tenacious negotiator, they MIGHT knock down the price by a (seriously) whopping ONE DOLLAR - wee ha!  which brings up another interesting point, the dollar is used just as much as the riel here (in fact, i've been here for a day now & have yet to even touch a riel, despite our prodigious efforts to support the economy through the purchase of uneccessary wooden objects).  apparently, unlike the thai, cambodians view negotiations as a win/lose situation, they would literally rather not make the sale than take anything off of the price - altho it does kind of make acquiring less of a hassle...


- the central market here in phnom penh (no, not more shopping, unless you want some plastic hello kitty alarm clocks or fresh pig snouts (flys optional) and were tempted to let the pedicure ladies (who have set up their stands alongside of the pigsnout folks) have their way with our feet, but my usual two-tone is still looking pretty pristine and allison's trying to let hers breathe, so we took a pass - but if any of you ever happen to be in phnom penh & in need of a pedicure, have we got some ladies for you!


- there are gekkos everywhere here - fortunately, allison & i both think they're really cute, so we haven't minded when they've joined us for dinner or at bedtime.


- so far we have only seen the mekong at night - we had dinner at the foreign correspondant's club last night, which overlooks it - they've developed a beautiful park along it's banks - we're going to go back today.


-  tomorrow, allison & i are off to siem reap, which is where angkor wat is - we have a 6am flight - yikes!

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