Monday, 7 October 2013

Paradise Lost in Phnom Penh

 Chatting to other Happy Family members, we were not the only ones to have encountered difficulties.  Showers had been scalding hot or freezing cold.  Shower rails had fallen down at the merest touch.  Safes would not work.  Loud noises in the night.  Then the ultimate - cockroaches!!  Thank goodness they had not visited our room. At least two other rooms had them though.  

Even breakfast had its moments.  They ran out of juice glasses.  Hubby drank from a champagne glass with style.  We dared not leave our seat to collect more food without leaving someone to guard it.  Slight problem with too many guests and not enough seating.  I almost came to blows with one chappie who tried to steal hubby's chair.  He would have been so upset if there was nowhere for him to tuck into his jam sandwich.

Mr Smee arrived with his clipboard and proceeded to make note of our concerns.  We walked along to the Royal Palace where the red carpet had been put out in preparation - not for us though.  The Royal Family were expected later this week for a special celebration.  We were not even allowed to walk in front of it, let alone put our foot on it.

We learned the Cambodian way of crossing the road.  Look both ways.  Wave to the traffic in both directions to calm them down and let them know you are there.  I became quite good at that, even though I say so myself.  Had a few near misses but I'm still hear to tell the tale.  

The guard on duty by the sentry box was chatting on his mobile as we approached.  Off with his head!  He must have thought we were performing a guard inspection because he finished his call and popped back into his box.  There was an empty box further along, so I tried out my skills as a sentry.

The palace was very beautiful.  It was a shame we could not see more of it.  Some parts were off limits due to restoration and others were the living quarters of nobility and not accessible.  Hubby did his best to use his powers of investigation with little success.

We were both impressed with a garden filled with topiary animals and large stupas which contained the ashes of deceased kings.  Large fish and turtles splashed in the ornamental pond while drums beat out a rhythm in the background.  

Real elephants no longer live here.  We had to make do with the life-size paper-mâché one.  The Royal howdahs, ornate paintings and drums will stay in my memory for ever. 

We were not allowed to take photos in the Silver Pagoda.  The floor was tiled in real silver.  I did let my big toe sneak onto it, just for a second.  I won't wash it for at least a week.  Hundreds of different Buddhas made from precious metals and decorated with gemstones were dotted around.  Golden head-dresses were displayed in glass cases and a man in the corner had the longest thumb-nail I have ever seen.  He was real.  Not a statue.  Tania and I made several guesses as to possible uses for this long nail!!

So, from the heights of the Palace to the depths of the Killing Fields.  I took no photos here.  Those who know me, will understand how distressing I found this day.  Sightless skulls stared from behind the glass panels in a high tower.  Pieces of bones and fragments of clothing are still emerging from the ground.  It was almost too much for one Cambodian visitor.  She was here with her grandchildren.  Her eyes welled with tears as she explained she had lost seven siblings during the massacres.  She was so sad and had come here at the request of her grandchildren.  

Our guide's family had also suffered.  His father was taken, tortured and killed.  His mother was forced to take on manual labour.  He and his sister were taken in by an old Chinese lady who looked after them for eight years,  They still see her now and take her gifts to thank her.

I watched as pretty butterflies flittered around.  I had never seen so many beautiful ones in the wild.  I liked to think they were the spirits of those who had suffered, free at last.

The Genocide museum was definitely not for me.  I wandered around while the group looked at the conditions endured by the prisoners.  I took only one photo of the rules and regulations.  I wondered if I could have endured them.

So, on a sad note, we set off for lunch.  But, you could not keep a Happy Family down for long.  I introduced them to a few guiding songs to lift their spirits.  Nothing like 'A Pizza Hut' and other ditties to cheer you up.
We arrived at 'La Rose' in good humour. Service was a little slow, so I took advantage of the rest room.  As so often happens, I started a conversation with a lady in the queue.  It just so happened that she knew the guy in New Zealand who had helped import our Motorhome,  She lived quite near and invited us to stay on their land for a few days.  Small world indeed.  

Not to be outdone Tania headed to the ladies to 'find a friend'.  We thought she had failed in her quest until a departing customer gave her a cheery wave us farewell as if they were long lost buddies!'  I think the whole world should make it their mission to make at least one friend in a toilet.  Obviously, you should be very careful how you approach them.  The consequences could be severe if done wrongly.

Our final trip was to the Fine Arts Museum.   I expected to be bored.  How wrong can you be.  An entertaining, knowledgable Cambodian lady took us on a journey of the history of Cambodia through its artefacts.  She was pure magic.  Could have listened to her for longer but time was not on our side.

We returned to the hotel and found that Mr Smee had been busy.  The hotel had changed our room once more.  This time we had proper paint on the walls and clean towels,  as for sleep, let's wait and see.

Before bed, we fancied something special.  The honeymooners, Krystal and Nathan, had whetted our appetites the night before. (Oh. stop it.  I can read your minds you naught people). We opted for an hour's tuk-tuk ride around Phnom Penh at night.  It was divine.  

The breeze as we drove along, cooled us down.  The fairy lights twinkled.  I snapped away surreptitiously, having been warned about speedy bikers who snatch IPods from the hands of unsuspecting tourists.  Past the Palace, funfair, famous statues, eateries and, at last, the casino where our niece's husband's brother works.  I clambered out to take some photos.  Turned round. Tuk-tuk gone.  Loud laughter from along the road.  Hmm.  Not funny.

We had a great ride for over an hour.  This cost a mere seven dollars.  Less than a Big Mac meal and much more enjoyable.  Tania and Frank were sitting in the lobby.  We'd tried to contact them earlier and they'd tried to phone us.  Talk about ships in the night.  So we settled down for a long blather before bedtime.  Night all x x 

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