September 11, 2014

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I woke up today, got ready, packed my bags, and then walked to one of the nearest banks to draw some more United States dollars. I then got some drinks and snacks at the Angkor Market before going back to the hotel to wait for my ride to the bus station. At 09:50, a minivan came to pick me up and I got in; the minivan then rode around Siem Reap to pick up some more passengers, traveling through dusty streets with many street vendors selling dried fish, fruits, vegetables, and other foods; these streets looked more like the ones you’d expect to see in a poor underdeveloped country. We then arrived at the bus station and in about fifteen minutes we departed (at 10:40), heading southeast toward Phnom Penh. After exiting the city limits of Siem Reap we were in the Cambodian countryside; along most of the road there were houses on tall stilts to protect the inhabitants and their belongings from floods; the land itself was very flat with vibrant light-green fields of rice planted in the marshy ground and in the distance there was an occasional mountain or hill. The road itself was very poor and mostly under construction (it nearly rivals the atrocious roads I encountered in Mongolia), but I was told there is another road which is much better and offers a smoother ride, however it connects to two other major cities before reaching Phnom Penh and therefore is more circuitous than the road we were on, which is more direct. We stopped for lunch at 12:10 at a roadside restaurant, but all I had was a bottle of water. Once we resumed our journey, we passed by some brick factories with large kilns under shelters, many piles of bricks, and large mounds of firewood to feed the kilns; there were also several workshops actively producing stone carvings of Buddha (lined up, one after the other) as well as several shelters with large wooden levers and pulverizers (at the end of the lever) being manually manipulated to grind grain in mortars underneath the pulverizers (these too, were lined up, one after the other). Also, in the countryside, there were many haystacks, water buffalo, cattle, and ducks. We stopped alongside the road twice for passengers to relieve themselves and I got out the second time – I walked behind a home, found a bush, and emptied most of my bladder next to some banana trees. The bus then made a second stop at another restaurant which lasted twenty minutes before we continued on. As we neared Phom Penh, the road ran along the west bank of the Mekong River and there were many homes on stilts built directly over the river; there were also a lot of wooden canoes in various states of disrepair floating (or not) in the river. Soon we reached the city and the bus entered our final stop – luckily it had stopped raining outside shortly before we reached the terminal. I got off the bus, grabbed my bags, and walked to a well reviewed hostel on The hostel wasn’t too far away and easy enough to find with the picture of the map I had (taken with my iPhone). Once I reached the hostel, I checked in, was shown to my room, and then I ate dinner in the hostel’s restaurant (fish and chips, as well as draught Cambodian beer). I then went to my room and got to work typing out journal entries. While typing away on my laptop, I noticed several bedbugs of varying sizes crawling around on my pillow and sheets. I asked the German couple staying in the same dormitory room if they too had bedbugs – they did (one was on the woman’s leg). So we decided to change rooms to another dormitory room (an Italian man staying in the same room also switched with us even though he said he had been living with bedbugs for months in his last apartment in Italy and didn’t see what the big deal was). After switching rooms, I took a shower and then had some more beer downstairs in the restaurant; I ended up talking with an Englishman while down there who had been in Southeast Asia for many months now working different jobs; I then went to sleep some time after 01:00.

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An open journal or an exercise in narcissism.