Last night was not a good night for sleeping.. too hot, not sufficiently tired, ‘tossing and turning’. Eventually woke with the alarm at 7.15. No breakfast for us this morning… I just had water so that I could work on my e.mail and blog, only to find that the VSO computer is Word 2003, so I could not upload my Word 2007 file as it would not recognise it. Back to square one. The connection will not stand a huge amount of traffic either. I may have to revisit the nice cafe next door to use it for uploading etc.
We hung around for quite a while, having been told to be ready prompt at 8.45 and eventually set off at about 9.30 – half with Vanessa and my half with Uday. We went first to the Independence Monument. There are some nice open gardens there where people congregate early morning and twilight for recreation – dancing etc.
Then we headed to the Diamond development on the riverfront. Not what I expected.. a bit like any major development anywhere in the world, with very expensive houses being built on prime real estate reclaimed from the river on a small island just off PP.. two short bridges link to the mainland. Uday liked the landscaped gardens etc . From there we went up the riverside to the tourist area of Siswanath Quay with the famous Foreign Correspondents Club . We had breakfast at a small cafe near there, then headed off to the Wat (temple) Phomh (hill) – a Buddhist Pagoda, with lots of Hindu-like ornamentation on the hill which gives the city its name (Penh’s Hill). It was a very peaceful place with some beautiful and very old trees all around, so no views. ‘Foreigners’ were charged $1 to go in. Locals can go in for nothing! I liked it a lot.. a nice relaxing park with many people round about just enjoying the air and the shade.
From there we went our way across to the main central market with its striking golden dome roof, dodging en route Lexus 4x4s, motorbikes, the ubiquitous ‘tuktuk’ motorbike trailers/taxis and many other forms of transport.
I bought nothing but will definitely revisit! VSO had arranged a buffet lunch at $5 at a Western style restaurant run by a charity which works on behalf of vulnerable women and girls. It was very well presented, with some beautiful local fruit to finish (rambutan, watermelon, pineapple, papaya and dragon fruit) – www.hagarcambodia.com . After that we were left to our own devices – no more tour guide! A group of us headed off to the ‘Russian Market’, which turned out to be a long way away. By the time we got there we were pretty tired and so did not stay long before heading back for a rest in the (comparative) comfort of our VSO accommodation, from where I am writing this account. I really had become quite blaze about the ability of my driver to steer me within inches of oncoming traffic or into the fast lane around lorries which had suddenly stopped at the edge of the road.
Some of the crowd were rather uncomfortable with the old colonial image that goes with riding a rickshaw, but the riders take pride in their work and were well paid. It is only different to a moto or a taxi in that the rider is working harder. We did it as part of the training and can now choose whether to do it again or not….. almost definitely not!
We intended to go for some nice food, reasonably local tonight, but a is the way when a group is doing things together, we ended up doing something no-one had chosen, a set Chinese meal, upstairs in a very Chinese restaurant… there was so much that we had to carry two dishes away, which the carnivores in the group will devour tomorrow. It was a tasty and interesting meal.
Vanessa has invited us to join her for a brunchy type meal tomorrow morning at a place called ‘The Living Room’, but most of the team seem anxious to go to the Tuol Sleng Museum with its macabre but necessary exhibition about the Killing Fields.
I can’t promise to keep up this level of detail, but was anxious to let you see a little of the local colour and the training context at the very beginning. I hope to become sharper and more focused in future blogs.