Our hotel room did not have a window, so upon waking we realised we'd slept through most of the day without the sun waking us. Once up we knew we'd planned to set aside time for being tourists in this crazy world of Phnom Penh. Alongside the river many cafes and restaurants resided, many totally overpriced and some within our price range of meals starting at $2! Luckily we found a modern cafe with an all you can eat buffet breakfast for $2.75! A total score especially with pastries and cakes on offer – some to steal for later!! Stuffing our gob we made our way to the internet cafe for a quick check on life in Australia (only to realise no one was on during the daytime and instead spoke with other mates in the northern hemisphere.
Our first stop being tourists decked out in a camera, bottles of water and our skin covered up we headed east toward the only hill in town where atop the Wat Phnom peered over the city
. This wat was a nice monument as it was named after the Kings wife named Phnom. It was almost like being in hyde park where locals lazed around and beggars asked for money but in the centre stood the little wat. The wat itself wasnt too awesome but the views were pretty good, allowing us to get our bearings. Within the park there was an elephant towering over anyone who went near it offering rides, as well as millions of monkeys playing in the trees and bouncing along the grass weighing up options to steal peoples food when not looking or ramble through the garbage bins. One of the adult monkey was carrying the cutest little monkey on its underbelly...so young that it barely had fur!
Travelling back to the main road along the Mekong we realised we had more time than we thought and couldnt see the Royal Palace just yet as it opened for its afternoon session at 2pm. Instead we filled our time with some quiet drinks as a local cafe and basked in the greatness of our books. The Royal Palace was only moments from our hotel and saved us on tuk-tuk prices. When we walked into the grounds there was a massive line to buy a ticket, with some people being turned away for incorrect dress. The grounds were so beautiful, i just wish i had a great gardener. Most of the temples and buildings within the grounds didnt allow photography so pictures were only taken of the grounds. Still, there was much to learn
. Apparently the King only gets to sit in "the chair" once in his lifetime, when he is crowned! There were so many different types of flowers that were planted we couldnt name them all, but one that i liked was the travellers palm! Wandering around the obstacle course that theyd created we saw lots of different gowns the royals wore, gifts theyd given, armour and weaponry etc. Some of the buildings had the biggest chandeliers id seen!
Later that evening we didnt want to dwell in the hotel too long so we headed out early to another comfy cafe and decided to kickstart the evening with some happy hour cocktails. Cocktails are about $2 although at a second place we managed to get them for $1.75. The bliss of drinking way too many cocktails and then being introduced to some old timer expats and their cambodian wives. That evening we tried the Cambodian traditional Lak Lak which is kind of like a stir-fry but called a curry (but without the excessive sauce). It was extremely yummy but oh so hot for a mild palate like mine. A few yawns later and a booked bus to Sihanoukville in place for tomorrow Alex and i grabbed large tubs of ice-cream from a palour and crashed out at home watching movies (in our tispy state!) 19th January
To our great pleasure we booked the 11:30am depature time for the bus which picked us up from the hotel (phew!) Once more though we puckered down and sank out teeth into the same yummy buffet breakfast and stocked up our tummys for the 4 hour trip to Sihanoukville. It is named this after King Sihanouk, the previous King to the present one. Many people had told us this was an awesome place to be, relating it to be like Koh Phangan in thailand since it resides next to the gulf of thailand (yay ocean)
. The bus journey there however wasnt one of the best, especially when we boarded and the stench of urine and uncleaned cambodians ripped through us. A quick look around nd i burst out in laughter. Alex looked at me quizzically to which i could only reply "The irish boys, smiley and Shane, are on our bus!!!" We hadnt seen those guys for over 3 weeks back in Thailand. How insane was it that they were on our exact same bus (of the many 20 that leave daily)! Thankfully i had my book to distract me until we stopped for lunch at a rather dodgey restaurant where the boys greeted us gleefully and introduced us to some of their other mates theyd met up with. Our arrival in Sihanoukville was a little disappointing with the masses of clouds bnillowing in the sky. Not to worry we told ourselves with the next 5 days on our side and the hope that it would be sunny tomorrow. We attempted to catch some tuk-tuks with the boys but found ourselves bombarded with cambodians trying to score us like their life depended on it. To GST Hotel we headed and regrouped along with an English layd named Natasha!! She was heaps cool, speaking too many languages and even living in Moscow for a year (who does that??) Her reason for coming to cambodia was to live up her passion of diving and help rebuild and aid communities.
Scoring a cheap hotel room but with sand everywhere we thought to discover the beach life that Sihanoukville had to offer
. A slow walk up and down Ochheuteal Beach and a brief look at Serendipity Beach showed us which beachside bars were the best. Plonking down into a cushioned lazy chair we sat back and watched the sun set to the west. Starting early with the buckets and cheap cocktails we easily identified the Irish blokes strolling along the shore and gave them a whistle. Smiley and the crew joined the party and our 2-some became 8! Alcohol poured and food was shared around and we caught up with stories of terrible cambodian bus journeys and the friendlier lao people. By midnight the bar began to pack up all the remaining deck chairs around us indicating it was probably about time we headed home due to “curfew”. Mismatched feet and some failing sand barriers totally called for some mistaken falls, especially ones with myself fully clothed. Unfortunately one of the blokes named Flan (Flannery) thought it’d be funny to take me over his shoulders and plunge us both into the ocean, bag and all!!!! Stupidly i had brought my iphone with me that evening of all evenings and consequently it wouldnt turn on due to water damage (a 3rd case of my idiocy). My mood swept from joy to total misery. Flan was so apologetic and lex reassured me that our travel insurance covered these types of incidents. I reckon i need to take out permanent insurance on myself. Some mucking about and some passing out concluded the evening. Or should i say morning? I sprang up around 7am and most probably still tipsy went for a wander and who did i find, NATASHA! She had previously pulled up a chair the night before but had left early to attend a diving tour around one of the deserted island.