Shopping frenzy, good doctor, bad French, ...gone

Trip Start Oct 22, 2010
1
24
Trip End Nov 17, 2010


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Flag of Malaysia  , Wilayah Persekutuan,
Sunday, November 14, 2010

We get up early and grab a tuktuk with Sophy who's studying medicine, he's the first we've met who's not keen on tourism and doing something actually useful. The courses are taught in French so he's also had to learn that awkward Gallic language. So now he speaks 3 languages and he's studying to be a doctor! We're very impressed. We 're also very impressed at his brand new tuktuk, and so is he, it's only a week old and super shiny.
Off to the Russian market, I still haven't got all those work clothes I need. We divide our resources and J-she goes one way whilst I go the other. Russian market is a bit of a jumble sale and amongst all the crap I find little to impress my new co-workers with my elegant sartorial style. Down the back corner are hardware stalls and enough moto parts to start a whole new factory I'm sure.
Jen also exits less than impressed with the trinkets and cheap clothing, though she did pick up the necessary silk scarf gifts for her peers and friends.
I tried a few things on and all the stallholders we're bemused that I might not want that exact shirt/pants because they fit OK. What more did I want?  However, PP wasn't the only place where I came across this "the shirt fits so just buy it, what's your problem?" attitude. Not harsh, but they were certainly bewildered that I might like to have a few more choices than a lurid orange shirt with pink stripes (or vice versa)
I did manage to score an $11 pair of Levis, they were the only pair in the piles of 100's that were my size so I didn't fuss too much. And some cheap crappy t-shirts for my mates.
Olympic market had also been recommended so off we went. More a mall than a market, 4 or 5 floors of endless clothes and other wares. Like Angkor, I was overwhelmed. We searched, we hunted, we tried stuff on amongst the endless, infinite rows of stalls and eventually I found a few rather nice shirts for about $11 each. Good Italian and French stuff too.
Shopping frenzy over we had Sophy take us back to 240 and booked him for our ride to the airport. We tipped the good doctor well for his future efforts.
We dropped in for a lunch snack down 240 St at 'Comptoir', it was all written in French with English subtitles and the 'build your own salad' menu was about the most confusing thing I have ever read. And I read IT technical manuals as part of my job.
The lovely waitress explained it all to us non-Gallic fools and hustled on her way looking terribly stressed. We soon found out why, the mob occupying the tables out the front were the owner, her husband and their friends. The owner came in numerous times during our meal to yell at (in French of course) berate and belittle the staff, particularly our hardworking waitress. It was the most uncomfortable meal we had whilst this horrific woman tore strips off her staff until our poor waitress burst into tears behind the counter and ran away. 
The waiter who served our drinks was no happier either, this woman was an absolute tyrant.
To top it off, our iced coffees were cheap, nasty instant coffee and weak as well.
On our exit we found out the waitress was quitting as soon as she was paid as the tyrant was withholding any salary until the end of the month, so she couldn't afford to leave. I gave her a $20 tip hoping it would help expedite her escape from the Bastille.
If you do one thing in PP to help the nation, don't eat at Comptoir on 240 !
We had a super flash, well-studied tuktuk ride to the airport. We tipped Sophy another $10 cause he's doing something useful for the country and wished him all the best "Goodbye Dr. Sophy"-  we think he liked that 'Dr'. tag. 
The previous night coming in and on the way out this afternoon we saw police pulling drivers up all along the road - then it occurred to us what Jed from Jasmine and others had noted to us during our adventure - next week was a big holiday and the coppers need some spending money so it was out with the dodgy fines for all to provide a slap-up time for these corrupt officials. Farewell to a corruption ridden country, it's very sad and so inequitable.
As our plane taxied a huuuge tropical storm rolled into PP, wet season over? not just quite yet.
Cambodia was difficult to get around, the buses are bad and the road infrastructure is poor (though improving), it was hard work dealing and haggling with all the touts and tuktuks and we were kind of glad to be gone. And all their hotel beds are soo hard. We didn't feel this way about Vietnam and didn't think the harrassment and ripoff attempts we're at all on the same level, but I've heard entirely the reverse from others, so it was simply our unique experience. Maybe we're just getting old and weary.....
On the plane we discussed whether we'd go back to Cambodia. Probably not, but I think I'll be going back to Vietnam, besides, I thought the food was better there. Again, individual tastes.
Highlights - the Angkor area, of course, really quite amazing - and if this is all you do in Cambodia its certainly worth it. The SR to BB boat trip giving us a water level view of a unique aquatic lifestyle. The BB 'Circus' and a lovely tropical day on Rabbit Island. And, when we managed to get a good taste, the Kampot Pepper sauce. Strangely enough, the first time we ate it at Karma on Sisowath was almost the best. (the only other time we got a good serve at Kep being the ultimate). The Khmer food was interesting but not amazing in our view. Some of the broths were beautifully flavoured. 
I discovered also (amongst 1000 other interesting things...) that the Khmer Kingdom used to cover most of Vietnam and Thailand, so that their food is an aberration of the original Khmer cuisine - not the other way around.
The real highlight and the parts of the trip we will remember most were some of the most genuinely beautiful, kindhearted people we met. We were touched many times by some very humbling experiences with some very good souls. At the end of the day, sights and images aside, it's always about the people....so many kind hearts in Cambodia.
Lowlights - Hijacked in BB with a very stinky arrival port. Endless tuktuk drivers trying to squeeze ridiculous fares from us. The hard, hard beds we encountered almost everywhere. The dust, not just in SR - everywhere was dusty. The unfair disparity between rich and poor. The plain and obvious corruption which subverts so much of Cambodian day to day life. Our inability, mostly through linguisitic barriers, to access more of the Khmer day-to-day existence through communicating with the locals - which was no fault of the Khmer, I'm the guilty one there.
Our arrival at KL was straightforward - stamp visa, no baggage check, whizbang, too easy (We're liking KL...very much)
J-she had booked us into the Traders Hotel with a 'View' room which overlooks the Petronas Towers. Normally a bit of blingy modern architecture wouldn't greatly impress me , I'm more an Angkor Wat, Parthenon-y type of guy. As we entered our luxurious room just after dark our floor to ceiling windows exposed the shining twin towers of Petronas. They are pretty cool buildings. I couldn't help but be impressed. Our View room on the 27th floor stuck them right in your face. And a big soft, pillow-topped comfy King Sized bed. Oh, complete luxury - bring it on!

Cambodia, Angkor and people highlights
Never forgotten, but probably won't be returned
Hard work, hard travel, harder beds
 
 
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Comments

Cathy on

Wow, I have just read all of your posts, absolutely brilliant, love the way you write.
Tanks so much for sharing.
Cathy

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