We were awakened at about 7:00 a.m. as
the anchor was lifted and we set sail downriver to the small island of Chong
Koh.There we disembarked on the
riverbank for a stroll through a small village that used to weave silk, but with
demand for silk waning they now weave cotton.Our guide is obviously a favorite with the villagers as they tease him
and he teases them as we walk through the dirt tracts telling us about village
life, the flora and the fauna.
Eventually we came to a small house that
is typical of the island (and the region overall) with the living space up high
on stilts and the work area below.Here
the family has a spinning wheel and two old wooden looms at work.We are invited to look into their home which
consists of one large central room with no real furniture (though my eagle-eyed
spotted a vintage 1970s stereo on a shelf) and crude electrical wiring and no
plumbing.I could see two bedrooms each
with a proper bed and mattress.And that
was about it.In the house lived three or
four generations including an elderly grandmother.
On the way back to the ship we passed a woman pushing a mobile grocery store
and then a
Chinese t-shirt factory where piece workers wove shirts on ancient
equipment.I was told they can make $120
a month; a very good wage for the area and a highly desired job.Did I mention it was a fenced in area under
the stilt home of a local Chinese family?Talk about a sweat shop!
As the path lead back to the ship, there
were vendors selling various tapestries and scarfs.Many most certainly were not woven by the
locals, but I was much happier making purchases here than in Phnom Pehn and the
local folks were very much appreciative. It was then back onto the ship for a
short cruise down to Phnom Phen.This is
the first time we will see it in the daylight.Honestly, it was not terribly impressive…other than the Royal Palace and
the skeletons of a few new high rises being built. AmaWaterways offered an
optional tour of the French historic area of the city which we decided to give
Instead we opted for an $8 tour by
tuk-tuk of the city ending up at the Central Market.It was a good investment as there was not a
lot to see, so we were happy to get to the market.It has recently been renovated…at least at
its entrances and the central jewelry portions.It is, on its face, filled with knock-offs, t-shirts, jewelry of dubious
quality, etc.But once you get your
bearings, you can dive into the rest of the place.Silversmiths with small smelters, sections
for housewares, shoes, etc.It is
interesting and fun to walk around, but not exactly a treasure-trove of native
local art, etc…which is truly sorely missing.
And then I found the food market.As fascinating as it was, it is one of the
only places I said I would never eat in.I know I was in the same location that Anthony Bourdain had a bowl of
soup, but the stench of rotting meat and grime made that bit of television a
bit too unrealistic for me.
Now, while a
couple of the people I am traveling with were actually getting nauseous, I
found the variety and the graphical qualities of the market to be more than
enough to overcome the olfactory challenge.
I focus on the fact that my satisfaction
or requirements is not the measure.I am
a voyeur; not even a visitor right about now.I am rudely (even if asking permission) invading the daily lives and
businesses of these hardworking people, so I am not to judge, but rather
appreciate that which I am trying to understand and appreciate.
It was then time to purchase a few tacky
souvenirs for the kids and then a tuk-tuk ride for $3 back to the ship.
That evening some of the local children put on a dance show in the lounge. It was cute and the children were very proud.
But am I done?NO WAY!
It is Happy Pizza time!What?You
have never heard of Happy Pizza.I haven’t
stopped hearing about it since that damn Anthony Bourdain DVD!It seems there is a pizza joint that will
sell you (and deliver if you request it) a pizza that will make you happy.You just need to order a “Very Happy Pizza”
and a marijuana-laced pizza will be presented.(It is sort of an off-menu item, LOL.)
Now after two weeks of my children
working me over, insisting it is OK because we are in Cambodia, I try to use
reason and rationale.I even tried the
following, “Do you think telling your friends you got high with your dad eating
pizza in Cambodia is OK?” to no avail.But with long faces (one most definitely longer than the other…and kids
you know who I am talking about!) I had to be the dad and made the final
compromise:We will go to Happy Herb
Pizza and order pizza, but not a Very Happy Pizza and I will even buy them
So the tuk-tuk drivers descend upon us
at the top of the gangway politely fighting for our business.They have some sort of system because
eventually one peeled us off and the negotiations began.He wanted $12…but I had Google mapped the
place and new it was only a 1.2 mile ride, so we settled on $3 and we would let
him take us back to the ship as well.
After a bit more pleading for special
pizza reality set in and we ordered a couple of just OK pizzas in a real “joint”
with geckos climbing the walls and some young Westerners looking like they were
enjoying Very Happy Pizza.
I made it an early night as tomorrow is
a long day with a tour of the Royal Palace and Museum followed by one of the
most important things on this trip:Visiting the Killing Fields and Toul Sleng, also known as the S21
Goldring Travel LLC 12177 Business Park Drive, Suite 6 Truckee, California 96161