I love this city. After some readjusting to the currency, the poverty (not totally readjusted- and doubt I ever will be), the filth, the confusion and the language barrier I find myself in a city that is a buzz of culture, history and new beginnings. It seems an exciting time to be here. It is hard to walk anywhere with an abundance of moto tuktuk's and motorbikes everywhere asking if you want a ride. They don't seem to understand the the need to walk just for orientation.
Day three I decided to travel 45km out of town (1 and a half hours in a moto tuk tuk) to Phnom Tamao Wildlife park that has plenty of different animals that have been save from poachers and kept here in sustainable breading programmes. It was nice to see a bit of the countryside of Cambodia on the way out- I was surprised by how grey the landscape is- maybe it was all the dust in my eyes. It really was an interesting, bumpy ride- I wonder how the driver felt as I definately had the more comfortable seat!
The turn off to the park was about 15km of unsealed road and I was humbled my the beggars on the side of the road, each with there hands out to passing vehicles... I noticed that most where very old, 70+, with very little teeth, throwing water on the road ahead of you- with no understanding of what this means. The road traffic was minimal and I wonder what their daily income would be.
When I arrived at the park I made a new friend tour guide, Ron. There is no real need for a guide at this park as everything is well signposted but I let him follow me around with the hot tips of the park or just under $2. He also took the photo of me feeding the Gibbon so it was well worth it. Ron was studying French and English and when I asked him why he said it was the only thing worth studying in this country- once you know one of the two- it opens doors for you in the tourist trade where the money is.
I saw lions and tigers and bears (oh my), Along with elephants, gibbons, otters, snakes and plenty of birds of all different species. It is probably not ideal seeing these things from behind cages but the sad reality is there is not much chance of me seeing them in the wild and I justify this is better than a zoo as they have a conservation focus.
The gibbons were the coolest- the way they move with their long arms jumping from branch (to metal pole) to branch was really something I could watch for hours. the bear was dancing for me, the leopard growled at me like he wanted money for the photo of his beautiful self and the otters responded to the call Ron made like he was asking a question they did not hear.
The next day Gwen and I tried to navigate the city. "Tried" being the operative word! With our little map pulled from a free magazine, we were lost 80% of the time. However we did make it back to the Russian Markets I had been 2 days earlier. It was not until we where inside the market that I was convinced that we were even there.
I bought some more clothes- So cheap! (however when I packed my bag to leave today it was a very tight squeeze!- might need to off load...) After our mission to get there- getting home was worse. We wandered so far that by the time we admitted we were lost, it took at least 10mins on a motorbike to get back to where we had hoped we were. That night I went around to one of Gwen's work colleges houses for dinner. Laura and her boy friend have lived in Phnom Penh for a year and a half. She and her partner are from England and two other guest that came, where from America. While I was there it was like I was not even in Asia.They had a beautiful apartment, Laura also pulled out Rolff Harris just incase I was missing home and we did quotes from Muriel's Wedding, Priscilla and Crocodile Dundee. I was not like Phnom Penh but it was still nice to meet new people.
The next day I was going to leaving but my Mac seemed to have some problems and Phnom Penh has the only Mac authorised dealer in the country so found this (miraculously, from the advice I had received from the ex pat locals the night before). Uni Young Computers were great and very helpful- it turned out to be my charger which they have sent away for a replacement one. they gave me a loan on in the meanwhile.
I headed to riverside again that night and walked along the river. There was a dance class taking place in the middle of the riverfront strip, it was fun to watch the Cambodian kids aged 5- 17 dancing like they were in a nightclub to really bad house music! I bought too many things from the street kids but really they are so cute and clever, they get me with 'G'day mate, How ya goin' when I tell them I am from Australia!
That night I stay up at the hostel drinking Angkor with a new friend from Switzerland - Ramos, We stayed up til 3am which was a tough feat considering he had to get up at 6 and I had to get up at 7 for the bus to Sihanoukville!