A fairly relaxed schedule today as we stayed overnight in Phnom Penh. Neil and I took ourselves to Wat Phnom, enduring just a few minutes’ of traffic dodging from our boat. This consists of various temples and statues and much incense stick wafting. The Cambodians seem to be very superstitious, witnessed today by men selling sparrows in cages in front of the temple for people to buy, hold, pray and release. Bizarre, and some choice words came to mind but I kept them to myself for once.
We took another Tuk tuk from there to the central tat market, our driver negotiating the junctions apparently wearing a blindfold. We have similarly learnt to cross the road following local advice - “close eye, walk slow, no run, they miss you”. Gee thanks.
Having perfected his Vietnamese, Neil is now mastering Cambodian phrases such as ‘we come back minute’ and ‘fi dollar’ ($5). He’s convinced he sounds authentic. Yes Neil, an authentic plonker. Whilst interacting with one market stall holder, he managed to purchase a ‘genuine’ Bose speaker for twennee dollar. He was looking annoyingly smug this evening as it was working perfectly but I'll be impressed if it lasts until the end of the holiday.
We are getting to know lots of fellow travellers by their first names now and especially those in our little excursion group. The Aussies are also great fun and help to bring the average age down to about 70 lol. We check in with how their knee/hip/foreign tummy is this morning. However I must admit I’ve had to hit the good old immodium now too. That’ll teach me to brag. Lots of wives spend the time correcting husbands’ various tales. Doesn’t matter what he's talking about, at least one detail of his story is wrong. Neil says I do that. I couldn’t possibly comment.
After lunch we sat briefly on our little balcony but it was so flipping hot (35 today) that the paint had melted on the chair and now Neil has red shorts with a touch of white embellishment .
We arrived at Koh Chen ("Chinese Island") and pulled up against the riverbank to the sound of extremely loud house music. The weird juxtaposition of impoverished shanty town and contemporary din. It didn’t seem right to complain that they were disturbing the pensioners’ afternoon naps especially when we were about to invade their village for a nosey round. And to quote Neil “it’s better than that traditional shit”. So cultured.
The highlight of the day was visiting the village school and taking our gifts of colourling pencils etc for them. We saw a class of 34 seven-ten year olds who were completely adorable and sang 'if you're happy and you know it' for us. Just wonderful. We are encouraged to support the education programmes and ignore the beggars but it takes a hard heart when the children are so endearing. We then saw the silver manufacturing workshop as this is one of three silver centres in the whole of Cambodia. We bought yet another souvenir for baby Orla who now has more than anyone else Sorry girls.
Facts we learnt today - 70% of Cambodians do not have running water; monasteries (see photo) care for the elderly who have no family as there are no old people's homes; all the female monks were murdered by the Khmer Rouge and although they can rejoin now, they must do so for life whereas men can leave at any time; 98% of children are in education until they are 12 but then 60% of them drop out at that age to earn money. They are 15 years behind Vietnam in educational levels thanks to the war. Of those who stay in education, 90% will learn English rather than French.
Quiz night tonight. It all happens you know.