I had a relaxed look around town yesterday, visiting 2 Buddhist wats & the museum - rather overpriced at $1 for what was on offer.
A day of superlatives followed, commencing with a massage at the Seeing Hand Massage, again done by blind people, and possibly connected to similar sounding places in Siem Reap & Phnom Penh. I went through the same blue pajamas routine, and was asked by the masseur, a young bloke, if I wanted "medium or strong" - naturally I elected to go for "strong". Sweet mother of Jesus it was strong! At times it felt as if he'd slipped a pair of pliers into his hands, or even a vise. He tugged at extremities, yanked muscles & nerves, dug with steely fingertips .... yikes!! Still, he did manage to locate several trouble spots (as well as probably create a few others). But surely something that painful must be good for you! I avoided tears in the eyes ... until I hit the Smokin' Pot - a local restaurant, diagonally opposite from the White Rose. It has a good reputation, an deven runs cooking classes for interested tourists. I went for the spicy chicken with basil ... the menu said it came "with more or less spice". When I said I wanted it spicy, I think they thought I meant "much more". After the first few mouthfuls, my eyes began to water, lips began to tingle .... I was on fire!!! Is this what they meant by "Smokin'"? Hot, but tasty nevertheless.
The room at Chhaya is windowless - functional but charmless. I suppose I could change rooms, but I can't really be bothered.
I had some breakfast at the Sunrise Coffee House - very western food, which I tend to eat only sparingly when in SE Asia, but pleasant.
I'd thought of doing some cycling today, but instead hired a man & a motorcycle - the first time I've done so, being somewhat of a cycling purist. $8 for 2/3 day seemed reasonable, so off we headed to Phnom Sampeau, then Wat Banan, and then went for a ride on the "bamboo train" or "norry" - this is basically a vehicle comprising 2 sets of wheels, a bamboo platform and an ouboard motor to drive the thing. They use the train tracks to transport people & goods up & down the line, although obviously not when the official train runs (which is maybe only once a week). When two norries travelling in opposite directions meet, the smaller one gives way - it is quickly disassembled then reassembled when the larger one has passed. It was daft, but sorta fun.
Bamboo train or "norry"
The odd thing for me about visiting Phnom Sampeau - the location of the so-called "killing caves" - was how little emotion it managed to elicit from me. In the caves, in wire containers, were scores of skulls & bones of people who'd been pushed to their deaths by the Khmer Rouge. Perhaps I'm just desensitised or a bit knocked off, but I did find it hard to relate to the obvious horror of it all. For me, the S-21 school, with all the photographs of its victims and implements of torture, remains the most disturbing & distressing example of the regime's reign of terror.
The people here now apparently enjoy 'democracy', but everyone you speak to talks with dismay & sense of powerlessness about the widespread corruption in the country - politicians, police, public servants, business people .... Tragic really, but I suppose it's better than it has been.
It was an incredibly dusty trip, but it was nice to see a bit of colour return to my beard, albeit temporarily. It's currently raining - only the second time since I've been here - and it sure is welcome.