Saturday, March 11, 2006

Phnom Penh III

... still in Phnom Penh ... tomorrow I plan to head off. Mind you, I've done a bit of cycling around here in the past few days. Yesterday I went for a 40km ride - intending to find the Killing Fields (Choeung Ek) but I somehow missed the "well signposted in English" way - as Lonely Planet describes it - and ended up god-knows-where. It was damn hot, I was sweating profusely and suddenly, urgently I felt a bit light-headed & with a desperate need to go to the loo. It's rare for me to get "caught short" like that; happily, there was something resembling a beer garden nearby & I was able to avail myself of their facilities.

Today I headed out with a grim sense of determination & did indeed find the correct turnoff & make my way there. (For future reference, you take the left fork at the SOKIMEX petrol station - almost 2km from the bridge - and head south). Overall, this was 28 km round trip from the Last Home Guest House (172 Street) and it took about 1:41 to cycle. While not as confronting as Tuol Sleng it was still quite a sobering place to visit.

" ... the dust ... the dust..." - people have warned me about this, and today I experienced it. Even worse for the cyclist are the sections of road that have been watered, presumably to settle the dust but creating a hazardous sludge on which to ride. I created much amusement for several locals on motorbikes as a passing truck splattered me from tip to toe in the stuff as it inconsiderately hurtled past. Very funny, guys.

From the small bit of cycling I've done around town and into the nearby countryside, I get the impression that while the roads are much less chaotic than India (i.e here, on the roads, fewer dogs, goats, pigs, chickens, elephants, people not looking) they are in much worse condition, on average. I do get the sense that here there is some sense of order or rhythm on the roads that is quite lacking in India. But, as I say, this is a very early and possibly unreliable impression.

One odd sight yesterday: a man on a drip riding a motorcycle while his pillion passenger (wife?) held the drip bag aloft.

I'm also finding some of the food to be not all that great here - I suppose trying Indonesian (at the Bali Cafe) and Thai (at the Lemongrass) is not really in keeping with the spirit of being in Cambodia, so maybe my disappointment is deserved. Both seemed to provide a fairly miserable approximation to the food that I've experienced in these 2 countries. Both places turned out especially oily dishes, and they weren't all that tasty. Still, my stomach is holding up OK, other than the small incident yesterday ... I'd better wind this up ... nearly every evening, around 8.30pm, the power goes off for about an hour ...

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