Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Waking up in Phnom Penh

March 18, 2013

Our comfy beds were far too difficult to get out of, and our alarms went off far too early.  I got myself up and connected with the Clean Stoves Forum crew in order to get permission to film.  They approved our request, so we'll be able to film on Wednesday and Thursday.

Matt and I lounged through the morning, then headed out to find a grocery store to load up on drinking water and some breakfast items and snacks for the week.  The hotel is really expensive, so we wanted to have our own stash of goodies when we're editing video for hours in the room.

We walked out the front of the hotel and were bombarded with tuk tuk drivers asking if we wanted a ride.  A tuk tuk is basically a motorcycle carriage that will take you across the city for $2-3 per ride.  We wanted to walk to get our bearings on the city, so we nicely turned them all down.  Compared to India, Cambodian people are so pleasant.  One guy who was trying to get us on a tour, assertively approached us with a poster.  We said we didn't want to go to the tour but were looking for a market.  The man stopped in his tracks then gave us directions to the market and wished us a happy day.  I highly appreciate the Cambodian people after our experience in India.

We found the market and got some dried fruit, nuts and Pop-tarts for a little taste of home.  We headed off with our snacks to find some lunch and came upon a local place with plastic chairs and umbrellas on long tables.  No one spoke English there, either, so Matt took the initiative and led the young waiter around to other patrons and pointed at what they had and ordered up two.  The people at the tables found us amusing and helped us order in Khmer, their language.

Matt helped himself to the fridge where we got a couple Coke's, and they served us up a bowl of soup, a dried fish and a plate of hot, white rice.  The soup had big red strings in it, and when I pulled on one, there was a bright pink prawn on the other end.  They leave the heads on the shrimp here.  His little black beady eyes made me realize why we chop them off in America.  It's a little freaky to see his cute little face before consuming him.  The soup was really delicious.  It had boiled vegetables in it with the prawns and some beef and some weird, white bubbly things that I avoided.  The broth was spicy and gingery and very good.  The fish was pretty dry, but salty and good, and the rice was the perfect match to fill us up.  We talked amongst our selves and smiled at the locals who didn't seem to mind us there.

We paid a whopping $3.50 for the meal and made our way back to the hotel.  It was ridiculously hot outside, so we were looking forward to the air conditioning.  It's important here to cover the knees and the shoulders for women, so I was wearing my jeans.  Far too hot.  I'm going for the skirt tomorrow.

We made it back to the hotel in time to set up for our interview with Mouhsine.  We wanted to get his explanation of our India adventures before he started in on the Cambodian business and got busy with the forum.  We used the window and the bounce board for light since we didn't bring any lights, and popped up one of his stoves on the luggage we had brought.  It wasn't a bad interview set-up.

After the interview, Mouhsine took a 20-minute power nap and headed to another meeting.  Matt and I captured and logged the footage and then headed off to find some dinner.  We walked the other way this evening to explore to the North of the hotel.  We found a place across the 8-lane street, and used our Vietnam traffic skills to cross.  Basically, you just start across the eight lanes of traffic and avoid the larger vehicles.  The motorcycles will go around you if you make eye contact with them.  It was dark, so we had to be very careful, but we made it.

We must have looked extra hungry because we had made it near the restaurant we were aiming for, but a man in a uniform and a whistle in his mouth pointed to us and waved us over.  He guided us into a lighted stairway that went up to a second floor, open-air restaurant.  We figured we were up for whatever, so we went with it.  We found ourselves on a balcony in the BBQ Party Buffet Restaurant.  The waiters guided us via pointing over to the raw meat that was laying out on the buffet.  You load up your plates with the raw stuff, then head back to your table where they've placed a round, metal barbecue run by charcoals.  The charcoals heat a dome with holes in it, and they place a piece of fat on the top to run down and grease the sides.  Down in the well of the dome is boiling water where you cook your vegetables.  We learned this slowly, slowly with much help and guidance from our waiters.

We find ourselves amusing the Cambodian people more than anything.  At this point, we had gathered up some scallops, but didn't know how to eat them.  Our waiter couldn't understand what we were talking about, so another waiter who spoke a little bit of english came over and realized what we were trying to get help with.  He brought over a full plate of scallops and showed us how to open them with our fingernails and slurp them from their shells.  They were buttery and delicious.

We had more than our share of meat and vegetables, and felt full and happy with our meal.  We wanted a photo with our helpful waiters, and they embarrassingly posed for a photo with Matt in front of the BBQ Party Buffet sign in the inside part of the restaurant.  Matt and I headed back across the 8-lane road and back to our hotel.  We found Mouhsine inside working away, and called it a day.

Oh, it was nice to be in a real bed with a real pillow and a blanket.  Have I said I could get used to this?