Arrived Friday 8th early evening, having had the luxury of an economy class bed (ie. 3 seats all to myself) so I was able to lie down and sleep for most of the 12-hour flight to Bangkok. I'm staying in Phnom Penh until the 15th at the Asia Palace Hotel on Monivong Boulevard www.asiapalacehotel.com.kh - one of the two main roads in the capital - close to the Phsa Thmey (Central Market).
Saturday morning was spent walking around the city, visiting my favourite hideaway - Java Tea Room at Monument Books - where they serve excellent chai tea for the bargain price of $2 (eat your heart out Starbucks!). In the afternoon I went to the cinema and even though the film was in Khmer I managed to understand most of it. An ex-pat friend here had told me to go to the cinema at some point just for the experience and it really was like stepping back into the 1970's. Before the film starts they show the Flag of Cambodia and play the National Anthem (which people are supposed to stand up for but nobody bothered) and they still have an intermission half way through. It was great fun and cost just 5000 Riel (the equivalent of 75p) for 2.5 hours entertainment!
Sunday I hired a dirt bike and drove 39km west of Phnom Penh to Ta Khmau Zoo to re-visit my otter friends! They are so gorgeous and very mischievous. I took the above photo just before I started to feed them some of the fish in the basket. They were even climbing up the bars to get closer to me (or, more accurately, the fish) and they are so talkative, chatting away to you constantly. See more photos in Photo Album - Phnom Penh. The one with his head sticking through the bars is my favourite! My other reason to re-visit the zoo was to see the Hairy Nosed Otter I'd read about in the Phnom Penh Post. He moved there a couple of months ago. He is a very rare breed and the zoo is currently trying to find him a wife. He looked very lonely . . . I had lunch in the picnic area - roast chicken and boiled rice, which although it sounds very simple is actually very nice - and managed to get back to Phnom Penh without getting soaked this time (I was drenched the last time I hired a bike!). I did however get a bit 'tanned' . . . I now have very red shoulders and forearms and unfortunately my arms are striped from where my shirt sleeves ended and my gloves began. It's very noticeable too - the young Khmer girl at the hotel touched my arm and giggled!
Today has been very hot & humid - 33 degrees - and I look as though someone has turned a tap on and left it running. I should be ok in a few days as it normally takes me a week to acclimatize. I'm tempted to get motodups but I'm saving the dollars and walking everywhere, which is making the tap run even more! Let's hope it makes me lose weight, although saying that I'm off for a la carte dining tonight, visiting the first ever KFC to open in Cambodia. It's the same chain as we have in the West, but whereas we call it 'Kentucky Fried Chicken' here they call it 'Kampuchean Fried Chicken' (Kampuchea is the Khmer for Cambodia). It's actually very satisfying to say that none of the other fast food chains have made it here yet, although there is an article in today's Cambodia Daily saying that there will be a Pizza Hut opening up in November. The owners of the well-known Cambodian burger chain - Lucky Burger - are close buddies with the Government and have so far managed to keep McDonalds and Burger King out. There isn't even a Starbucks, which is truly amazing!
Post Script : It serves me right for saying I'd avoided the rain. Walking around the city, the heavens opened a little while ago and I am now back at the hotel doing a very good impression of a drowned rat. You get pestered every minute of the day by tuk-tuk drivers . . . but try finding one when it's raining!!