Spent what felt like most of Tuesday morning in the ANZ Royal Cambodia Bank opening an account - god what a palaver - but then to celebrate what would have been my mother's 70th birthday I spent 90 minutes at InStyle Spa having a $7 (£3.50) aromatherapy back & shoulder massage, which was bliss as my shoulders have felt like one huge knot for weeks, followed by an excellent meal in the evening at Shiva Shakti - an Indian-Moghul restaurant located on Preah Sihanouk Boulevard near the Independence Monument - and then a couple of Angkor Beers at the Foreign Correspondent's Club (FCC) www.fcccambodia.com where I managed to get one of the coveted balcony seats, sitting in the warm evening breeze, overlooking the convergence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac Rivers. Sadly the riverfront isn't very attractive at the moment as most of it is hidden behind huge green corrugated iron panels while the riverfront walkway is renovated, but I'm sure it will look nice once it's completed.
Today, Wednesday, I had my 2000 Riel (25p) morning coffee at the same little café (Sentiment on Monivong) which I've been going to all week and was asked my name by two of the waitresses. It's a shame I won't be here after Friday - I've already started to be regarded as a 'local'! I then took to the streets again visiting some of the local NGO projects that are working hard to help disadvantaged and disabled people in the Phnom Penh area, including Mith Samlanh www.streetfriends.org which concentrates on a number of projects including ChildSafe, DrugSafe, and the Street Children Network. I also visited the National Centre of Disabled Persons www.ncdpcam.org which is run by, and for, disabled people, providing support to 1800 people a year, particularly landmine survivors, through the production and sale of handicrafts. I have been asked to do some research into finding a supplier of traditional Cambodian handicrafts, and I found the silks & handicrafts here of excellent quality.
I am keen to visit Stung Meanchey - the city's rubbish dump where hundreds of families live and collect rubbish for recycling to earn a meagre living - but I have been warned not to go alone and so need to contact a lady who has been recommended to me to arrange a visit. A number of aid agencies work with the people at Stung Meanchey, handing out simple provisions each week, such as bread, fruit, toothbrushes/paste etc. Despite the horrendous conditions these families live in, for many they say it is better than where they came from because they can at least earn a little money for food, however recent reports in the Phnom Penh Post has said that Stung Meanchey may be closed and the families evicted.
With all the walking I have done over the last few days, I can safely say I have now walked the whole of (what the ex-pats here call) The Penh! By mid-afternoon I was exhausted from the heat/exercise/2 horrid mozzie bites and so retreated to a café on Street 240 called The Shop, which is famous in Phnom Penh for its cakes & breads. I sat for a while reading the Cambodia Daily & Phnom Penh Post over a very delicious chicken & mozzarella panini and English Breakfast tea, followed by a heavenly chocolate chip cookie, for the grand sum of $4.
This evening I had dinner with Mary Scott, Country Director of The Cambodia Trust www.cambodiatrust.org.uk at an Italian restaurant called Le Duo run by a rather flamboyant Sicilian called Luigi. It was really good to catch up with her and hear about the progress at the rehabilitation centre here in Phnom Penh. I visited the new facilities back in May, when it relocated from within the grounds of the Calmette Hospital to premises outside the city on the airport road, and it's great to hear that operations are running smoothly. I'll be spending some more time with one of the CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation) Workers on Monday 25th to meet more of the people who the Trust are assisting, taking photographs and writing short case studies for PR purposes.