Monday evening I had dinner with my friend Andy Brouwer who has been coming to Cambodia for 15 years and finally moved here a year ago. We had dinner at the oldest Indian/Nepalese restaurant in Phnom Penh - Mount Everest - where I had an excellent chicken tikka massala. It was good to catch up with Andy's news. He works for a tour company in Phnom Penh with Nick Ray, Editor of 'Lonely Planet' and has his own fantastic website on Cambodia.
Today, Tuesday, I spent the day with The Cambodia Trust. I was picked up from my hotel at 6.50am by the 'expat land rover' and headed over to the rehabilitation centre near the airport before going out with Lim Eng, one of the Community-Based Rehabilitation Workers. I have been out with Lim Eng previously and she's a lovely lady, herself a landmine survivor, with a prosthetic leg.
We went to Koh Thom District in Kandal Province, about 50km from Phnom Penh and only 15km from the Vietnam border. They don't get many foreigners down this way and so what appeared to be the whole village turned out to see the English 'barang'. We visited a Disability Self Help Group which consists of 5 members who have come together within one village to help each other, a 51-year old gentleman who had lost his leg through a landmine accident in 1985, and a 19-year old man who suffers from polio and needs to return to the Phnom Penh rehabilitation centre in October to be fitted for new braces (he has outgrown the previous ones).
On the way back into the city we passed Hun Sen's (Cambodia's Prime Minister) huge residence, with what looked like half the Cambodian Army protecting the gates! It was impossible not to notice the families living in the small, run down, one room shacks on either side of such luxury . . .
Back at the centre in Phnom Penh it is exam time for the final year CSPO students and they are currently in the middle of a 12-day practical exam. There were a few anxious faces about the place! Lim Eng and I returned to the centre around 3pm and the 'expat land rover' took us back to our respective abodes at 4pm, where I sat on the bed to take my shoes off and woke up 2 hours later! It's very hot & humid here at the moment. I wish it would rain to lower the humidity a bit.
I'm currently in Steve's Steak House as I am craving meat and so have treated myself to a plate of New Zealand sirloin, baked potato and salad. It's going to be an early night tonight as I leave for Siem Reap early tomorrow. A minibus will pick me up from the hotel at 6.45am and take me to the Mekong Express coach, which leaves at 7.30am for the 5-6 hour journey to Siem Reap. The Mekong Express is the recommended bus service in Cambodia. The ticket costs $11 and includes an air-conditioned coach, onboard toilet, tv (although most probably Khmer karaoke), and breakfast comprising a bottle of water & pastry. Unlike many of the other bus services operating here, the Mekong Express does not break health & safety guidelines by filling the aisle with collapsible seats so as to get more passengers on!
PS. The gorgeous little girls in the above photo both suffer from polio and were attending the rehabilitation centre for brace fittings and physio