Our last stop in Cambodia is 5 nights in the capital Phnom Penh. We are staying at a nice little French villa beside the royal palace and only A $2 tuk tuk ride to just about anywhere you want to go.
The area we are in is a real mixed bag. At the end of the road are families that live on the street. Each night they lay there mats down and during the day they are sorting through the rubbish. In contast just around the corner at the other end of the street maybe 100 meters away are some of the most fashionable shops and resturants in PP. All the guide books recommend them and whenever we are down that end there are a constant stream of SUV's pulling up full of wealthy westerners. It's a real contrast and one that is quite hard to accept.
The classy shopping end of the street
In contrast to the end with people living on the streets and sorting through the litter
The beef being dried in the sun complete with flies and wasps then at the end of the day it is barbequed
We have hit the markets and done our bit for the economy buying up some bargains. There is the most famous the Russian market, the Central market and the obligatory night market. The central was the best with not as much touristy related crap on sale. It is also where you go to get your barbequed spiders, cockroaches, grasshoppers and other assorted beetles. The kids have passed up the chance to taste each time, strange that as so have we. The most outrageous sight was a van full of cages contian rats. The rats were being driven to restaurants in Vietnam where they fetch $2 per kilo. About half of them looked alive as the climbed all over each other. The noise of the screeching and the smell was nearly enough to make us sick.
Rach has gone all shopping serious and bought an extra suitcase to fill and take home and I have picked up a north face carry pack for $10.
The goods for sale in the market aren't all fakes as most of them are made in Vietnam or Cambodia so you are buying the same stuff as gets exported.
We have also taken the kids to Dreamland - PP's answer the Disneyland. We did enjoy ourselves in the end but only after having to return to the ticket counter and ask where the staff were to operate the rides. It was 10am and the place was deserted. We ended up getting a man assigned to us who followed us around and turned the rides on as we wanted to use them! The dragon rollercoaster and the bumper cars where big hits. Also at the park is an enourmous a/c indoor playground. There we met lots of expats with there kids and Nannys. Rach and I had a chat to an Aussie guy who had been here for 3 months. We quizzed him about his lifestyle here which he said was a better standard than in OZ but his salary is $18 000 US compared to what he was getting in Sydney which was $82 000!!! A massive call to make the change but they were committed for 2 years. He and his wife had 3 kids all younger than ours. However to put his salary in context he paid $140 US a month rent for a 3 bedroom apartment and had a helper who worked for them full time cooking, cleaning and child minding who earns $140 month also. It means the have a great standard of living here but once they return to Oz he said they will have nothing. Having sold their house to make the trip.
The sightseeing we have done has been limited. Weve been to the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda which was very impressive and also to Wat Phnom ,Wat Botum and Wat Ounalon which are all pagodas. We also did an evening river cruise where the captain of the boat was so good he managed to do our 1 hour trip in 45 minutes!
The Royal Palace
The Vietnam and Cambodia Friendship Monument
enjoying the view and waving a lot from the boat
Life on the banks of the Mekong
Another random baby tossed at Holly for some holiday snaps
I made my way to two museums solo. The national museum and Toul Sleng genocide museum also know as S21. The latter was an horrific place to visit. It's an old school that Pol Pot converted to a detention and torture center. 17 000 people went through there before being taken to the killing fields. It's a very moving and somber place to visit. Rooms full of photos of those detained both dead and alive, human remains and torture rooms.
It's hard to believe the Cambodian people are so friendly and upbeat with what they have endured in the past. Having been at war with or invaded/occupied by Thailand, Loas, Vietnam, France, America and Japan all of recent times. I can't imagine us being so forgiving if we had been treated in this way.
Other than that we have had a few swims in the pool at our accommodation, played in the playground at the end of the street and done a few half days of shopping and sightseeing. There are also some lovely restaurants and cafes around. One particular does the best smoothies which everyone wants to go back to daily. We also got to have a meal at the FCC - the famous Foreign Correspondence Club.
As we were really enjoying our time in PP we decided to flag the stopover in Singapore for 3 nights. We didn't have any accommodation booked so we are now flying straight from here to back home. That coupled with the fact that we can stay at our current accommodation and the price here is 20% of what we would pay in Singapore for a tiny hotel room.
Is been a fantastic end to a great trip. We have been able to see and do some amazing things together. Vietnam was nice but Cambodia would be a place I would come back too, reminding us so much of what we loved about Turkey. It's not the flashest place but it has a wonderful personalty.
Fun and friendly people with a diverse countryside and amazing sights to visit. In hindsight I would chop off a week or 2 of Vietnam and have done more time here. The highlights in Vietnam were Halong Bay, Tam Coc River in Ninh Binh and the old town of Hoi An. In Cambodia we have loved Sien Reap and all the Angkor temples. Truly breathtaking structures and all so different.
And as for the biggest mistake, we've gone to too many places. It's been really hard for Bella to keep up. I will not miss being asked every morning "Are we going home today" looking back at the Turkey trip we did 2 towns in the first 38 days and here we had been to 8. For Bella when your older looking back on this blog I apologise for dragging you around so much. However once we got out the door you did get stuck in and had your share of fun. Your just sometimes too strong willed to suck it up like your siblings. You've also flashed your smile to all those locals who wanted a photo of or with you. Youve become the most famous of the 5 of us. Holly and Toby have been great. They haven't grumbled and have just accepted the challenges we have faced. They have enjoyed the sight seeing far more than I would have imagined and we didn't see much of the dreaded bottom lip from Tobs. His love of exploring and questioning why and when is something I love about him and hope continues. I'm looking forward to heading up the hills at home with Toby in his "Junior Palentologist" uniform looking for the elusive Richmond dinosaur remains.
Space was the biggest issue, room to run around and living space. They have all adapted and played with what little toys they had. The excitement they have when able to play with water bottles in the bath says it all. It has been nice for Mum to have a coffee and shopping buddy in Holly. Whenever there was a chance to to get out and have some free time Rach would always take Holly along - 2 peas in a pod those two. Holly is the strangest kid i know. She is always happy and looking to have fun and is very perceptive. She gets so much from travelling that it's scary. I hope one day when she is older she will take me travelling with her, she's already great company now. We've really been a family of 3 adults and 2 kids with Holly often jollying the other two along if needed. Holly your a star!
As for my lovely wife, she's done her fair share of sweating. Anything over 30 degrees and her face turns into a watering can. As much as she looks uncomfortable she does look funny. I love how positive she is and how nothing fazes her. It keeps the kids settled knowing that Mum thinks everything is ok. Shes a great traveling buddy as well as a pretty dam good wife. I'm very lucky to have such a cool chick with me. Thanks babe for another awesome adventure. I also apologies in advance for complaining about how cold it is when we get home and annoying you daily about different destinations to go to next! South America in 2014 sounds pretty good (as long as the All Whites qualify for the World Cup in Brazil!)
Rach - time for me to reflect:
Well I've had a great week lots of cool shopping here in PP nice to load up the bags prior to heading home. It's been another fantastic Watson Family experience and I'm sure we're all a little more worldly because of it. Vietnam was not what I expected after many years of wanting to travel there was disappointing. It was not easy to negotiate with young children and for much of the first couple of weeks I found myself wishing we were in Turkey. Cambodia by contrast has been great the people kinder and happier and we'd return without hesitation. Though as we were discussing it tonight your senses ge t a littled dulled as you progress through our trip and maybe if we had done the trip in reverse we may have felt differently about Vietnam.
It's been a completely different trip to Turkey where really we lived as pretty much part of the community due to our long stays in places. This time we have been tourists. The kids have all been great, their ability to accept and adjust astounds me whether it be traffic, smells, rubbish, food or sleeping arrangements they just knuckle down and get on with it. For poor old Bellie the trip was about 7 weeks too long and she has constantly talked about her friends Greer, Evie and Arlia - this has surprised me as at home she is the least homely and spends most of her time wanting to be somewhere other than home. She has a strong will and hasn't hesitated letting us know when she's had a guts full but shes also charmed the Vietnamese and Cambodians in their thousands. She must feature in just about every Asian persons holiday snaps. Though again she doesn't hesitate to stand her ground and not let them photograph her if she doesn't want. Toby is ever our trouper and lover of hot weather. He has a sense of adventure and has suprised us with the amount of energy he has to run round in this heat. With a tan to die for he fits right in to this life. Matt and I still laugh and think of him teaching surfing or similar on some tropical island. Holly's maturity and perception is beyond her years. She notices the world around her - the poverty the disability the living conditions. Her tolerance to the heat is siimilar to mine and we've both done our far share of sweating. She has made an excellent shopping buddy.
Matt ever the organiser it's obvious we couldn't have done it without you. Our accomodation finder, and itinery planner with a terrific sense of adventure as well as the ability to laugh in the face of adversity. We make a pretty good team with me looking after posessions, medical and routines. How awesome for our kids to have so much quality time with their fun and loving Dad - thanks Dad for a fantastic holiday xx
I'm looking forward to being home - I miss my lovely family and coffee, wine and chats with girlfriends. I'm over having 3 meals a day in restaurants. Decent coffee, and molenburg toast are high on my list as well as my own bed, my low pillow and my own home and routines. We are very fortunate to have been born in New Zealand and I have spent a lot of time thinking about the lives of many of the people we have met. Little kids running around the playground in nothing but there undies asking for money while there parents rifle through the rubbish bins looking for something to eat is a memory that will be firmly etched in my mind. As well as the horrific injuries many of these people have sustained during wars and after from land mines. For countries that have been through so much these people are very forgiving. As well as that all the fantastic work that is being done by the NGO's (non government organisations) to help keep these people off the street and give them meaningful jobs.
What would I bring / not bring again? We've done pretty well this time on the packing front. The kids having their clothes in separate cells has been great. We haven't brought the excess of warm clothes to drag around the country (but will probably regret that on Thursday when we are in Chch in our sandals and shorts!). The multiplug was awesome (thanks Gary) for charging our numerous electircal devices - until it spontaneously combusted. I didn't bring my running shoes for a ride in my pack (and haven't missed them) We travelled with backpacks rather than a suitcase (not convinced Matt :0) ) My poor old backpack of 20 years old has sadly disintergrated under the strain. We forgot the vegemite! almost a criminal offence and I so wish I had brought a dishwash brush to wash out the drink bottles - who would think something so simple would be impossible to find in the whole of Vietnam and Cambodia. The decision to bring enough probiotics for all of us to take every day has been well worth it. We have avoided any major illnesses and our extensive medical kit remains largely untouched. This trip we have had two iPads and an iPhone which have all proved their worth. In terms of keeping in touch, up to date and entertained they have been great. And so much easier than carrying lots of books, puzzles and games. As well as being far more portable than the laptop we took last time. Our other great find is the parakito mossie bands they are very effective and all natural which is a bonus when there's a risk of malaria.
So that's it for the watson5 soon we'll be winging our way home. Moaning about the cold and our holiday will seem so long ago. How long will it be till Matt is on to planning the next one?
PS Matt Brazil sounds much more like a boys trip :0)