Tuesday, January 1, 2013

first part of my Cambodian Diary

Day 2, Cambodia Well it’s 3:01 Am and I have been awake for a hour anyway. I found my shortbread and then poured a glass of milk, found my book “Here be Dragons” by Sharon Kay Penman. I figured reading would help me nod off… not so. So I figure now in the quiet moments I will write a diary of my days. We landed in Phnom Penh at little before noon on the 28th. I waited for the boys to disembark and then we went downstairs to immigration to give our passports over. Pat and Kyle still had a few places to fill out on their forms, I did theirs and then we heard MaryKate call us. She, Megan, Cheat(Chee-at0 and a couple of officials were there to take care of us so we didn’t have to go through a line. With all the hula-ba-loo over Pat’s entrance visa due in fact to him having only a one way ticket I called Brendan and MaryKate. MaryKate being engaged to the Prime Minister’s nephew has it’s perks. Cheat is genuinely very nice and I can see why she loves him. BUT we had people there at the airport to escort us through the confusion which was very nice. His little son Fi-Fi is sweet also. BUT I also have my grandchildren here, right across the hall, Rheaj, who doesn’t remember me, Kevin who is quiet and shy and then Victoria who I love. I love all of them BUT Victoria or Ya-Ya has captured my heart. She has become my little shadow and I know I won’t have enough time with her. I was so tired yesterday but managed to stay up till about 7PM. When we got back from our outing I went over and checked on the children, they were with Brendan’s Bodyguard, Dee-nah. Victoria got a pile of books and I read to her till I couldn’t see straight. That made between 47-50 hours of not sleeping. I was up with only fitful dozing here and there during the trip over here. We arrived back at Brendan and Mels apartment and I settled in, sort of. Got the presents out for the kids, all the things I bought for MaryKate and Cheat’s baby which will be born in February and then food was bought. Later in the afternoon MaryKate driving her and Cheat’s Rover ,we went out to get chocolate shakes and MaryKate reminded me how driving in Cambodia is for the insane… I made the mistake of once screaming out, “watch it” and MaryKate said “Don’t do that you gave me a heart attack…” So I sat very quiet while we whizzed in and out of traffic that has no rules. Motos dash in and out, they really don’t have any fear. We were coming up a street in Phnom Penh after getting more noodles. At two places MaryKate with the aplomb of a queen pulls up and someone comes running out and takes her order… No this isn’t drive through or a sock hop of the 50s BUT life of Cambodia and the elite… if you look at her license plate just by the numbers you should know it’s of someone of importance and of the Prime Minister’s family. Well anyway we were going up this side street a moto is coming straight for us. The girl was not even looking at us or where she should be…, MaryKate beeps her horn, the girls looks at us for the first time, her path to our vehicle closing in fast. She makes a “OH!!!” with her mouth and then in the next instant swerves BUT shuts her eyes tight!!! We avoid hitting her and she zooms past us, eyes closed… Amazingly I remember the streets where things are and we had an argument about the best way to get here or there. First MK said “Well you aren’t going anyway…” I was going and would stay up till I dropped so We went driving around during rush hour and saw the sights fast… Some how today I plan on getting Megan and going out. Since Brendan’s Rover isn’t here yet we will have to get a taxi to the city, we are on the other side of the Japanese bridge BUT on the Mekon. I don’t want to waste a day while I am here. To be continued… Day 2, Cambodia Well after typing the above post and reading for a bit more I was able to go back to sleep and I slept till 7:30 this morning. I went over to Meg’s and the kids were already up. I spent time playing with Victoria and talking over our trip to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. Unless we have a car, if Brendan’s car makes it from Thailand then we won’t be going to Preah Vihear and I think he really doesn’t want us using his vehicle anyway so looks like Preah Vihear is going to be a no go… also I may stay an extra day, not sure if Pat and Kyle are going to BUT I want to. Cause by the time we get up there, half the day or more then half will be gone by and they charge for a whole day regardless if you stay the whole day… Megan can only be up there for a couple days then she has to come back to teach. So I have to make a list of where I want to go and be prepared and make every minute count. Today we went to the Russian Market. I found a Javaraman VII bust like what is on my cover. Also I found a really nice carved Elephant with a rider and scarves for presents. Megan brought me to a woman who make fresh squeezed fruit juices. I got a mango /passion fruit smoothie. It was so good though I know it was made with bad ice. I took two charcoal just in case. I also found my Oshi Green tea so I am sipping on that right now. As we were driving home on a Tuk-Tuk a street was blocked off because of a fire. Saw the trucks, no smoke showing. Got a lot of curious stares and smiles while riding the Tuk-tuk. The driver waited for us which was nice. He probably figured he was coming back this way he might as well wait for us. Megan paid him 50,000 riel. I gave him a tip of a dollar cause he told us we could pay whatever. So not sure what else we are doing today But we are going to get up early in the morning and go to the waterfront and the palace Sunday, tomorrow. Day 3 Well it’s Sunday morning, the sun isn’t up yet, but I woke at 4AM which is fine because I think I went to bed between 7-8. I haven’t a watch but use my ipad as a clock so when I started falling asleep, planning my trip to Siem Reap just curled up and went to bed. I am so glad I brought this soft blanket from the states. I have my Air conditioner cranked because it gets pretty hot and stuffy if I didn’t.. The condo/apartments are nice, clean and new. Bren’s side looks out onto the Mekong and yesterday Meg and I took the kids down to the pool which is right on the river. The breeze was really nice but we still had to move our chairs to the shade. The kids had fun swimming then just wanted to run around. Kevin said he found a ghost house… which was the poolside bar. This was all before we went to the Russian Market. Rheaj had to go to school which he does 6 days a week but just in the afternoons. He goes from1:30 till 5;30 and then the young girl who is a relative of Mean’s comes back with Him then since she goes to college she picks him up on her way home. Monday through Friday she brings all the kids back with her and cooks them super. Megan doesn’t get home till almost 8pm since she tutors after work, Later in the afternoon my Mong who was my foster son came for a visit. He works in a clothes factory 6 days a week until 3pm so came right after. He is still the same Mong, very quiet and thoughtful. He stayed till just before I went to bed. So today Meg will be over early. I just heard a rooster crowing which is funny being 17 stories up BUT since I am on the back of the building facing the river someone below must have a home below and their rooster is starting the day. It’s funny how the Russian Market in many aspects hasn’t changed. Some of the same sellers are there, same spot so I use them to get my bearings. The lady we used to buy DVDs is still in the same spot. Once I got to that alley (of sorts I could find myself around. The section that sells the brand new name brand clothes is in the same spot. Yesterday I was being super cheap or tout because I don’t want to spend all my money but want to make sure I have enough. Its funny cause can Megan drive a hard bargain. I would ask them what the price was and then Megan would say “No, that’s way too high and she would state a price and keep at it till they came down. On small things I won’t bargain like that unless I know it’s too high. Like before we got there I asked Megan what she thought the price per scarves were. She said $2-$3 The woman said $2 so I picked out 6. Now if she had said $4 or $5 we would have walked off cause that would have been way too high. I may try and bring back some blue and white. Most of the sellers there for porcelain charge the same price. I used to have a ton of it and once I thought the woman was charging too much, in reality I think she was charging $1-$1.50 a dinner plate so walked away and checked with others, had my translator at the time with me. Went back to the original seller when I found all the places were charging he same. I told the woman if she gave me a good price I would buy a lot and keep coming back. I am sure that old woman is no longer there BUT probably her daughter as that old Grandmother was super old. I would go back to her time and time again and she always gave me such a toothless grin. Also once I was at a silk seller, found a fuchsia colored robe made of silk. I was about to put my hand on it and this rude French tourist pushes me and grabs that one that I was looking at and a bright red one. The lady who I would go back to again and again smiled at me. I made a low remark about rude French woman and the seller said “It’s ok, I will take care of you. We said this all softly and in Khmer. Big points for me ,so I stood there and watched as this French woman tried to haggle. She finally gave back the my fuchsia colored one with a toss and took the red one for $6 ☺ After the lady walked away I figured even at $6 that was a steal BUT the Chinese lady who was selling them gave me mine for $3!!!! So I always went back to her after that. I also when going to places at the markets use Khmer terms of respect and that earns you big points too. LATER Day 3 Well Meg and I went out today, we went to the water front and the streets around the palace like Street Number 178 and the other street is Street 240 then off to the palace. I took a couple videos, one was when we were standing in front of the palace. We walked all around the streets that border the Palace. They are building a HUGE crematorium for the former king. He will be cremated sometime mid to late January. After his passing the outpouring of grief was so great by not only the people of the country but Cambodian’s all over the world, they would flood the grounds in front of the palace. They had to stop it. One of my Cambodian friends had posted a video of a few nights after the death of the former king and the ground was covered with monks praying and chanting.. yesterday the air was festive, families coming feeding the pigeons who know they have a good thing. Women selling white lotus blossoms for offerings . Day 4, 7;45 Am Well meg is off to work, I have neatened my room after throwing my clothes everywhere in search of camera batteries… I woke this morning just before 6AM to the most glorious sunrise. I hope I can catch the sunrise at Angkor I am going to start saving for a trip next year and I will just land in Siem Reap stay there for a week then come down here then fly home. So now that I am getting an idea of how much things cost. Also being out here on the other side of the river it takes just a little bit more to get going since Brendan’s Rover isn’t here yet. I am hoping to get to either the National Museum or the palace or maybe both, we will see then today is New Years Eve I have been enjoying seeing my grandchildren every day. Saw my ex Son-in-law Mean and saw my foster son Mong. So it’s been a bitter sweet trip too. It’s funny we get no snow leading up to Christmas except little dustings, the day I leave they close Portland down due to weather… we got out just in time. When I spoke to Bob last night it was still snowing. So I will pick this up later. Going to get dressed and see where I can find a bowl of soup for breakfast. Later in the day Well just back from having a Khmer breakfast. Went to the river side to a restaurant called Titanic. It has a wonderful view of the riverside of the Mekong and the boat dock for the river cruises has the docking station right next door. I had a beef noodle soup and fried beef with rice since I know it’s the only time I will eat till supper. Later I will go out and after going to the national Museum and Wat Phnom then on my way back I want to stop at Bayon Market and then buy some mangos. MaryKate bought Mankut yesterday, probably a kilo and I had one, Bren ate the rest… I saw a whole truckload of those today. In English it’s Mangosteen. Deena is back so I will have him go with me. Iw as going to just come back and then leave BUT as we were driving over the Japanese bridge a truck had broken down and was tying up traffic on going n to Phnom Penh. It was three lanes trying to jockey into one and a few policemen trying to keep the order. I don’t envy them. I bought a few more gifts. I wanted to get tee shirts for the boys so found the ones I wanted for not a bad price. I figure get the things I want to now and then figure what I have to divide between my cases for the weight restrictions. I found another elephant and then a water buffalo. I still have to find some small ones BUT I will wait till I come back from Angkor Wat. One of the tees has a string of elephants on it, that’s going to be for Joe. Well it’s 4;36PM ,so in Camden it’s Monday Morning 4:36AM. I just got back from the National Museum and Wat Phnom.I had been to the museum years ago BUT it didn’t really mean anything to me BUT today going in there and seeing pieces of history some Pre Angkor some during the time of jayavarman VII well it was really moving. I could have been waundering around forever so I finally took out my guide to Pnom penh and found a photo (of sorts ) of Jayavaraman and asked a lady… at first she said “no, not here…” I made the Khmer noise for “I don’t think so…” and then I said the English version of his name and she said “Oh yes… Jayavarman VII and Deenah who is my body guard while I am here repeated it. She made motions of where he was located and I just about ran ! There he was at the end of the room, the full body except for the arms that were hacked off and a bit of the back of his head. I just stood there with a goofy grin and an awe look. I had some rude French lady staring at me. I say French because they are the only ones rude enough to stare… I plan on going back and just staring. Then onto Wat Phnom. This is the highest point in the city and itw as where the Lady Penh gave the parcel of land to start the city. There is a statue of her nearby. I took photos and we climbed the staircase to the top. Going up the short flight to the actual Wat we took off our shoes and walked in. The ceiling is painted, I’ll have to go again and absorb what’s on there, probably something with Buddah. Then I went and sat on the back on a mat and Deena went to get incense or jah(sp?) sticks to offer up prayers. He grabbed a certain amount, double checked when he counted, lit offered a prayer then came and gave me four then handed me an extra one. Four is not a good number (lake meaning number and bu-ann meaning four) we then went up to the alter and prayed. Coming down there was a poor monkey chained. The woman said itw as kung… meaning mad and would bite or (come). I am thinking to myself, yea and you would be angry and bite too if you were chained… poor thing. It used to be and it still is if you sit still long enough by the Post office that monkeys are in the trees. We used to park at the post office and if you sat there you would then see the tree come alive with monkeys. Then Deenah told my driver that I wanted to go to Bayon (Bye-yone) . It’s funny the Chinese family that owns it, they are still very present there. I walked in and Deenah grabbed a basket, he wouldn’t let me carry. I got milk and yogurt and shortbread and then the hunt for (not red October) but Tamarind candy. I am trying to remember the Khmer word for Tamarind . I am telling Dennah Scah-crop meaning candy, cjhew (trying to give you the way to sound it out not a correct english spelling)which means sour… so we are walking up and down the candy isle. Apparently the Khmer men don’t know about the fact the men shouldn’t ask like when American men get lost and need directions and they don’t ask BUT just keep going… Well he was asking everyone that I needed this candy and can you find it for her. My son Ian really wants it. Well finally we find the right two people, two others didn’t know and these other two talking enough with them finally the young woman says Um-bul which is the Khmer word for tamarind. I hit my forehead with the palm of my hand and said “yes, that’s it!" and she then goes looking. We found it tucked away. She then repeats the Khmer word and asked me the English word. Once we both said it we were both happy. So that was my adventure for the afternoon. I am going to now upload my photos and see how they came out. New Year’s Eve night Well we just got home, Meg, Mel and I went out. We ended up going to the same place we did the night before, The Chow which is part of The Quay Guest House. We really lucked out because there was no place that had any room, even at the bars. They were all filled up or had reservations and couldn’t fit any more… So we went to The Chow and had a great time.

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