Cambodia: Land Of Smiles (Part Four)

Our day spent visiting the silk villages was one I will never forget.  With every single home we passed in our tuk tuk, the children would come running out to the road with bright smiles, waving madly and shouting ‘Hello!’.  There was absolutely no begging or street selling here too, it was so different to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh – and that’s saying something because despite the begging I completely and utterly adored these two cities.

We slept deeply as we were so exhausted from a hugely enjoyable day, and in the morning it was backpacker business as usual.  Onto another coach, and after a nice short journey we arrived at a town called Kratie.  Into the swing of staying in hotels by now, we booked into another.  No balcony this time but at least we still had a TV and en suite!  We met two British girls staying in the same hotel and agreed to book a tuk tuk together later that afternoon and see the Irrawaddy dolphins.
We then decided to get some lunch.  Kratie was even smaller than Kampong Cham, this generally means it’s either local food or no food.  We found a restaurant run by an American expat and an Aussie expat, after five minutes of listening to them natter it was clear they were both completely mad.  I opted for fried chicken and rice and listened quietly to the bizarre conversations the expats were having.  I then realised the two British girls were sat in the restaurant too, looking a little more than disappointed with their sandwiches.  Generally, when you’re this far from tourist hotpots, it’s always best to go for local dishes as any western dishes just won’t be very nice – and why should they be?  You’re in the east, not the west!
The American guy had picked up on their up turned noses and wasn’t going to let their rudeness slide.  He made a heavily sarcastic comment, I can’t remember what it was but my gosh was it obvious!  Then to add the ultimate gem of comedy value to the situation, his pet cat trotted into the middle of the restaurant with a big (and still alive) rat hanging from it’s mouth!  Of course in England this just wouldn’t happen, and if it did the owner would get rid of the cat and the rat immediately.  But we were in Cambodia.  Mr America’s silver beard curled into a huge cheeky grin and he praised the cat loudly saying ‘Ohhhhh who’s a goooood girrrrrrl?’ in his clear drawl.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  The two unimpressed British diners stormed out in a self-important show of disgust, stopping briefly to say they’d see us later, and Kayleigh and I carried on happily with our food.
After lunch we headed straight to the tuk tuk pick up point and headed off.  As we chatted we learnt the girls were both a similar age to ourselves, were teachers in London, and were on a two week holiday together.  We did also learn their names, but as I had given up writing in my journal by this point, I can’t remember what they were.  We started talking, as you do, about other places we’d been to and what we liked about travelling.  One girl in particular, I’ll call her Jill, began a tirade of things she didn’t like about Cambodia!  Things such as in night clubs the locals don’t ask you to get up and dance… Ummm… Jill explained that she was comparing this to two weeks she had once spent in Rio, where the locals will always ask you to get up and dance.  I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a rather strange and unfair comparison to make.  In addition I know for a fact that some of the locals do like to dance with backpackers in night clubs – our drunken night in Siem Reap is proof of this!

Off to see the dolphins with Kay.
Eventually we arrived by the river and hopped into a boat.  The Mekong is HUGE.  It’s the vastest river I’ve ever seen, I felt excited to be floating along it.  Our boat driver took us up the river for a good few minutes, until he finally stopped the motor and pointed to his right.  I was expecting to either see no dolphins, or at best get a glimpse of just one.  But there they were!  Admittedly they were very, very far away, but I could definitely see them and there were approximately four to six of them popping up every few minutes for a breath of fresh air.  Dolphin spotting over, we tipped the boat driver and headed back to the hotel.

The mighty Mekong river.
The following day we hired a pair of very rickety, brakeless bikes (but they did have nice baskets at the front!), took a boat to one of the local islands, and set off riding around the perimeter.  It was a lovely day, the sun shone, the locals were lovely as always and the views were beautiful.  We stopped for an iced coffee and some peanuts at an incredible hostel which had the biggest, loveliest resident dog.  Yes we did accidentally step in cow pat more than once during the course of the day, but what’s a bit of cow pat in the grand scheme of things?
Taking a break from our bike ride.
Kayleigh taking in the bright blue skies and lush green fields.

Kayleigh and I discovered in the afternoon that we had a problem.  We both needed to shave our legs, having given them a few days break from the razor they were now getting a bit unruly.  But upon opening our wash bags Kay found that her razor had gone rusty and mine had disappeared entirely.  Enter razor panic buying mode.  Apparently Cambodian women don’t shave their legs, as every single toiletry stall we went to at the market had everything you could possibly want –  except a venus blade!  Things reached an all time low when I eventually found myself imitating the act of shaving one’s leg to a Cambodian lady in the middle of the market on the main road, she laughed hysterically and even called her friend over to come watch my charade, but still didn’t understand what we were after.  We gave up eventually and went to buy some snacks for our next journey instead.  Luckily, the store we were in happened to sell men’s razors, so we bought one each with big sighs of relief.

The next morning we were leaving Cambodia for good.  Our time here had been full of fun, education and excitement and we were genuinely sad to be leaving.  We had one mammoth journey ahead of us now – eight o’clock pick up, transfer onto a coach, entry into Laos, transfer onto another coach, then an overnight sleeper bus to Vientianne.  We would have one night in Vientianne after which we’d have an eventful journey up to Luang Prabang.  At this point everything looked good – the guy who booked our ticket for us at the hotel proudly told us how we would be using the country’s new road to journey through north, and the guidebook mentioned this road too saying how it provided ‘a very smooth ride’.  Yeah, once on said road it became clear that whoever wrote that sentence in the guidebook was being incredibly smug and sarcastic …

A Simple Act Of Kindness

I’m sitting right at the back of a fifteen-seater van in which there are definitely more than fifteen people.  We’re all squashed together like sardines sweating profusely and panting from the heat.  We’re being driven through Laos.  It’s very similar to Cambodia actually, but there are more hills here.  The inevitable bladder ache has set in.  I try my best to ignore it because there is no way of knowing when we will stop for a toilet break, could be in five minutes, could be not at all!

314386_10150806517070246_1361653000_n

The van suddenly pulls to a stop in a small village.  We all squeeze out one by one to stretch our legs and get some fresh air.  I look at the roof of the van overloaded with everyone’s backpacks and smile to myself, I love travelling in Asia.  I decide to look for a toilet with some other passengers and spot two girls wandering up the path, I follow them.  I walk under a wooden building past a local man washing something in a plastic tub.  I notice that it looks like someone’s home.  Kayleigh is following me closely along with a British traveller with a bandaged and painful looking foot (tubing accident, obviously).  We find a small queue in what looks like someone’s kitchen.  Yes, it is someone’s kitchen.  I am in a stranger’s home about to use their bathroom, I feel a bit silly and rude.  A Laotian lady is stood over a sink washing some rice and is smiling happily at us.  We try to use sign language and facial expressions to ask her if it’s okay for us to be here.  She just smiles, points to the toilet door and nods, then gets on with cooking her lunch.

We use the toilet one by one and thank her repeatedly as we leave.  Still smiling she laughs at us softly, then holds out her bowl of rice to offer us some lunch!  Unfortunately, the horn is beeping so it’s time to get back on the van, so we thank her again and run back out to the road.

Making Friends

On July 12 2011, Kayleigh and I arrived in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.  We were very hungover having pulled a(nother) all nighter in Kuala Lumpur the night before, and had spent the majority of the journey listening to a woman sat behind us throw up into a bag due to travel sickness.  Kay gave her some tissues.  The hostel we wanted to stay at was full so instead we had called a place called Father’s Guesthouse and arranged to stay there.  The reserved pick up guy was waiting for us and drove us up a steep and windy hill just on the outskirts of Tanah Rata.  We arrived a beautiful, big house and instantly knew we were going to like it here.  The reception staff, aside from speaking almost perfect English, were incredibly friendly, warm and welcoming.  They showed us to our room which was a huge dorm with around fifteen or more beds.  The temperatures here are quite cool because it’s so high up, so we had bed sheets and nice thick blankets.  There weren’t many other people in the dorm, two beds to our left and one to our right were filled and at the other end of the room one bed in the far left corner and two towards the right.  No one was home so we decided to head out for dinner.

We went to a place I’d been to about a year before, unfortunately I cannot remember the name for the life of me, but it is on the main strip.  Most of the restaurants serve Chinese food so it should be easy enough to find!  They serve a mouth watering and delicious tandoori chicken dish.  An Australian guy was also eating dinner at the same place that evening, a few tables away, although we didn’t know each other then.  We slept wonderfully and got up early the next day.  We took turns to go and shower, but Kayleigh left the room about thirty seconds before I got back.  I busied myself getting my bag ready and towel drying my hair, then when Kay arrived she picked up up her pillow.  Then sat down and looked worried.

‘Have you seen my phone?’

She’d left it under her pillow and it was now gone.  We strip searched the bed, together and separately, we even moved the bed away from the wall.  It was definitely gone.  Under hushed voices we tried to calculate who had been in the room in the thirty second gap when the phone had been unattended.  The only person who was there had been a French guy to our left.  He saw us scrambling around looking for the phone, jumped out of bed (no shower, nothing), put on his bag and left.  I immediately suspected him.  We decided to be open about it, and began asking as many people as possible (as loudly as possible) if they had noticed anything suspicious because Kayleigh had had her phone stolen for definite.  We even asked the French guy himself and he interestingly pretended not to understand what we were saying – I’d heard him speaking pretty decent English the day before.  We then asked an Australian guy who was staying in the far left corner of the room.  He told us he’d seen us looking stressed earlier and had wondered what was wrong, then asked us what we were planning on doing for the rest of the day.  Kayleigh agreed she wanted to get out and do something, there was nothing she could do about her phone right now.  The Aussie introduced himself as Mick in a very soft Melbourne accent, we had breakfast together and the mood began to lighten.  We decided to do a trek together and set off in the wrong direction (probably my fault).

The climb up through the forest nearly killed me, and Kayleigh and Mick.  I didn’t want to lose face and admit how unfit I clearly was (previous nights of drinking and over eating now taking their toll), so I lead the way and tried my best not to start hyperventilating.  We got to the top and stopped for a quick chat while we took in the view.  Little did we know Mick had also been living a life of debauchery in KL and he too didn’t want to lose face, so all three of us were exhausted from the walk but trying not to show it.  The climb down was much easier, we stopped in Tanah Rata for a well deserved snack of spring rolls and sweet chilli sauce, then went back up to the guesthouse to shower.

Once all seated on our beds and trying to decide where to eat dinner, two new guests entered the room soaking wet having just got back from a walk.  One was a South Korean guy called Nim who was very sweet and smiled constantly, another was a fellow Brit called Dave from Northamptonshire.  We all sat about chatting, swapping travel stories, asking where we’d been to University, making gap yah jokes, that sort of thing.  There was also a girl now residing next to Kay’s bed who joined in.  We had seen her a couple of days earlier in KL whilst eating dinner in China town.  She had complained to the staff that her prawn salad didn’t contain enough prawns – first she said there were only two prawns, but then three, then four.  Four was not enough!  At the time Kay and I had thought she was incredibly rude and patronising to the staff, but we put that initial impression aside and tried to get to know her.  Sometimes, you should listen to your gut instinct when it comes to first impressions …  The six of us (Myself, Kay, Mick, Dave, Nim and Prawn-gate) went back to the Indian restaurant for more tandoori chicken.  We had a few beers after dinner and then went to bed, planning to do a seven mile trek the following day.  Nim the lovely Korean guy (South Korean as he kept reiterating to everyone he met) was wearing his raincoat to bed.  As he noisily shuffled under the covers, Dave enquired as to why he was wearing said raincoat.  In bed.  Nim, without a hint of humour and looking Dave in the eye, simply replied:

‘It’s not a raincoat, it’s a windbreaker.’  We still repeat this classic line to each other today, it’s no less hilarious.

The next morning the French guy had left and checked out before any of us woke up.  Kay felt underneath her pillow in one last futile attempt to see if her phone was there.

‘Er … Fran, look!’

I turned over to see her phone in her hand!  Now, even though we all teased her profusely about thinking she’d lost her phone when it had been under her pillow all along, I am one hundred percent certain that it was not there the day before.  I can only assume that whoever stole it (about seventy-five percent sure it was that French guy, he was only one in the room when it was taken) had a change of heart and put it back while we were out.  Prawn-gate told us she was going to do a tour of the local area rather than a trek, and Nim wanted to do a different trail to us.  So in good spirits Kayleigh and I set off with Mick and Dave, I let Mick have the map this time.

The walk was fun and took us about two to three hours.  It got a bit hairy in places as the path got narrower and steeper and the forest got thicker and wetter.  Even though I love the great outdoors, I have a very inconvenient but quite acute fear of falling.  It’s not really a fear of heights, I don’t mind being high up, but if I can see a sheer drop next to me that’s when I begin to panic.  This coupled with the fact that I am extremely clumsy means I am usually right at the back of any group I’m walking with, cursing myself quietly for lagging behind.  But I managed to complete the trail mostly on foot (sometimes on bottom) and felt proud of myself for getting to the end without having a mini-break down.

 

All smiles in transit, pic courtesy of Dave.


The end of the trail had led us to a road leading to one of the many tea plantations in the Highlands.  Not really wanting to walk all the way up the huge hill since we were now quite tired and very wet, we managed to catch a lift from two Indian men going that way.  We hopped into the back of their van and looked forward to a good cup of tea.  The sun was now shining too!  We had a very English lunch of scones, strawberry jam and cake, washed down with a lovely cuppa.  We then walked up to the viewpoint and took these two epic photos on Dave’s camera:

 

 

(Left to right) Kayleigh, Mick, Me, Dave.

An hour or so later we decided to head back to the guesthouse.  Realising we were about nine miles away we decided to hitchhike again, it had gone so well before!  We managed to get a lift from two Chinese men driving a van, when we got in the back of their van we saw they already had a passenger with them: a goat!

 

Both above pictures taken on Kayleigh’s camera.

Our drivers set off and began to speed.  Then continued to speed.  Faster still.  Mick noticed they were using the handbrake to go around the hairpin corners.  I looked out of the window and the blurred scenery, the expression on Mick’s face and the sound of the engine confirmed that we were going far, far too fast.  As soon as we were at the bottom of the hill Mick asked them to stop and insisted we could walk the rest of the way.  We were still about seven miles away but we didn’t want to die!  Meandering up the road we kept trying to catch a lift but with no luck, no one would stop for us.  Eventually we came across a garage and decided to see if anyone there would be willing to help us.  As luck would have it, the garage was managed by a long-haired Kiwi gentleman.  He and his daughter took us to their car, we all squeezed in and he generously drove us back to Tanah Rata.  He lived in Malaysia and his daughter, who was about fifteen, came from New Zealand to see him every year for an Asian adventure, how wonderful!

We arrived home, had dinner together again and discussed our plans.  Kayleigh and I had one destination in mind:  The Perhentian islands.  Mick was heading that way too, so was Prawn-gate and so was Dave.  We all booked a mini-van to take us to Taman Negara National Park.  We planned to stay there for two nights, then continue on to the Perhentians together.  Up and out in the morning we had a big breakfast together and talked about what we could do in Taman Negara.

Nim was also leaving that day but was heading south.  He came to our table and waved at us with both hands saying ‘Goodbye, nice to see you!’.  He then walked in the opposite direction to where the vans were waiting and disappeared.  We all looked a little a confused but just shrugged and got on with our breakfast.  About a minute later, Nim reappeared and hurried past us, pointing behind him as he went he said ‘That is the wrong way!’.  What a great guy!  His comic value kept us laughing for days.

A year on from this stop in the Cameron Highlands, we are all still in touch.  Kayleigh and Mick are now an item, I’ll be visiting them regularly when I head out to Aus – Kay is heading out just before me to be with Mick.  Dave will visit too if he can manage to spare enough money for a flight to Australia … you never know!  A week or so ago Dave and I headed south to stay with Kay, we celebrated our one year friend anniversary with a good stroll over one of the white horses of Wiltshire and some banana bread.

Anyway, I will leave you with a cold and windy picture (courtesy of Dave’s mum) of all four of us at a vintage ploughing competition earlier this year in England (don’t ask).  Mick came to visit and stayed for two months, it was great to have him over here but as you can see he wasn’t expecting it to be quite so cold!

 

Cambodia: Land Of Smiles (Part Two)

Our next stop in this amazing country was the capital: Phnom Penh.  We weren’t certain how long we would stay here for but just decided to play it by ear and see how we felt on arrival.  After we left Siem Reap Kayleigh and I were happily seated on a very uncomfortable coach trying desperately to sleep but with no luck.  The journey seemed to take forever.  I can remember being flung from left to right as the coach sped over pot hole after bump after pot hole and thinking to myself ‘Why do I like backpacking?  Why?!’.  I was so tired and just needed some shut eye!

Suddenly we came to a halt.  ‘What now?’ I asked myself, dreading the answer.  It took a while for me to figure out what was happening as all the shouts from the driver and staff were obviously in Cambodian, but once the left side of the coach jolted up in the air and woke any sleeping folk from their dreams I cottoned on that they were changing a flat tyre.  With everyone still on the coach.  There would have been no point at all in trying to explain to them the potential risks involved in propping up a double decker coach full of people, so instead I let go of any anxiety and took the opportunity to doze while the coach was (a bit) still.

When the tyre was changed and the coach was back on the road I woke up.  The roads out there seem to have very few rules and guidelines, I often saw people riding their mopeds on whichever side of the road they felt like, and a gap no matter how big or small is always enough to encourage any driver to overtake the one in front.  I did notice though that no one seems to have road rage over there.  In England I find it amusing to watch people in traffic jams banging their fists on the dashboard in a self-important rage.  I never saw anything like this in Asia, yet there is always plenty of traffic and collisions on the road.  Anyway, the point is our coach was suddenly flooded with the head lights of an oncoming lorry.  It was quite frightening but he swerved out of the way just in time as per usual.  Kayleigh let out a prolonged scream (she’d been asleep so it was more of a shock for her), I didn’t realise it was her and wondered to myself what silly panicker had just screamed!

We arrived in the city at about nine o’clock in the morning and were both in foul moods due to lack of beauty sleep.  To begin with, I sent our tuk tuk driver the wrong way and we both nearly lost our temper with him when he insisted on turning around.  We quickly realised it was our (my) mistake and bit our tongues.  Then we discovered the hostel we had planned on staying in was a complete dive, I could barely see the reception desk through all the chairs, bags and piles of what looked like washing lying about.  Our driver took us to a much cleaner place around the corner – but they only had one twin room left.  We saw the room eventually – the guy at the hostel had to wake up the handy man who was having a little nap in there, very strange!  It was a decent room, except the ceiling was abnormally low.  We looked at each other and silently agreed we wouldn’t be staying in this place long, so decided to just take the room.  At least it was clean, that’s always the most important thing in my book!

I agreed with Kay that it would be best to get straight into action, so after a nap and some food we booked a tuk tuk and headed for the killing fields.  I didn’t expect the experience to be a happy one, but I also didn’t expect to feel as affected as I did.  The first thing that struck me was the tower full of clothes, bones and skulls of the victims of the Pol Pot regime.  Kayleigh and I quickly went quiet and slowly took it in.  All of these skulls that belonged to real, innocent people.  You can see marks and breaks where they’ve been hit in the head with something in order to kill them.  I didn’t take any pictures of these bones, a lot of people who go there do but for me it felt wrong to do so.

After seeing this we moved to the fields, which consisted of many filled in mass graves.  There is a box in the middle of the grounds full of small bones and clothes, after reading the sign attached to it we learnt that after heavy bouts of rain the remanants of the victims will often rise to the surface.  If you come across any they ask you to place them in this box.  Then we found ‘the baby tree‘, next to which was a small line of teeth, presumably belonging to some of the children killed here.  I felt disturbed to be standing next to a tree upon which countless babies and children had been murdered only a few decades ago.  You will probably know how the murders were committed at this tree, but if you don’t, the babies were held at the ankles and swung against the trunk.  They were then thrown into one of the many mass graves.

A short while later we were seated in the information centre to watch an educational video about the killing fields.  While it was informative the English voice over was just awful!  I really don’t know who decided his voice was the right one for the film, the guy’s voice just dragged in an awful monotone throughout the whole thing.  I have to admit I was glad when it came to an end, his bored voice almost seemed a bit disrespectful!

Feeling drained, reflective and quite sad we both hopped into the tuk tuk and asked the driver to take us to S-21 prison located in the city.  He took us back through the dusty and incredibly busy roads of Phnom Penh and dropped us off just outside the former school and later prison.  Well, I thought visiting the killing fields was hard, it was nothing compared to this.  We entered the first block and walked into the first room.  Each room (or classroom rather) has a picture on the wall of a prisoner that was once kept there.  The beds and much of the equipment are still there.  The school chalkboards are still on the walls.  The stains are still on the floor.  Barely able to speak and feeling a strange sensation of sickness I began to walk slowly from room to room, taking time to look at each image.

In the next block there were pictures of all the prisoners, every single one.  You can look over every individual that died or was murdered here.  Some look as old as eighty, others younger than one.  There are also pictures painted by one of the survivors depicting the torture methods that were employed here.  Since it used to be a school some of the gym equipment was adapted for torture, very sinister.  Here I did take just one picture, I wanted to remember how I felt looking into their eyes:

 

She can’t be much older than nine or ten?
At the end of the final block I found a man and his daughter both saying a prayer together, both had tears falling silently down their face.  I decided to give them a bit of space and as I left the room I caught sight of one last painting.  It showed two soldiers at the killing fields stood next to a grave.  One had flung a tiny baby into the air over the grave, the other was aiming his gun at it.  I then started to well up too.

When we got back to our room we both lay on our beds and agreed that although the day hadn’t been a pleasant experience we were glad we now knew a lot more about Cambodia’s history.  I felt it was incredible for a country to have such a dark and recent history, but to be resiliently full of the nicest people.  Of course I’m sure not absolutely everyone in Cambodia is great, but there was something about this place that made me feel happy.  Just before I went travelling the first time in 2010, someone said to me ‘But the world is full of dangerous people.’  While that’s probably true, it’s also full of amazing, kind, good and beautiful people and travelling has only confirmed that for me.  Cambodia is one place in particular that I came across many people like this.

Kayleigh had learnt from her guidebook that there was a restaurant very close by called Friends Cafe, which is run by the charity Friends International.  They take on children from the street and train them to cook, assist in kitchens or wait tables.  They employ them and when they eventually leave they are able to earn a proper living rather than going back to the streets.  There was also a shop next door and a beauty salon, again all the employees were former street kids.  We thought this was a fantastic charity and were keen to contribute to it in some way, so in order to put a positive spin on a negative day we decided to eat dinner at the restaurant.  If I remember correctly I had a pork salad, and waffles for desert.  The food and service was excellent – and I am NOT just saying that.  The decor was lovely and the place was squeaky clean too.  I got a real sense of the positive energy running through this place and felt much happier by the time we left.

That night we each hit our heads on the dangerously low ceiling more than once, cursing each time.  Then at about four o’clock in the morning I became wide awake for no apparent reason.  Bizarrely, seconds later Kayleigh stirred and began to shout my name.  She then shot out of bed and smacked her head violently on the ceiling once again.  I asked if she was okay (stupid question really) and she told me she had been dreaming of being locked in a temple full of of baby bones!

The following day we did a spot of shopping at a boutique and in the Friends shop, and Kay treated herself to a pedicure (which was later ruined when we had to climb over a landslide).  We were booked to leave in the morning and had spent two quick and busy days in Phnom Penh – we were ready to go somewhere quieter.  So in the morning it was another day, another ridiculous bus journey.  Drivers often beep their horns just to warn other road users of their presence, but this guy was really going too far.  I think he beeped his horn at least every five to ten seconds.  After half an hour I wanted to scream.  Luckily we didn’t have any breakdowns or other potential mishaps of any kind – every cloud!

We arrived in Kampong Cham, a town overlooking the Mekong river.  Feeling like we needed a bit of TLC, we checked into the Mekong Hotel and got an awesome room.  The reviews I’ve linked to of this place are quite average but personally I loved staying here.  It’s probably just because we’d been deprived of any real luxury for a while by this point.  We had an en suite, a television with a movie channel, AND we had a balcony with a fantastic view of the Mekong river.  We bounced around the room (literally) for a bit like two excited children and tried to think what we should do with our free afternoon.  Nine times out of ten, if you ask me: do you think local food beats Western food?  I will say YES I DO with confidence and conviction.  But one time out of ten there are exceptions and this was one time.  Turning left out of the hotel we began the search for food and eventually found a very local restaurant, clearly for very local people.  There were no menus but the smiling owner was more than happy to give us a taster of a standard dinner, we shrugged and obliged because a) we didn’t speak Cambodian and b) we were extremely hungry.  What arrived at the table was a mixture of some ‘pleasant’ dipping sauces, some cooked and soggy green leaves, plain boiled rice and meat.  Yay, meat!  Oh hang on, it’s fatty meat.  Wait, no, it’s fat.  Pure fat.  Little giblets of pig fat.  Is that a bit of bone too?  Yes, yes I think so.  Sooooo … after a filling meal of plain boiled rice we walked up the road to the river side and discovered a long line of restaurants serving everything from pizza to curry to English breakfasts.  Note to self: next time turn right out of the hotel.

The road running along the river looked quite busy so we decided to take a stroll.  Families who passed us on their mopeds got their children to wave and shout ‘Helloooo’, a lady carrying a basket on her head gave us the biggest and kindest smile I’ve ever seen, and up ahead we caught sight of what looked like an outdoor zumba class.  When we got nearer we realised that it was an outdoor zumba class!  We joined a French family (later learnt that the father of the family had left Cambodia and moved to France years earlier, where he had met his wife.  They came to Cambodia with their three children on holiday nearly every year) in watching the class of over one hundred totally unembarassed locals busting some moves according to the almost cartoon like class leader.  He had that crazy, spiked anime hair going on and kept shouting presumably motivational phrases into his microphone.  During the walk back to our hotel I saw two ladies sat overlooking the river having a good old natter, they looked like old friends (and appeared to be wearing pyjamas), I grabbed a quick picture of them:

 

Nice right?  It’s like one of those ‘life is nothing without friendship’ cards or something.  
That night we slept brilliantly and free from nightmares.  In the morning we would be picked up in a tuk tuk and taken out for the day to visit the local silk villages – that’ll be in part three!