This week, you'll be glad to hear, has been a lot more cheery for me! After I returned to Phnom Penh, from Kampot (or as dad likes to call it: “Camp Pot” because of all the stoners I encountered there!), I set about making sure I had at least one thing to do or see each day.
One of the first things I booked was a group tour of the local wildlife sanctuary / zoo. I managed to get the last space on the tour for the following day and, at 9.45am found myself waiting at a nearby cafe/hostel to be picked up, long with a few others. They were booked onto the minivan…whereas I was booked onto the ex-USA military Jeep from the Vietnam war! Even though the minivan had aircon and …you know, windows, I was really excited about the Jeep! It was all going so well: we were all chatting away, making progress when, an hour into the journey, the Jeep 100% broke down. There was no way this bad boy was going to be fixed! Luckily, the minivan swooped back and we all piled inside, various people sitting on other people's laps, 2 to every seat. That kind of thing. Luckily, it was only for 20 more minutes and then we arrived at the sanctuary. From then on, Adam (our guide) took us round the sanctuary to introduce us to all his favourite animals. As he does this tour every day and works closely with the keepers, he knew which animals were friendly, which had interesting back stories and which to avoid altogether!
It was really an up close and personal tour and we got to get way closer to the animals than you would ever manage in the UK. We got to feed the otters, and I have to say, I have totally fallen in love with them! Sure, they may have incredibly sharp teeth but goodness the noises they make and their expressions are cute!! This is one of them in a strop because he only got 2 fish and he wanted more:
There were loads of gibbons in the sanctuary as, apparently, they are popular (yet illegal) pets in Asia. Adam knew which if them were happy to have human contact and which of them were so traumatised that they were dangerous. Here I am with “Cataract” and her new baby. She wanted a head scratch and, as I obliged, her little one decided to wrap his hand around my finger! Possibly the sweetest thing that has happened to me in a while!
Apart for the sanctuary, I also visited various things around the city including the temple Wat Phnom, the genocide museum (as I mentioned in my last post), the grand palace, and others… I made sure to do at least one thing a day!
I also went out with an Australian woman I had met on the side of the road somewhere between Kampot and Phnom Penh, when we'd been made to get out for a break and she was waiting for a bus down to Kep. She invited me out with two Canadian women she'd met in Kep and we all had dinner and drinks. We also all went to the Russian Market the following morning to go shopping. The first place we saw was a shop filled with wooden carvings of Buddha. I had wanted one of Buddha's face since Siem Reap where I saw a gorgeous statue in a restaurant. Lo and behold…there one was in this shop! I decided to sleep on it and, if I was still really keen the following day, I'd go back and get it. I woke up even more determined to have it. However, shipping it back to the UK was 3 times the price of the actual item! I spent the rest of the day trying to find a way to get it home cheaper but, sadly, due to all the restrictions on Buddha images coming out of Cambodia and certainly Thailand (which some companies trade through), I had to go back to the original place and fork out. I think it's worth it though! I'm looking forward to it being in mine and Alex's house as a memento of our travels. (The one I bought is on the middle shelf, on the left)
Yesterday, I hopped on a plane to Bangkok so, here I am: in Thailand! My 3rd country in 6 weeks! I'd forgotten how much I like Thailand. I don't know what it is but I prefer it over Vietnam and Cambodia. Even Bangkok which, last time I was here, I couldn't wait to get out of! I have booked into a sweet hostel for 3 nights and then will get the overnight train up to Chaing Mai on Sunday. This hostel (Mile Map hostel in the Silom area of Bangkok) is clean, nicely decorated and the staff are really friendly and helpful! It's also right next to a street market where I got an amazing dinner last night (640ml bottle of Chang beer, rice and a fresh seafood curry for £5!) so I am a happy bunny.
Today, I went to buy my ticket for the train at the Central Train Station and then went to the Golden Mountain which was lovely. I got to see a great view of Bangkok as well as a beautiful temple. The only downer was the original tuk-tuk driver took me to the wrong place entirely and I had to get a second one to actually get there! I love tuk-tuks, and I really love how each Asian country has a different version of them! My favourite is definitely the Thai tuk-tuk….it's just so diddy and colourful! Even though I'm too tall to actually be able to see out of them as we drive along!
So this is a very long post: sorry about that! I will leave you to it and will post again from Chiang Mai next Friday!