Saturday I went to the mall for the first time with a couple other people. The girl who took us had only been there once before but she got us there no problem. The traffic here is crazy. There may be lines on the road, but they can’t even be called guidelines, they’re just decorations. One way street? Only if you don’t have to go that way. I swear there are only about six road signs in this whole town. I don’t even know if there’s a speed limit.
And there are no sidewalks.
So, you just kind of step into traffic and hope the scooters, motorcycles, cars, and trucks are nimble enough to miss you. It’s kind of exhilarating. Although, I am concerned about how this will affect my judgement once I return to the states. It’s been three days and already I just give a cursory glance to see if someone’s coming before stepping out.
Anyway, the mall is four stories, well, three and a half. The top floor has two restaurants and a play area for kids so it doesn’t really count. But the other three floors are packed with things. Really cheap things. Super cheap things. You guys, I can get a full knife set for about ten bucks. I could take five dollars to the store and get enough food to last five days.
But my fridge doesn’t work and a couple people have reported finding ants so since I am bug free I’ve decided I’ll just eat out while I’m in Cambodia and start actually cooking when I get to China.
We didn’t do much while we were at the mall, mostly because we were still fighting jetlag. We just walked around, got ice cream—$1.40—and by then we were tired enough to head back to the hotel. We did get lost two or three times on the way back. But we made it in time to meet all the people that chose Saturday as their arrival date.
Pretty much all of us went to the hotel pool that evening to chill and wait for the $1 tequila shots and, for me, free popcorn. I met a couple of Brits, one of the girls and I really hit it off. We swam around for a couple hours talking about London and bats and cats.
Sunday morning sucked. I woke up with a headache, cough, congested chest, and off and on nausea. So I stayed in bed until about noon trying to sleep and drinking water before dragging myself downstairs to meet the rest of the group for the city tour.
I thought it was a walking tour but to my surprise and relief we got to do it via Tuk Tuk. A Tuk Tuk is a motorcycle with a small carriage attached to it and is the Yellow Cab service of Phnom Penh. It’s also like being in a real life version of Mario Cart except someone else is driving and you have no control.
So glad I made myself get up. We got to see an old Buddhist temple, absolutely beautiful architecture, with murals and monks. And we got to wander around the grounds for an hour. It’s right next to a busy street but it was so quiet and peaceful, surrounded by massive trees and flowers in full bloom. I loved it.
Then we went to the Royal Palace. I’ve seen castles, but this palace trumps them all in sprawl grandeur. It was huge, the inner gardens alone were probably two or three acres. And it was painted in bright gold and white and silver with ornamentation everywhere. A lot of places they prohibited photos, which I don’t understand, but whatever, it’s their palace. The murals on the temple ceiling depicting the Generous Prince, Garuda, and Buddha were beautiful. Eavesdropping on a guided tour, I found out the original palace was built in 1806 but was destroyed by flooding. So in 1917 the Royal Palace that’s there now was built.
Within the grounds of the royal palace, in an adjoining courtyard, were stupas. A stupa is…it’s an intricately carved stone mound with a turret on top. It was built for the king and princes. They’re really neat, I stared at each one for at least five minutes trying to figure out how anyone had the patience to carve the details in them.
The Silver Pagoda is the center of this courtyard. And I wish, I wish, I could have taken pictures. I even thought about sneaking one, but the place had security at every corner. The emerald Buddha was just gorgeous. It sits atop this pyramid of gold and smaller Buddha depictions in wood and stone. It glowed. He’s about a foot two feet tall sitting lotus style. It was the most beautiful thing. It’s polished to a pretty spring green with darker veins of forest and emerald green throughout.
Standing in front of the emerald Buddha’s pyramid in a glass case is the gold Buddha. Six feet of solid gold and adorned in literally thousands of jewels and precious stones. And they weren’t big gaudy chunks either, they were tiny little pieces meticulously placed in his skin to catch the light and around his neck and wrists like jewelry and in his robes as adornment. He was magnificent.
And about that time, after wandering in the heat and sun for four hours, I started to feel terrible again. Luckily, that was the end of the tour and we headed back to the hotel. I slept until about six-thirty and got up again to go to the formal introduction dinner. It was pretty nice, I would have liked to try the soup but my stomach was still threatening hostilities.
Anyway, we got just a little rundown on Dos and Don’ts that for everyone who had been there for a couple days was old news. That finally ended about eight and I dragged myself to my room and drank some nighttime cold medicine and passed right the fuck out.