Living the celebrity life in quad biking through Cambodian rural areas and dipping a toe into the local night life
11.01.2013 - 13.01.2013 34 °C
The weekend is here and with it yet another Phnom Penh experience. This time, I have decided to explore the Cambodian countryside on a quad bike. Joint by two other peeps from the guest house, we cunningly booked half a day tour for Saturday 12.30pm. Whilst this might not look like the most enlightened choice given the intensity of lunchtime heat, it was carefully chosen based on previous experience of Friday night exploits. And right we were.
Embarking on yet another pub crawl around Phnom Penh, we started easy with Friday eve dinner at the Russian Market. Our initial plans to hit a local house party organized by fellow volunteers were swiftly abandoned though, when we learnt of a new (to us) pub with live music and decent pool tables. Before long, various clusters of people from the guest house started to make their way to the ‘Sharky’ bar, until we formed a healthy group of 15.
Excited by the prospect of a pool game on relatively straight table, our names were soon covering the booking board and it was a few hours of challenging and being challenged, before the question ‘What’s next’ penetrated the ether. Unsurprisingly, by popular demand we once again ended up in the Heart of Darkness, which turned out to be our last stop for that evening / early morning, filled with non-stop dancing, jealousy scenes camouflaged as ‘eradicate prostitution and save the girls’ campaign (not mine) and fair amount of lady boy attention directed at the males in our group.
So 12.30pm quad biking start was just fine with all of us, considering that the most sleep anyone was gonna get would be 6 hours.
The tour itself was great. Equipped with a wet helmet (I can only hope it was not a residue sweat from the morning group but a result of thorough wash), face mask to protect against the dust and basic instructions, we set off past the Killing Fields, towards the rice fields, streams and wooden houses.1
My initial reservations about being specifically instructed to go slowly disappeared as soon as we hit the dirt track. As with main roads, side roads are beautifully decorated with massive pot holes and piles of rubble, making off roading huge fun, despite the speed restrictions. The scenery was lush albeit dusty, passing rice fields, banana and mango plantations and even remains of harvested wheat crops.
As soon as we hit the first ‘village’, the ‘go slowly’ instruction started to make much more sense. Excited about seeing people on quad bikes and foreigners at that, children of all sizes run from their houses towards the road, waving and shouting ‘hallo’. I have never given and received so many high fives in one day, and probably not in my entire life. Babies were carried by their older siblings or parents to greet us, adults smiled or nodded in our direction and children with huge grins were stretching their hands towards us. It was an experience to be remembered and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone visiting Phnom Penh or Cambodia in general.
With a couple of watering stops and chats with our guide, we slowly made our way through the afternoon, until it was time to head back again. Covered in dust and with violently sun kissed knees, we arrived where we left off, before boarding tuk tuk back to the guest house. In a desperate need of shower, we had just enough time to get ready for another night out, this time in name of Jay’s birthday.
To those of you who read my blog regularly, it might seem that there is rather lot of birthdays celebrated within my group. I assure you that they are all legitimate albeit eagerly welcome by everyone keen to put a ‘name tag’ on our nights out.
Enjoying nice dinner in a local restaurant offering fried tarantulas, crickets and frogs apart from other things, we contemplated how we should spend the evening. The answer presented itself upon our return to the guest house, when the receptionist / customer service representative / manager Jan suggested we join him and his mates in local disco. Now, there are few authentic experiences one can have in Cambodia and this is definitely one of them.
It didn’t take much persuation and we were on our way to da club. Ushered into a reserved ‘vip’ area, we ordered a few towers of beer, a bottle of whisky and some mixers and posed for numerous pictures taken by our Khmer companions. Jan has arrived at the club with 6 of his fellow Cambodians and needless to say that the presence of five white women, one Sri Lankan and one Chinese caused a bit of a stir. To be fair though, our men got the same amount of attention (from the same men), which took care of the night’s entertainment.
All in all, it was definitely one of the best nights out in Phnom Penh yet and when the time came to leave, I joined the small group heading back to the guest house, feeling tired after the previous night and not entirely convinced that another night in Heart of Darkness would do the night justice.
My Sunday plan was to catch up on admin, venture to the market and inquire about a set of Beats head phones for a friend of mine and locate an office of an MFI I am supposed to interview on Monday. Happy to have a relaxing day before the work week starts again, I slowly cycled through Phnom Penh on my unexciting errands, stopping for the occasional coffee or sugar cane juice.
Although my head phones hunt was a fail for now, I managed to find a few bargain presents for people at home and make an appointment with a western hair dresser, before going back. As always, the communal table area was marked by a number of people dotted around, reading, surfing the net or just chatting. I came just in time as a small group of people was mobilizing to see a free documentary about the war in northern Uganda at the Meta House. Concluding that it was just about intellectually stimulating yet physically undemanding enough for me to join in, we set off.
The documentary turned out to be unimpressive yet quite interesting from a factual point of view, and left me searching for similar programs covering Cambodia, which I found for the upcoming Tuesday. I guess Pilates will have to give way to an educational documentary and additional compensation with Monday yoga.