Making some progress on the research and big progress on getting to know the town
I finally managed to get my first interview. The good thing is, that I only need to get another 5-9 MFIs. The bad thing is that the guy only probably understood 70% of what I was talking about. Whilst he could answer all the questions in the structured questionnaire, he did not show any signs of thinking outside of what I directly asked him. But hey, one down .....
A ice-cream van like minibus taking some of the guys to the beach
Keen to keep to momentum of my research work, I decided to spend the afternoon calling MFIs I graced with an email in the previous couple of days. This proved to be a 'mission impossible'. To start with, most 'lower level staff' do not speak English. It is hard enough to explain the concept of what I need to someone familiar with the language, but try someone who doesn't have the same functional background and does not speak the language. Needless to say that after four attempts, one possible hang-up and three promises of being called back, I was ready to face the weekend.
Friday night was in sign of a pool party. Chatting to other volunteers at the guest house, we slowly created a healthy group of 10 to hit to town with. More talks and a Khmer nibble later, we were packed to a couple of tuk tuks on our way to Bar Eighty8.
New to the party scene in Phnom Penh, I thought arriving at 9pm is a decent time to start a pool party. I was wrong. It took us a couple of cocktails and some local shots, before the place started filling up and the band was ready to rock. But once it started, it was worth the wait. Fun people, cheap cocktails and the music was to die for. Local band made up of Cambodians and expats, with a line up of singers busting tunes in Khmer, English and some obscure african language.
A several hours later, we were ready for a change of scene. Whilst Top Banana sounded like a good choice, it was disappointingly boring and so it didn't take long, before we decided to head to the famous Heart of Darkness. A local nigh club frequented by rich kids and the occasional westerner. What a blast! Having arrived at the right time after midnight, we straight away hit the dancefloor and haven't left until one of the locals became far too enamored in one of the girls from the guest house called Hailey. Clear sign that it was time to chance the scene.
Not quite yet ready to head back, we enlisted the services of a keen looking tuk tuk driver to go back to Top Banana. Although it was very clear once we arrived that the bar is closed, the driver insisted on us paying him again for taking us to the hotel. When we decided that we had enough of being reasonable and started to get off the tuk tuk to walk back, he came to his senses and delivered us to the door steps of the guest house. Result.
Relaxing after the best pedicure yet
This weekend is a bank holiday Monday, so majority of Cambodians and pretty much most travelers head out of town to the beaches, Siem Riep or anywhere worthwhile seeing. Knowing that I have three months to see it all and too keen to fight the crowds, I decided to stay in Phnom Penh. So far it seems to be an excellent decision.
Waving good bye to a beach-heading crowd from the guest house in the morning, I enjoyed my morning omelet and lemon water whilst plotting the day ahead. Riverside for a fish pedicure followed by a visit of the Silver Pagoda. The royal palace is unfortunately closed due to mourning for the late king, but there is plenty to see around.
It turned out that Nicola who was bed-bound for the past two days with severe food poisoning was also up and happy to toggle along. First stop was a decent coffee shop to get something 'safe' for Nic's stomach. After a relaxing break in a pleasantly airconditioned bar with a view, we decided to find Dr. Fish Massage. A local spot where pedicure is delivered by a herd of hungry little fish. Unfortunately, we failed. Fortunately, there are plenty of beauty spots around Phnom Penh and so we picked a random one and settled in for an hour of pampering.
The picturesque grounds of the Silver Pagoda
Refreshed and ready to rumble, we made it to the Silver Pagoda. Sporting a skimpy top and hot pants, Nicola was in no uncertain terms recommended to purchase a plain T-shirt and borrow a set of orange coloured trousers, before we were allowed in. The Silver Pagoda is a complex divided by a wall from the Royal Palace, comprising of several buildings, shrines and the actual Silver Pagoda. Taking our time to walk around and equipped with my morning research into this site, we browsed around all the main buildings, mixing with other western, as well as Chinese and Cambodian visitors.
Although it was a great way to spend the afternoon, the heat kept reminding us that we should head back. Getting quite tired but determined to keep walking, we took a not so nice walk along the main road towards the guest house. Half an hour later, we were back and rewarded by a can of cold drink.
The Silver Pagoda
Despite initial intentions to go to the cinema or some local performance, the cinema listings proved rather unattractive. With every minute chilling in the comfy straw chairs, we were less and less set on heading out and more and more content to stay in and chill. After all, it is a long weekend and we'll have plenty of opportunities to go out.