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Cycling in Phnom Penh and trip to Sihanoukville

Day 1 of successfully negotiating Phnom Penh traffice and super long bus ride to the beach

sunny 34 °C

Whilst any form of own transport in Phnom Penh is generally discouraged for foreigners, after a couple of weeks here I get the feel that own transport is a necessity. The ground rule of getting anywhere is to slowly but surely push your way through. The traffic might be thick and chaotic but most people drive quite slowly, which is somewhat supported by the high number of road accidents without the corresponding number of fatalities. From what I can tell, anyway.

My first cycle ride to work caused a bit of a stir amongst the local residents who grew used to seeming me around, but all in all I have safely arrived in the office, earning a huge grin from the bike-parking security guard. Not quite sure what made him so excited though, if it was the bike or my not so elegant getting of it in a pencil skirt and high heels.

The highlight of the day was an interview agreement with another MFI, scheduled for Wednesday the upcoming week. Slowly but surely my sometimes near traumatic interview-fishing efforts are paying off.
Our group waiting for the bus departure

Our group waiting for the bus departure

Lunch is always an interesting time in the office. Normally, Cambodians give themselves two hours for lunch, often opting for a trip home and a powernap. One of my new colleagues has a brother with family restaurant, which means that he is sorted for all meals, and the rest of the people randomly disappear into the ether as soon as the clock shows midday. With most lunch arrangements done in Khmer, it is not always easy to invite myself to come along, but this Friday I ended up with my boss next door to the office, munching on a selection of ridiculously cheap but delicious Cambodian food. It is the kind of street food where everyone gets whatever has been prepared for that day. Happy to be surprised, I didn’t regret it.

Despite starting work only three days ago, the plan for the weekend was to catch Friday afternoon bus to Sihanoukville beach area. Last bus was leaving at 5.45, which meant that I had to leave work early. Fortunately, the status of a volunteer means that everyone is very flexible when it comes to any special requests, which meant that 3.30pm I was on my way to the guest house.

Unlike in the west, chartered busses offer pick up from the hotel, so I had plenty of time to finish packing and have a cold drink, before being whisked off by a crowded minivan. Sihanoukville, here we come (by we I mean myself and another 6 people from the guest house).

Whilst the journey is supposed to take 3-4 hours, it took twice as long, courtesy of Friday rush hour, bad roads and overly relaxed driver. Still, we didn’t get a puncture so I supposed it could have been worse. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived after midnight, our room in the guest house was no longer available and instead of a 8-persons dormitory, we were offered a partially full 14 persons one. Hmm, I think not. However, even a heated talk with the manager didn’t help and the best we could do was getting a promise that they will find us alternative accommodation the next day.

The late hour also meant that most eating places were already closed. There could have been some eateries around the beach, but most people were too tired to venture the 10 minutes walk down the road. Instead, we ended up in a neighbouring guest house / restaurant, offering burgers, sandwiches and bowls of fries. The only downside was the exceptionally creepy English guy (probably owner?) who had shift that night.

Still, it didn’t stop us inquiring if they had free rooms, upon which we were informed that they did but probably not in our price category. Now, I know I am on a budget but 20 dollars per air-conditioned double room sounds just about manageable, especially when split between two people.

Whilst the rest of the group unanimously agreed that the 14 beds dormitory is fine, Nicola and I shared a cheeky look knowing, that out of all the people the two of us are probably most likely to bite the bullet and pay a bit more for some privacy and good night sleep. Using mainly sign language and sattle remarks to avoid rocking the boat too much, especially as some fellow travelers liked to make a point of being super frugal, we were shown around the partially finished guest house. And not much later, we were indulgently turning up the air-conditioning in our room for the weekend.

Posted by TheDukes 00:43 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia phnom_penh cycling sihanoukville

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