I’ve taken my show on the road for a bit of a vacation. I am now in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with non other than Trent Walker. I must say that it is really good to see Trent. It’s a bit odd to finally see someone I know from San Francisco.
I arrived last night to a recently remodeled Phnom Penh airport. The landing visa process is quite interesting. Once you submit your paperwork, the process happens right in front of you. They have a visa sticker that is passed down the factory line with each person writing in one part of the information. So one worker will write the date in, another will write you name, another will record you visa number, etc. Trent met me with a friend of his and we drove off to Trent’s apartment.
If Trent hasn’t filled you in already, he lives in a third story apartment just next to the Royal Palace and the National Museum. It’s a cozy three room affair with a bedroom, multi-purpose work room, and a bathroom. The kitchen is right by the front door and is where Trent cooks up a storm (so I’ve heard).
We took a walk around the neighborhood last night after settling in. The city is beautiful especially along the waterfront. We went to eat a restaurant called “Friends” which is the product of an organization working to educate youth in the area by first teaching them and then providing them with jobs. The entire restaurant is staffed by students of this program and it is an amazingly colorful place complete with student artwork.
Today, Trent and I joined the family upstairs to go to visit several “wats” (perhaps better known as pagodas) in the country provinces. We were sure to bring food offerings to the monks wherever we went. We first visited a smaller wat that was beautifully colored in bright pastels (pink, yellow, green) like a gingerbread house (you know, my residence on Baker street used to carry this color scheme). Upon arrival, I was first taken aback by the number of children. There were likely hundreds there. None would beg but all looked on with interest. We participated in a ceremony of offering to the monks the food we had brought and then him giving us his blessing. Here, in this intimate setting, I felt incredibly reflective and spiritual. Now those who know me know that I’m not much for religion but this was a really special ceremony to say the least. For it to be my first day in Cambodia, I was really greatful because this isn’t exactly the tourist thing to do.
We ended up visiting another wat which was a short drive away. This time, it involved a series of monks and many more people participating. When taking part in the ceremony, you must sit with your legs to the side which proved to the discomfort of unflexible bodies like mine. I also had trouble concentrating due to the noise of people around. It was at that point that I appreciated the silence churches and cathedrals impose.
Lunch was picnic style with the rest of the food we brought. We rented an eating area along with plates, and utensils. Afterwards, we had a look up on the hillside giving us a great view of the surrounding area. It amazed me how much it looked like the flooded fields of Northern California that attract waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway excepting the vegetation which is considerably greener due to the proximity to the equator.
The weather here is quite nice. The winds make it reminicent of home in San Francisco but with a bit more tropical feel. The afternoon brought a trip to the Vietnam border by car (we couldn’t go through because we didn’t have our passports) but it gave me a chance to see a lot of the countryside living. It’s quite comparable to China with homes lining the road and business selling from stands. It’s rather poor but nothing strikingly horrid. Most of all, the people are kind and respectful always.
The drink of the day is fresh cane juice coming from the same crop that brought Hawaii its first exploiters. The sweet drink is refreshing even if I did drink it with ice (meaning I have officially drank the tap water here in large amounts…possibly leading to some gastrointestinal problems down the road).
We’re off the Siem Reap tomorrow and it should be another adventure indeed.
Oh shoutout to Miranda Hu for taking me to lunch on my short stay in Hong Kong before boarding the plane to Phnom Penh. Oh you don’t know how much you miss other kinds of foods until you find them again…