Thursday, May 1, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggidy Jog

Where in the world should I begin?

Since the last time I posted so much has happened I just don’t know where to start. So let’s just start where we left off last time.

Sau and I were planning on visiting another old temple site last week, but as it was my final few daze in Cambodia it just never happened. There were so many things to do I just didn’t have time to get them all done and still do some sight seeing.

Aki Ra, Hourt and their new baby, Meta, needed to get passports so they could travel to Canada and the US this summer. All this needed to be done in Phnom Penh, so I had made bus reservations for them and myself. Becky was coming along as she wanted to buy a new car, having sold her old Toyota earlier this month. Aki Ra got a hold of me a couple of days before we left and said he’d rather drive to Phnom Penh in the truck. No problem; I cancelled the bus tickets and planned on the 5 of us driving.

Oh, what a surprise I had coming.

On Tuesday I checked out of the Green Town Guest House and told Ming, my host, I would be coming back on June 6. He said he’d hold me a room. About 7:30 Hourt, Aki Ra, Amatek and Mine came over to pick Becky and I up. We were going back to their house and load up what we all needed, drop the kids off and head to PP. That was the general drift I got. When we got back to Aki Ra and Hourt’s it looked like the Greyhound Bus Station. People were everywhere. I knew most of them, but not all. I was introduced to Hourt’s mother and father, her grandmother some cousins (I think), her sister, and some friends of Aki Ra’s. Senghour and several folks from the Museum were on hand as was Uncle Rain. I thought that was a pretty big group just to send us off on a 3-day trip to Phnom Penh.

Then they all brought out their luggage and climbed into Aki Ra’s pickup truck. We had 7 in the cab, 10 in the bed of the truck and Senghour sat on the roof. 18 people in a mid sized pickup.

Oh yeah, we also had 3 fighting roosters in bags, all the luggage and a cooler full of food and water.

And a 6-8 hour drive.

But you know what? It was a blast. This is what I came for, and this is what I got. A real taste of n Cambodia. No a/c buses. No big groups of barangs with an English speaking guide. No chilled towelletes. Just a bunch of friends going on an adventure. They were going to get the passports, buy Becky’s car, drop me off at the airport, and then head for the beach! Only a couple had ever seen the ocean; but they were all as excited as any tourist anywhere to be heading on vacation.

The a/c quit working about 30 minutes out of Siem Reap. It just couldn’t keep up with the load. We averaged about 35-45mph. The temperature was pushing 95, and the humidity was a comfortable 65%. If you are a fan of steam baths, with no chance to rinse, you would have loved it.

My leg went to sleep somewhere around hour number 2. Since there were 3 of us in the front of the cab, I had to hang my arm out the window. As my sunscreen was in my bag somewhere, I now have a deeply tanned (and peeling) right arm, and a lightly tanned left.

About 4 hours into our trip we stopped for lunch at a little roadside rest area. We had fruit, water, and bread. Aki Ra and the boys let the fighting cocks out of their bags and they pecked around at the insects and cuddled up to the kids. I figured these things would go after each other and anyone who came near them, but no, they were as mild as Clark Kent.

We got to Phnom Penh somewhere around 3pm I guess. The Tonley Sop River divides the town in 2 and there is only one bridge, and it’s always crowded. It took us a while to work our way to the hotel, the Cozyna, located right on Sisowath Quay, the riverfront. As we drove down the street we got some very amused looks from the locals, and as we pulled up in front of the hotel one of the bellman asked if we were ‘just coming in from the countryside?’ We all sorta giggled and said “yeah, take our bags inside”. That took a little while.

That night we all sort of went our separate ways and met up the next morning. It took about 2 hours to get all the work done for Aki Ra and Hourt’s passports. We went to lunch and then headed out to look for used cars. Now looking for used cars in Phnom Penh is sort of like looking for used cars in LA, except they are not sold by new car dealers. There are 2 or 3 ‘auto rows’ in Phnom Penh dedicated just to used vehicles.

It’s real hard to find a 2-3 year old used car in Cambodia. Most people keep their cars for 5-6 years and just beat the hell out of them. The roads are just now beginning to get paved and graded around the coutryside, so you can imagine the beating a car can take. We were looking for a midsized SUV, preferably a Toytoa 4Runner, for around $15,000. We found out pretty early that our choices were going to be in the 10 year old range, somewhere between $12,000 and $15,000. We could get a newer car, but the price jumped significantly. We’d talked to Becky’s insurance agent and he’d given us an idea on what we should pay, so we knew we weren’t getting hosed on the price.

I asked what kind of warranty came with the vehicle, just to see what kind of answer I would get. The salesman said, ‘I promise it’s not stolen.’ Good enough for us.

We found a car that looked like it met Becky’s needs, a 1997 Toyota 4Runner with about 70,000 miles on it. It had originally been sold by a dealer in North Carolina and still had the service record in the glove box. I was pretty adamant about having a mechanic look at the car. The salesman said he’d put it on a lift and let us look underneath, which he did. Everyone oo’d and ahh’ed, pointed and discussed what they saw. It looked just like the underside of an SUV to me. Then we took it to a friend’s mechanic and had him hook it up to the computer. Everything looked fine so Becky made arrangements to buy it the next morning.

At 9am we met the salesman at the bank. Becky took out the money, paid for the car, and signed the docs. We took it to the DMV for its emissions test (yep they need a smog cert in Cambodia) and got the registration filed. After making sure the car was insured with AEG, we headed back to the hotel.

Now the departure was much less impressive than our arrival. With two cars, there were only 9 people in the truck and no one on the roof. I stayed at the Cozyma as my plane left the following day and the rest headed off to Sihanoukville for a bit of a holiday. They road the ‘big blue banana’ swam in the ocean, ate crab, and had a blast from what I understand.

I headed back home to Jill and Mikki and some much needed R&R.

I return on June 4.

More from the Jungle as it happens.


1 comment:

Frenchie said...

Your blog is awesome, as I didn't know that there was a new addition in Aki Ra and Hourt's Family.
I bet that intrepid Amatak and sweet Mine must have changed a lot!!!

How is Becky, still holding on apparently, she is such a precious character. I missed her!

You cracked me up with your anecdotes about the a/c on the bus, the barang and the promise of the salesman about "I promise it's not stolen." with Becky's car LOL

How are the kiddos doing in their new center? I have some news of the rebels Chet and Boreak from Asad but don't really know about the fate of the other ones.

Are Vannak, Bel and Von's family (Royelle and Lao)still there?
Vannak and Bel were so smart and working so hard!

Anyway, THANK YOU SO MUCH for your blog, I was delighted to read about it.

All my best to you and Jill, and keep us informed about your wonderful work there. You ROCK

Nathalie aka..."Saa-at Barang"!!!!!