Cambodia Continued

The markets are fascinating – as always, for us. The bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh made a stop at a small town for a rest. We took several photos of the colors and drama of the market place. One photo deserves a little extra explanation. It will be found in the Phnom Penh folder and is an offering of tiny birds, frogs and crickets all deep-fried to a delicious (?) crisp. One of the fellow riders on the bus told us that the deep fried frog was quite wonderful.

The most horrible food-related scene that we witnessed was in the market place in Phnom Penh. In a plastic tub were the writhing bodies of frogs that had been captured and skinned alive. I would have to guess that, should one want to buy fresh frogs in the market, one would like to have some signs that they were still alive. It took a long while to get past that one!

One of our attached photos is of a huge black spider that had been fried and piled with others onto a tray for sale at another bus rest stop. People were actually buying these, Folks!

Besides the National Museum and other landmarks in Phnom Penh, one of our favorite ways to get to know a city was to wander on foot and take a look at how folks were making a living. We thought that we had seen it all in China, but Cambodia served as a surprise. There are sidewalk barbers, tire inflators, bicycle taxis, and a slew of others. Don’t miss the photos on the website.

One of our favorite places in Phnom Penh is a restaurant run by a group, simply called “Friends”. The teens working at the restaurant and the accompanying gift shop have all come off the streets of the city and are being trained in useful trades. The proceeds from the enterprises go back into the organization. Not only was it a pleasure to realize that the profits went to such a good cause, all four of us agreed that this restaurant was one of the best in SE Asia. Bravo to a good cause!

We were to say good-bye to our friends, Ian and Wendy, here in Phnom Penh. They wanted to go on to Saigon, Vietnam, and we wanted to go northeast through Cambodia to experience some of Laos before going east into Vietnam. As it turns out, Ian and Wendy have continued with their travels and are still enjoying Vietnam as we write this letter to you.

Our land travel guidebook is rather old and we were not able to get a good idea of what the road conditions were in NE Cambodia. Both us dreaded being stuck on another road like the one to Siem Reap. Would we find Mekong River boat travel instead? One thing we had heard from several different sources was that the people of Laos were very friendly and sweet. We would just have to brave it out and see. Bus travel northeast to Kompong Cham was pretty easy. Along the way we took a photo of a typical truck – converted to passenger carrier with two facing benches in the back and another bench down the center. It’s pretty amazing to see how many people they can load onto the truck, isn’t it? Later in Laos we eventually had our own experience in a truck with a photo taken from the inside out…one of those “first but never again” experiences.

From the city of Stung Treng we finished our trip to Laos with a ride in a small river boat up the Mekong River. There were seven passengers total – all of us sitting on small boards with our knees tucked up to our chests. There is a short video to give you an idea of our vantage point on the ride. The captain of the boat did a great job steering in and out of the vegetation growing in the river and the floating debris. The ride was not too comfortable and very noisy but it was exciting! The Mekong River provides the border between Cambodia and Laos with the border offices on either side of the river. We had been advised to slip $1 US into our passports – to ease the passage. We had always been warned that we would face the request for a bribe at some point in our travels; however, it has always gone against our nature as cruisers to give in to the demand. Sure enough! When we were called into the Cambodian Immigration Office, we were asked for $1. Sander immediately asked what the payment was for and insisted that we be given a signed and stamped receipt for the payment. The officer pushed the passports into our hands and motioned with his head that we could leave. He did not even bother to ask the next fellow, a Brit, for the $1. We were pleased that the request for a receipt had worked. This was actually our first and only request for a bribe in all of our travels so far.

The Laos side of the border is in the woods, quite remote from any major road. From here we would need to find transportation to the next village. Several trucks and motorcycles came bringing travelers to the border. It should have been easy to find our transportation. We needed rides and the drivers needed passengers. However, the drivers looked at this situation as a chance to make a Big Buck from the foreigners. They all asked $5/each for the ride which would take less than an hour. That was five times the going rate so we hung around waiting for someone who would be fair about his price. Finally, because Jane was tired of waiting, we paid the price and moved on. It was not an easy decision for Sander and we argued heatedly about it – over a couple of dollars. This was the breaking point. We were simply worn out and getting on each others’ nerves. It was time to go home – or back to Satori, the closest thing to home that we have now. The visas for Vietnam would be wasted and we would also give up the rest of the sights in Laos. It is a shame, because we were both impressed with the Laos countryside and the people. It will all have to wait for another time in the future.

So now we are back aboard, most everything ship-shape and clean. We have a big problem with the migrating birds landing on our triatic line, a tension line between the tops of our two masts. More and more of them are landing and then pooping all over the decks. Ian gave us a great suggestion – to string a monofilament line directly above the triatic discouraging the birds from landing. It works like a charm and we are delighted about it since we had been exhausting ourselves, running up on deck to shake the rigging to scare the birds away.

We plan to move on north from here soon to the area of Langkawi or to Phuket, Thailand. There we will research the possibility of having our teak decks redone.

We would love to hear from you when you have a moment.

Don’t forget the website: (Choose “cruising-Satori” – no need to “Log in”) in order to see the other photos from our trip.

Jane and Sander aboard S/V Satori