On Friday 11 January I set off on my latest adventure, a week travelling around
with my friend Marianne
and two of her Cambodian family, young lads of 17 and 24. First, was a 6-hour
bus trip from Siem Reap to the country’s capital, Cambodia . Phnom Penh
The roads here can be dangerous and Route 6 has a sinister reputation but our trip was without incident. We had chosen a new bus company, Giant Ibis, with a comfortable air-conditioned bus, skilled drivers, complimentary bottles of water and chocolate pastries soon after setting off, and movies (we saw three: The Dictator, The Expendables, and The Amazing Spiderman) to keep the passengers amused. Actually, watching the movies was quite a bizarre experience as, with just a slight upward or downward motion, your eyes could move from the sight of a road full of tuk-tuks or an old wooden cart being pulled by two oxen to a scene of Hollywood-created carnage in Asian Russia or Spiderman saving the world from a giant lizard!
Halfway through the journey we stopped for a lunch break and then later we paused for a restroom break. That was hugely interesting, as we stopped in the small town of
, which is well-known locally for the
bizarre food on offer in its market. Spiders are the local speciality but we
also saw beetles, crickets, frogs and small birds, to name just a few. I could
never bring myself to eat such things, though other bus passengers did. I was,
however, more than happy to have a live spider sitting on my hand, something
that would have freaked me out in the past – I used to have quite a phobia about
spiders, but have become braver – some might say crazier – in recent years! The
spiders are a type of tarantula and are apparently at their tastiest when
tossed in sugar and salt, then stir-fried with garlic in oil. I prefer mine
We walked from the monument down the grand
past the equally grand buildings of the Buddhist Institute and the National
Assembly, home to Cambodia’s
parliament, then along the waterfront adjacent to the confluence of those two
mighty rivers, the Tonle Sap and the Mekong.
After a few blocks we turned left towards the .
The street outside is currently closed off due to the death of former King
Norodom Sihanouk, considered by most Cambodians to have been the father of their
country. His passing on 15 October 2012 sent the entire country into a period
of mourning that will last until his burial in February, and throughout the
country there are billboards, large and small, showing his photo. Underneath a
huge one of these at the Royal Palace there is an area
where locals can light incense and place lotus flowers in memory of their
beloved king. Royal
I would have liked to have stayed longer but we needed to be back at the hotel to check out by midday. Next time!