Welcome to Khmerland
Phnom Penh>>> Hua Hin

Tuesday 30th November 2004

Today was our last day in Cambodia. As soon as I got up I started packing our suitcases. Julie tried to help but felt too sick. The anxiety about flying had arrived early last night and had gradually built her up into quite a tizz. All we wanted to do today was to find the Post Office and buy some postage stamps to send our postcards home, then enjoy a late lunch at the Foreign Correspondence Club.

We checked out at 12pm to the tune of another astronomical bill then bounded out onto Sisowath Quay. The baking mid day sun was fierce and we soon reduced our march into a plod. There was hardly any shade to be found. It was only after we reached the colonial retreats of the café bars and shops did we find any respite from the severe solar rays. Everywhere we walked we had "Hey mister, you want moto?" or "You want tuk tuk madame?" Despite Julie getting visibly shorter and shorter the further we walked we continued to struggle onwards on foot.

We reached a wide open junction opposite Wat Ounalom.

As we stepped out onto the tarmac it was a quiet road but then all of sudden floodgates gave way as hundreds of mopeds started whizzing past us to the left and to the right. They just kept on coming. We froze, unable to move forwards nor backwards.

There was only one way to cross and that was to close our eyes and walk slowly in a straight line; or at least that was Julie's tactics. I kept one eye open! We felt a bit like Moses parting the waves of the 100cc Sea.

We didn't get hit once as they all expertly avoided us, weaving in and out.

Our death defying exploits were not over however as we turned away from the riverfront at a dirty white building with a huge red number 73 painted on it. (Our cue to turn for the Post Office) We walked down an alleyway until we were stopped in our tracks by this snarling drooling beast of a dog. Its bark was deep and cavernous as it echoed its way into our ears. I was so glad when I noticed this huge chunky chain around its neck. The only question was, 'How long was it?' Backs up against the wall we shimmied our way past hoping that he didn't pounce because he could have swallowed us whole!

Fortunately he soon got bored of us and toddled back inside.

It had taken us forty five minutes to reach the Post Office. All sweaty and blotchy we handed over our postcards to an exceptionally po-faced teller.

It cost us 33,000 riels to post fifteen postcards to the UK. It was cheaper for two people to travel by bus to Siem Reap than to post fifteen cards!

Never mind. Mission was completed.

Now for our reward; a long anticipated leisurely lunch at the FCC. We sat down at a dining table near the back catching a cool breeze on the balcony.

We read the menu. It was perfection. I chose the Pumpkin Risotto Ravioli in a white wine cream sauce.

It was stunning, and I relished every little mouthful.

My taste buds rejoiced! I could even forgive the undercooked pasta because it was freshly made egg pasta and just tasted wonderful.

was gutted when it came to an end and Julie had to tell me to stop licking the bowl like a dog!

Julie chose a steak sandwich which was enormous.

Served on a brown country loaf with beetroot chutney; Julie didn't speak until she had finished eating. There's no better compliment!

We moved nearer the bar and parked ourselves on some comfy leather chairs. Oh how we sank into them. We had coffee and decided to sink further into the chairs for the duration of the afternoon.

The huge portion of bread & butter pudding I devoured helped me to sink even further into a chair.

Over an hour later we were moments away from falling asleep and snoring in public so we decided to go for a walk along the quay to wake ourselves up. We paid the bill of $40; which included a T-Shirt. Whilst that was comparatively expensive I would have gladly paid double such was my sheer pleasure.

It didn't take us long to reach the hotel where we got changed into our 'flying clothes' for tonight's flight. Julie asked me to wear the same clothes I wore flying in to Phnom Penh, because she was, for good luck. Heng arrived at 5pm to take us to the airport. It was rush hour Phnom Penh, and although busy it was not a patch on Bangkok. We said good bye to our teacher guide, slipped him a $5 and all the riels we had left as a tip and walked into the departures terminal.

We queued at a check-in desk thankful for a cardboard cut out of a Bangkok Airways hostess to let us know we were standing in the right line. We queued to pay our $25 each departure tax then queued again at passport control.

Our patience was tested when the two Koreans in front of us suddenly multiplied into four, then five and six. I tried counting to ten but by the time I was spitting out twenty six, twenty seven I realised that it wasn't going to work. In my mind's eye I saw myself doing a "Bruce Lee" and take on all six single-handedly, sorting them out and sending them flying to the back of the queue; but I didn't. To be honest we were too tired kick up a fuss but I did stare at them with a face like thunder. They all avoided eye contact but they could probably feel me fuming into the back of their heads! Never mind.

We eventually got through to the other side and after half an hour of perusing the shops we did what we British have been trained to in times of stress; find the pub! We fell about laughing when I sat down at the table with our beers. Julie was comfortable sitting on a chair but I sat opposite her on a cushioned bench. The springs must have had it because I looked like I was sitting on the floor. My chin hardly reached the table top. Julie said I looked like a hobbit at the Laughing Pony looking up at the world with my huge jug of ale!

The ice cold Angkor beer I drank reached the parts that needed refreshing, so I ordered another one. We also had a snack; a bowl of French fries with tomato ketchup for me, and some quite reasonable KFC, that's Khmer Fried Chicken, for Julie.

At 7:15pm we sat at gate 6 only to be told there was going to be a half hour delay. This wasn't good because we had a three hour drive ahead of us once we land in Bangkok to get us to Hua Hin. The flight took off at 8:20pm with Julie sufficiently diazepamed. She was also a little happier when she saw that plane was a 717 jet plane and did not rely on those old fashioned technology of propellers to make it fly! Although the row of 3 seats on one side and two seats on the other did concern her. Wouldn't that make the load uneven?

After about an hour we were almost ready to get the landing gear out for Bangkok when we the captain told us that we had to circle around for a while to wait for an available slot to land. Half an hour later we were still circling. He must have got dizzy or something because all of a sudden without warning we nose dived drastically. My ears popped, Julie's eyes popped. He levelled off but then a succession of over adjustments made this the most indecisive pilot we'd flown with. He accelerated too much then slowed down to quickly, he banked to the left and he banked to the right. This pattern of incompetent indecisions continued until we hit the runway, more through luck than judgement I fear!

It was gone 10:30pm by the time we met up with our driver to take us down to Hua Hin. He drove an old black limo and we crammed our suitcases into the trunk and our hand luggage in the back seat with us. I was trying my best to catch some sleep but it was difficult with my knees above my ears. Julie didn't sleep one wink as she was keeping a keen eye on the driver.

He was driving like a lunatic, rubbing his face and eyes like a man who was fighting back tiredness. With a speed limit of 80 kmph on the road he raced down at over 120kmp with only one hand on the steering wheel! He was either on his mobile phone or resting his gear shifting elbow on a pink pillow in the middle. Shocking! Often the roads were quite bendy and it always felt like the car wouldn't hold the corner. Once or twice there was a "join" between two pieces of road where the car actually flew off the road for a moment. All the time his elbow remained firmly implanted on his pink pillow.

We sped through Hua Hin. It looked quite a large town but what we saw from the road it wasn't particularly attractive. We couldn't see the coastline at all so we presumed that there was a nicer part out of view.

Finally, half an hour later we reached the Evason resort. It was now 1:30am and the poor security guard at the gate was fast asleep. He had slumped back in his chair; his head had dropped back, his mouth was wide open, and he was snoring away. There was a cluster of moths buzzing around his illuminated orifice. I wonder how many he'd swallowed during the course of an eveining!

Our driver honked his horn, but no sign of life. Another longer toot and he jumped to his feet, and stumbled towards the barrier to let us in!

We then arrived at the arrivals desk to find two members of staff who were completely clueless. They dialed a number and shoved the phone in Julie's face. The tone of her voice dropped and dropped and I had visions of us having to sleep beneath the stars tonight.

Unsure of what was happening we were taken in a golf buggy towards the reception desk where an extremely pleasant member of staff checked us in. It was as if we had crossed onto the other side, into another world. We had left behind the stupid people and were in the realm of angels.

She told us the good news that we had been given a free room upgrade. Our tired little faces lit up but we were too tired to jump for joy.

She led us down the garden path to our room. The door opened and we stepped into yet another world. This has got to be the most beautiful room of which we've had the pleasure of staying in and it had nothing to do with the fact that it was by now 2:00am and we were a bit delirious.

The large bed was draped in a mosquito net, the fittings were like something the Flintstones but the ace card was the private pool outside, lit up for our surprise. This was the height of luxury and we weren't dreaming.

We both phoned home. Julie gushed to her mother about this stunning room. My mother phoned us back and told us about the weather in the UK. My dad told us to get to sleep when he knew what time it was here in Thailand!

It was almost 3am by the time we came back down off our cloud and Julie had read the entire resort information pack.

I couldn't sleep immediately as I was a little concerned about DVT after having my legs wrapped around my head in the back seat of that car for three hours. We both eventually passed out.

   
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©Copyright Colin Owen 2005 Contact me at c.a.owen@bangor.ac.uk