Return of the Mack
21.07.2012 - 25.07.2012 31 °C
Day 295: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 21/07/2012
Hmmm, an interesting morning to say the least. I run from breakfast to try to change some dong to dollar. Step into a travel agency - the only place that seems to be offering currency exchange - hand over four and a half million dong and wait, seemingly forever, for the dead presidents to come back to me. Well, when they do arrive they feel a little funny and the gut feeling says something is wrong. When the two dollar bill makes an appearance the alarm bells really ring and I seriously question the legitimacy of the notes. Argue for my dong back (that sounds so wrong) but with our bus departure looming large, we end up losing about a pound for their 'exchange fee'. Oh well, better than a bunch of fake money. Return to eat my cold, shit omelette shaking with rage. Gemma is nowhere to be found. She emerges half an hour later, having been to the shops.
Eventually manage to get hold of some US dollars and the bus picks us up. When I say bus I mean a little man comes, grabs one of our bags and walks us the 300 metres to the bus office. Here the bus picks us up...oh no, turns out to be a taxi taking us to the other office. Eventually find ourselves on the real bus. A nice easy journey back to Phnom Penh and we soon find our way over the Cambodian border very easily and hassle free (Poipet take note). Arrive in Phnom Penh, stumbling across the road on which 'our' hotel is and persuading the bus driver to pull over. We get to the hotel and the staff seem horrified to see us back.
Day 296: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 22/07/2012
Awake, back in one of our favourite cities of the trip, ready to seize the day and see our favourite market, even swinging past some of the other shops we thought were great previously but which seem to be really quite poor. Check the market for a new backpack as Gem's is on the way out and whilst it is not quite as exciting as previously the market proves a great way to while away some time.
We continue the healthy eating regime by taking on at least fourteen thousand calories in the shape of a mammoth ice cream before heading back to the room and I attempt to fix some of the damage with a gym session. A nice dinner is followed by a Sunday night skype and a nice little surprise that came in the post for me.
Day 297: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 23/07/2012
A reasonably early morning is spent strolling to the Chinese Embassy, which is fittingly located on Mao Tse Toung Boulevard. Proceed to the consular services office where we pick up a load of forms to fill out and discover we need to have some hotel reservations sorted for the visa to be granted. Ballache.
Head back to the room, grab G's backpack (we are going to try to have it fixed) and get a bite to eat. We take a tuk-tuk to the market and discover that the bag can be fixed for an extortionate $5. We get lost in the market despite it being about the fifteenth time we have been there and with a few hours to kill before the bag will be ready we decide there is only one thing for it and have a beer or two. I head back into the maze of the market, grab the bag (after asking at the wrong stall) and find the bag is now better than new. Have a couple more bottles, and feel more than tipsy after a grand total of about four pints. A takeaway for one in the room with sleeping beauty away with the fairies.
Day 298: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 24/07/2012
Our idea of waking up early and getting the visas for China issued and stuck in our passports works out well. Gemma is severely hungover and it must be said I also wake up with a fuzzy head...(should this blog be called 'Around the World in 80 Hangovers?'). I take the plunge and brave the elements and head to the consulate down on Mao Ave. Here I am treated embarrassingly rudely and I leave empty handed as a visa requires a full itinerary and proof of funds to be submitted, in addition to an official looking hand written A4 sheet outlining our intentions here. Back tomorrow then for a third visit!
Back at the room G has made some progress in beating her 'illness' and we head out for a spot of lunch at a very nice restaurant near Tuol Sleng before taking a stroll around the town centre, even taking in some parts we haven't been to yet! Stop for a drink in a rather odd coffee shop, where the message 'Merry Christmas' is adorned on every wall - in the type of tinsel and plastic decoration outlawed by my mother in the 1980s - amidst brown formica and further strange decorations and mod cons, including a huge remote controlled helicopter suspended from the ceiling. In a neighbouring shop, a child asleep on a bed in the middle of the shop floor opens his eyes and looks around, sees us two and flops straight back down, face first into the pillow. Know the feeling kid. Gemma certainly does today...
The evening is spent planning China and ensuring we have everything we need for the visas to be issued.