(written by Nancy)
We spent our last day in Kampong Cham really relaxing – it is a good town for just hanging out. We had a leisurely breakfast at the Mekong Crossing restaurant and just sat for a bit soaking up the locals wandering around on a Saturday morning. We ran into Mr. Bao again this morning. He was working the tourist circuit again and there aren’t so many around so he chatted with us, telling us about other interesting thing he might drive us to. He is a nice guy and it was all low key but we decided to stick with just hanging out.
Speaking of Mr Bao, yesterday we posted a photo of his tuk-tuk getting filled up at a mini gas station. The station had no pumps, only 1.5 litre bottles – old used plastic Pepsi bottles in this case. We see these sorts of stands and always thought that they were mini-stations run by locals. Sort of “fill-in” stations to help the scooter folks who forget to re-fill at the more widely dispersed regular stations. We kind of assumed that the mini-stations charged a few cents more than the bigger stations. Mr Bao filled us in on the real story. Gas is cheaper in Vietnam than it is in Cambodia. So, anyone with a pick-up can drive to Vietnam with hundreds of empty 25 litre jugs and buy gas cheaper than they can locally. Of course the scooter drivers can’t do this but they are more than happy to buy gas from the guys do. The price of gas at these mini-stations is less than the price at the regular stations. Which might better explain why there are so many mini-stations and so few regular stations. This would probably not happen in other countries as the government misses out on tax revenue this way. But here in Cambodia, it really still is the wild west, and at least today this appears to be a viable business model. As to the safety of trucks driving down the highway with thousands of litres of petrol piled high in nothing more than plastic jugs, well, I did say it was the wild west…
As we sat people watching this morning the local ice delivery man came by with his cart. As with most of the SE Asian countries, in Cambodia the tap water is not safe to drink so everyone drinks bottled water. Generally having ice in your drinks at restaurants is not a problem as the ice is manufactured off-site with clean water and delivered to the various restaurants and stalls daily. The only slightly disconcerting thing is that when the ice is delivered it is usually by a guy on a cart or motorcycle, who reaches in with his bare hands and grabs a big block of ice, sets it on the top of his cart and then gets his hand saw out to cut off the requested amount. Not quite sure the sanitation is great in these later ‘manufacturing’ steps but we have not really suffered any ill effects so far from drinks with ice. It is hard to resist a cold iced drink when it is so hot so perhaps it is just better not to think about how the ice got into your drink…
After our relaxing breakfast we went into the local market this morning while it was still relatively cool to check it out. Wow, what an experience! It is a pretty small market but it was so jam packed with stalls and people it was hard to move around. The ceilings were very low as well – mostly tarps and umbrellas so it was a bit claustrophobic. Tables full of raw meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and all kinds of other products filled any open space. It took a bit of twisting and turning not to bump into the raw meat hanging over the edges of the tables. The low ceilings, small spaces and concentration of people and raw products made for some pretty strong smells. I don’t think too many foreigners head into the market as there were lots and lots of folks staring at us as we made our way down the aisles. I finally convinced Dave that we had probably seen enough and we made our way through the maze back out to the street.
Tomorrow we brave the roads to Phnom Penh to meet up with my sister who is coming to visit again. We will spend 3 days in Phnom Penh and then take a bus or taxi with her to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat for a few days. It will be great to see her again and play real tourist at these iconic Cambodian locations. We have heard that the traffic as you get closer to Phnom Penh can be a bit crazy so we will try to get an early start. Hopefully traffic on a Sunday will be lighter than most days, though I am not sure the day of the week makes much difference to the Cambodian drivers!