Another Win For No Guidebook Travels … In Phnom Penh
Sitting on top of the “fast” boat to Phnom Penh, the wind ruffling my hair, Miss M beside me busily cleaning the deck with our last wet wipe, I realised that we were not very prepared for our trip to Cambodia.
Once again, we were traveling without a guidebook. And once again it was more a matter of poor planning rather than any hard-core travel ethos.
We travel with a toddler. We really should at least know where to get medical assistance when we travel. Geez.
But there we were, buzzing noisily down the mighty Mekong River, bound for Cambodia.
Our hotels were booked, giving our schedule some structure. And we were due to meet friends that night for dinner.
Oh, and I had to get a new visa for Vietnam.
That free and easy schedule turned into a crazy whirlwind. But everything just seemed to work out. Again.
We keep experiencing this “working out” thing so now we just seem to expect it.
And so, with very little information at hand, we got our Vietnam exit stamps and Cambodian visas. The boat guys organised it as part of our ticket price.
We got also to our hotel without fuss. The tuk-tuk driver who approached us knew exactly where the Diamond Palace II was. (Many thanks to AsiaRooms.com for hosting us on our Cambodia trip. Hotel reviews coming soon.)
We asked the hotel staff where I could get some passport photos done and within an hour of arriving in Phnom Penh, I was watching myself get Photoshopped. For passport photos!
We were then whisked off to the Vietnamese embassy by our tuk-tuk driver so I could apply for a new visa.
It was all so easy we decided to extend our errand to include a visit to the Killing Fields, Choeung Ek, before dinner.
By this stage, I was worried that Miss M had had enough of traveling. Over three days, she’d spent seven hours on a bus, another seven hours on a boat AND done a boat tour to a floating market in the Mekong Delta and a xe loi (bicycle trailer) tour of the Vietnamese border town of Chau Doc.
This evil parent decided she’d be fine to be dragged out to dinner that night. And she was mostly fine … once our group walked out of the recommended restaurant and found a place capable of actually taking an order and delivering food within 1.5 hours. (NEVER dine at Khmer Surin if you’re in Phnom Penh.)
To reward Miss M for her patience, we decided the next morning would be dedicated to the PLAYGROUND.
(Which just happened to be next to Wat Phnom, so we kinda had to check it out too.)
On the way back to our hotel, we noticed a little eatery a few doors down that had no English writing on the signboard.
I hatched another toddler-unfriendly plan. Oh my, I am so evil.
We walked up to the no English sign place and examined their cooking stations.
“Are they worms?” I asked Darling Man, pointing to a pile of worm-like things heaped up on a hotplate.
“Dunno,” he said, helpfully.
We decided we’d try some, even though neither of us know how they’d be served.
On the other side of the eating place was another cooking station containing stacks of white discs.
“What do you think those are?” I asked Darling Man.
He said he thought they looked like a type of rice cake that is available in southern Vietnam.
We decided to try those too.
Both dishes were FANTASTIC! And the home-made sauces made these dishes even more exquisite.
We worked out that the worms were actually short soft noodles called lort cha. (In Siem Reap we tried some that came served with a fried egg).
The rice cakes, stuffed with chives, are called nom kachay. (Or sometimes kochay or num kachay).
The karchay/korchay was so good I forgot to take a photo!
After we gorged ourselves on fabulous Khmer street food, Darling Man took poor little Miss M down to the corner to eat a bowl of pho.
We needed to get her fed because the next item on our schedule was getting to Siem Reap.
We had decided to forgo the six-hour bus trip to Siem Reap to give Miss M a bit of a break. We hired a car, thinking it would be much more enjoyable. (And at US$70, it was only about double the price of the bus.)
The drive started well, but four hours in Miss M finally had enough. The last two hours were a bit tiring for everyone – a bit of whining cured by songs, a bit whining cured by stories, a bit of whining cured by snacks, a bit of whining cured by milk … we all had headaches when we arrived.
*The fantastic kochay and lort cha place we found in Phnom Penh was at #21, Street 178, near the riverfront area. Don’t miss this place when you’re in Phnom Penh!
5 years ago