Sunday, November 09, 2003

I’ve finally discovered the ultimate long haul flight survival cocktail.

It consists of 2 double brandys, 2 glasses of Merlot, 3 Singha beers and 10mg of valium. It made 11 hours in economy class on the London to Bangkok flight zip by in a dreamy fug.

Arriving at Bangkok Airport it didn’t take long to get a taste of the hospitality for which Thailand is famous. I stopped off at a booth to get some photos for my Cambodian visa. Handing over $5 for the snaps, the assistant asked – completely unprompted -- “You wan’ girl?” Thanks for the thought, but just the four passport photos will be fine.

One short connecting flight later and I thrown immediately into the humid soup of Phnom Penh with its chaotic swarm of motos -- men, women and children hanging precariously off the back.

Our hotel – the Goldiana – may be cheap at $35 a night but the regulations are strict. The front page of the guide left in the room insists that “All kinds of explosive devices are not allowed to be brought into the hotel,” and “prostitutes are not allowed.”

Guess we’ll be looking for new digs tomorrow.

After a couple of hours’ sleep we picked up a moto and headed out to the Foreign Correspondents Club, a fine and welcoming watering hole andd a genuine Phnom Penh institution. As well as smattering of tourists, the clientele was mostly made up of aid workers and journalists enjoying a spot of R & R. We’ve purposely timed our arrival in Phnom Penh to coincide with the festival of Bon Om Tuk – one of the most important celebrations in the Khmer calendar.

The festival marks the reversal of the current of the Tonie Sap river. It’s caused by the onset of the dry season, when the water backed up in the Tonie Sap lake begins to drain into the Mekong.

From our vantage point on the balcony of the FCC we were able to watch the boat races held as part of Bon Om Tuk and cheer on the crews of 30 or more as they hammered down the river – Phnom Penh’s answer to the Oxford versus Cambridge boat race – and enjoy the fireworks display which marked the close of the day’s racing.

And audiovisual extravaganza:

Audioblog: Cambodian Moto Etiquette....with Sean Sutton. mp3

Picture: 3 on a moto
Picture: Phnom Penh Cyclo
Picture: Filming You....
Picture...Filimg Me
Picture: Shopping For Feet
Picture: Cigar Smoking at the FCC
Picture: Fireworks Over Tonie Sap


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