The night started here…
and finished like this, but at a different bar…
What larks eh, what larks…
I can’t believe we’ve come to the final night of our trip! It’s been grand, a really nice crowd to share adventures with, and we’ve mostly been pretty chilled and drama free. Up until today the only real medical emergency was our guide nearly slicing off his finger whilst cutting open a jack fruit en route to somewhere or other. He did his amazing laugh thing and held it all in place with a band aid.
There was a solitary drama today, when one of our number realised she had left her passport at the fume filled hotel in Sihanoukville. Could have been a disaster, because her flight left at 7.00 a.m. the next day. However, Cambodian’s are a resourceful bunch, there is always a way. Her passport was put on the next coach, and our guide undertook to pick it up from Phnom Penh bus station at midnight. She did offer to go, but conceded that would be ridiculous, as she wouldn’t be able to communicate if things didn’t go according to plan. The cost of this despatch $30. Bargain. I thought she might be looking at a courier type expense and missed flight too. All’s well that ends well. Well I’m assuming the midnight rendezvous went off OK, will find out at breakfast if she’s there and has therefore missed her flight.
So we rendezvous in the lobby and take a tuk tuk ride to a Friends restaurant in Phnom Penh (there are two) this one was romdeng. Squishy seats and a bone shaped cushion in the tuk tuk provided the last photo op of this trip. Yay. It was $1 a person, that seems to be the universal fee. We went in two tuk tuks, our guide had suggested three. I feel we should have done that to spread the money around a bit, but never mind. It really wasn’t that far, but it is always joyful to travel in a tuk tuk. In the absence of a bamboo train, which is really my preferred way to travel anywhere I’ve decided, it was a reasonable alternative.
This friend’s restaurant (there a few of them scattered around Cambodia, they train up disadvantaged youths and provide fabulous food and service in a worthy cause) was tapas and a bit more rustic than the other two we have been to. It offered up a really fabulous meal. I had sun-dried tomato humous served up on what looked like tortilla chips but weren’t and shared veggie chickpea terrine which was delicious. Also had two cocktails which went down rather well. Deceptively alcoholic, one was predominantly raspberry flavoured and another lychee. FAbulous though. As it was our last meal I just had exactly what I wanted, and it still all came to just $19 plus $1 tip, but it was quite a banquet.
Early on, once we all had drinks, one of our group did the group presentation of the tip and vote of thanks thing. Phew. Good to get that out of the way, as it has the potential to be excruciating, but it was all fine. She did a good job, our guide did a gracious acceptance, and mood was cheery.
Because of where I was I mainly talked to one of our group who turns out to be something of a demon runner and rower, and also was nearly a commercial pilot – her first career aspiration though she eventually became a physiotherapist. What an interesting life and what an interesting change in potential career trajectory. Also, what a handy person to have it ever on a light aircraft trip somewhere, I’m sure she’d be able to take over the controls if the pilot were to collapse at any point. I know I’d be rubbish at this, as I once had a go in a flight simulator at a university open day and crashed almost immediately as I couldn’t even work out how to keep parallel to earth. Oh well. She says she wouldn’t be able to manage a commercial jet, but that’s ok as they are so security conscious we’d never get into the cockpit anyway and therefore all be doomed with or without her prior flying experience. Anyway, it was fine dining and interesting conversation. Also some merriment at the (consensual) expense of the American guy who somehow managed to stab himself in the chin with a really, really sharp cocktail stick. It bled profusely. We jokingly asked our guide for the medical kit, but he said he hadn’t expected to need it at the restaurant, and laughed his infectious laugh all over again. I was mean about off-piste sharing because of nervousness about cross contamination. So many of our group have been ill, I really didn’t want other people’s used cutlery in my food. Does that make me a bit of OCD or just not ill? I did explain, happy for people to try anything but not without prior removal to their own plate. Perhaps that makes me odd and anal. Oh well, it was the last night, my fellow travelers will not have to suffer my eccentricities again after the trip!
After we’d dined, we walked back to the hotel, which turned out to be mysteriously close, so not sure why we went in tuk tuks apart from for fun potential. Our original tuk tuk drivers were still waiting outside, but we declined. It is amazing that they do this, shows how minimal salaries are that it’s worth sitting around for 90 minutes on the off-chance we want a return trip. Some of our group went straight back to the hotel more awkward final farewells, I hate this part of the trip. Prolonged, angsty goodbyes when chances are you’ll see people later and have to do it all again – plus the whole hug or not to hug dilemma. Awkward. I said as much to my Australian friend, she reckons it’s because I’m British, she may have a point, and feels no such angst. The rest of us headed to a nearby corner bar, Legends.
The bar was hilarious and not quite what we expected. A multitude of scantily clad women warmly drew us in. Despite our guide saying the women there were just ‘being very friendly’ I thought they were really being very, very friendly indeed, And possibly more friendly to the gentleman callers, though actually they were very friendly to us too. Must have thought our guide had done well for himself pulling such an eclectic and international group of five beauties, with only one male co-traveler to share us with! So essentially, it was clearly a hostess bar, with squishy semi circles of seats you could snuggle up on, a strong drinks menu, and soft port pouty shots on the walls. At the bar was a guy with a laptop who selected YouTube songs to project up on a screen above him. After we had ordered our drinks, we were invited to write down suggestions to play. Hilarious. Fair to say our choices were eclectic from Lionel Richie ‘hello’ which we picked for our guide, to Queen anthems (need somebody to love) and all sorts. We sang with gusto and swaying arm waving, delighted at our skill in making our own entertainment. The guy pulling up the YouTube music videos from his computer said Queen was his mum’s favourite band too! I think he was a Brit.
Drunk on atmosphere and Baileys, we were distracted by the surrounding photos, and so we felt compelled to recreate as many as we could, hilarious, we also managed to get a team shot done by one of hostesses. Yay! It was a lot of fun. I think we’ve nearly cracked it with the pouting and seductive biting the index finger shots.
It was a grand finale indeed! We departed drunkenly, just after a trio of men arrived, it seemed apt to leave sated by our baileys on ice on top of gawd knows what earlier on. A hoot, I think it’s fair to say.
Goodbye corner bar! Indeed a legend!
And that was that. So concluded our tour, with another mini adventure. We rolled back to the hotel which was just 100 metres away. Or steps, according to our guide. I was worried this might mean if I lost count on the way home I’d have to retrace my steps and start counting all over again, but actually it was OK.
We said more farewells in the lobby and off to bed. It felt like a long night out, but I was actually tucked up by 10 p.m. I like this early to bed and early to rise malarkey, suits me just fine.
So tomorrow, a new adventure commences. I have no idea how it will unfold, but the intrepid tour has been a great introduction to Cambodia. Bring on Stage Two. It will be an adventure, and I have my lucky blessing band from the monk still, so that’s OK!
In the meantime bye y’all. Happy travels!