Cambodia runs on it's own clock. Sure the hands on a clock face move at the same rate as anywhere else, but here, there is little meaning or importance placed on the concept of time. If a local tells you it will take 15 minutes, it might mean 15 minutes, or an hour, or two hours!
It is easy to become accustomed to Khmae time. When the bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap was supposed to take 5-6 hours and instead took 8 1/2, nobody cared. When the tuk tuk got a flat tyre, he was in no rush to get us to our destination, instead driving around looking for somewhere to fix it before taking us back to our hotel.
The pace here is slow out of necessity, it is way too hot to move quickly! I have spent the last two weeks constantly showered in my own sweat, the bodies natural cooling system. You need not be concerned whether your accommodation has hot water in the shower, you only want cold showers anyway.
So to the journey so far. Arriving in Phnom Penh after 25 hours in transit, I was totally exhausted. All I really wanted to do was find some air conditioning and a cold shower and lie down. But we were only there for one night, due to leave on a midday (ish) bus the next day. So in the spirit of experiencing every second of my holiday, I pushed myself to stay awake. We found a cafe on Sisowath Quay, the main road that runs along the river front, and I plied myself with strong coffee. When I began to feel human again, we went to the central market.
I love markets in SE Asia. They are alive and vibrant and you can get everything you need from scarves and t-shirts, to bags, hats, watches, freshly killed meat, vegetables, the list goes on. There is a joy in asking the price of an item, then haggling until you get a price that satisfies both you and them. There is even more joy in haggling in Khmae. As soon as you speak a little of their own language to them, they are full of happiness and pride that you have bothered to learn. And your bargaining power goes up ten fold.
From Phnom Penh, we left for Siem Reap. The bus left only 45 minutes late! As we headed out of the city on National Hwy #6, we encountered a long stretch of roadworks. As we bumped along, we had no idea that it would add an extra 2 1/2 hours to our journey. Once we hit Siem Reap, the bus driver decided to drive around the back streets, dropping off all the locals who had jumped on the bus along the way, adding a further half an hour before we were finally deposited at the "bus station". I'm certain it wasn't the actual bus station, more like a car park in a darkened back road.
We were so exhausted and eager to get to our hotel, that we let our defences down for just long enough for a tuk tuk driver to convince us to let him take us to our hotel. In his defence, he knew exactly how much our hotel charged to pick up from the bus and agreed to charge the same, however as we rode off in the back of his tuk tuk, we realised he had a very flat tyre. He realised it too and decided rather than take us directly to the hotel, he would drive around Siem Reap, at 9pm, looking for somewhere to blow it up. When he finally found someone with a pump, they took one look at the what was left of his tyre, shook their heads and sent us on our way. Clearly, the tyre was too far gone for a quick fix.
Eventually, he gave up searching and took us to the hotel, where we proceeded to drag ourselves up four flights of stairs to our room, revel in a cool shower and fall blissfully into bed.
More to come....