I moved up in the world. By “world”, I mean Phnom Penh. By “up”, I mean that I now live in an apartment on the 4th floor of a building in the heart of the city. No longer will I have to walk down the mosquito-infested lakeside ghetto, past the jaba sellers and moto drivers in order to get home. Pooja (my girlfriend of 4 months) and I decided to get a place together. So far it is working out great.
The apartment has some modern amenities that I am slowly getting used to again. These are air-con, a washing machine, and hot water. The air-con I don’t really care about, as I find that in this climate if you sleep in air conditioning, you end up spending the entire day sweating (well, a lot more than usual). The washing machine is great – no longer do I have to worry about the laundry lady stealing my clothes or being overcharged. Hot water is also not necessary in this climate, but it is nice to indulge once in a while with some sclading cleansing action. It reminds me of what it used to feel like when I tried to warm up after waking up for school on a sub-zero moring in Minnesota. Also some days here are downright cool, and the thought of getting into a cold shower just doesn’t get me as excited as it used to.
Our new place also has cable TV. After not watching regular TV for almost a year, it is moderatly interesting to be able to channel surf again. I have realized that TV is not worth too much of my time. Crap followed by shit. I did get to watch an monday night football game today. I haven’t done that in a while.
The apartment has a balcony overlooking the street and then another on the roof. If I only had some sticks here, the one on the roof would be perfect for some floor hockey games. The balconies are perfect for letting in daily breezes, chilling in the hammock, or spying on my Cambodian neighbors (hey, they are probably doing the same).
I love the old 50′s tile that covers the floor and also the general paint sceme. Absent are the usual tradmarks of modern Cambodian interior design such as shiny brightly colored tile all over the floors and walls, or ornate, out of place balcony railings.
All in all I am extremely pleased with my new pad. I still need to go down to the used stereo street and pick me up a ghetto blaster. Then we can have a proper housewarming party.
So what about some other stuff that has been going on, you ask?
A few weeks ago I rode up to Siem Reap to do some riding with my buddy Dave. After working and riding in Phnom Penh for 7 or so years, he started a new job in Siem Reap. Unfourtunately there aren’t many riders up there, and he was tired of riding around alone, so I drove up and joined him. Before I left, my engine was having some serious problems. I took it into my mechanic for a new timing chain, new gaskets, and new piston rings. I don’t think the bill was more than $60 (including parts!).
The ride up was plesant. The rainy season has turned the countryside from a brown wasteland into a lush ocean of green rice patties. Many areas have seen a lot of rain, creating lakes where before was only dust. As you approach Siem Reap, you cross an an Angkor-era bridge still in use. Beside the bridge was an amusing sign. There are also some towns along road #6 with excellent examples of old French colonial buildings.
Our first day we drove out towards Beng Mealea (one of my favorite temples, read about it in one of my earlier entries, Temple Mainia) and up Phnom Bok, a local mountain. At the top is a small temple in poor condition. An old anti-aircraft gun sits watch, along with a few Cambodians that guard the site. I was ready for action against those imperialist American bombers. The mountain did offer some great views of the surrounding countryside. Later that day I got a flat tire which took some locals 3 tries and 2 hours to try and fix.
The next day we road down near the Tonle Sap (great lake), which has now swelled to its apex. This is the “road” along the edge of the Tonle Sap. The picture is taken from a cement culvert where we had to enlist some local fishermen to help us lift the bikes over the obstruction. Here is the port where the speedboats from Phnom Penh dock.
I’ll leave you with an image of one of my favorite local thirst quenchers. Cambodians squeeze sugarcane with an orange through a press to make a tasty, ice cold drink. Delicious!