Day 4: My Birthday
Getting used to Cambodian time now so sleep well and wake around 8. Realise its my birthday when my phone beeps. It’s a happy birthday from my wife and girlies. Shower and shaved I head off to breakfast; the staff are getting used to me by now and bring a perfect Cappuccino. Omelette again with fresh bread is perfect washed down with fresh mango juice great way to start my birthday.
The weather is hot and muggy, but its nice to be in the sunshine. We meet at the river and chat about family and general life. Its good to catch up as we only really see each other once a year if that. My bro tells me that Cambodia really has changed so much in the 16 years he has been here working on and off. He clearly loves the place and I can see why, even in my short time here I can see why.
We have a cool beer and head off to the infamous Tuol Sleng prison code name S-21 now a museum that commemorates all the poor souls who lost their lives when the Khmer Rouge and its despot dictator Pol Pot ran the country. My brother came here 16 years ago and was and still is visibly moved by the whole experience. The former high school now museum was a former notorious prison where many thousands of people were tortured, raped and brutally executed. Cells are bare apart from a grainy photograph on one wall showing the disfigured, mutilated corpses chained to iron beds. The iron bed in the centre of the room and the air is cool and slightly dank. Outside are large gallows were people where strung up to die for days on end. It is said that some 15,000 prisoners passed through here, most did not get out alive. It is said that one 1/3 of Cambodia’s population was wiped out.
My brother wants to leave after seeing 3 Japanese girls laughing and eating ice cream…..so we quietly depart. Not much is said as we flag down a Tuk Tuk and head off back into town.
We have a beer in a small roadside bar and the mood lightens and Antoinette turns up. We all decide that we are felling peckish. Lunch is in a restaurant called Rendezvous a Vietnamese cross Khmer offering, its light and airy and the staff are charming. We start with pan fried spring rolls stuffed with pig’s ears and herbs. Next a refreshing mango salad with peanuts and an open omelette with beansprouts, chicken and pork. A side of incredibly fresh vegetables completes a very good lunch.
Back at the hotel I doze by the pool and think about the day, its been very moving and quite special, certainly I will never forget what I saw.
At 6.30 I head out to meet my bro and Antoinette at one of Phnom Penh’s famous restaurants Misla.
This is quite posh and the place is heaving. The food is very good, and featured on one of Gordon Ramsay’s programmes a few years ago. We start with frog cooked in a deep spicy sauce and pak choy. Its superb, although Antoinette declines to taste. Next, whole baked salt fish and whole sautéed whole crab with baby peppercorns, amazing flavours throughout. Pork braised with spices and sugar with baby aubergines is deliciously light and packed full of flavour. A fresh mango and peanut salad again round off another great meal. All the meals we have had have been incredibly good value for money and I have not had one duff course!
We say our goodbyes and call it a night, what a nice birthday!!! When I return to my room Ya has had a chocolate birthday cake made for me and a card from the staff. When I see him I ask him how did you know, he replied ‘I see passport it easy’
Off home today so it's really a case of packing up and making sure I have not forgotten anything. I say goodbye to my Butler and all the staff, Gareth and Steve they really have been superb. I meet my bro for a quick lunch of chicken curry and rice and head to the airport. The rain hammers down again on the way, but at the airport brilliant sunshine bursts through. I sit in departures and think about my 3 weeks away, what a fabulous trip and pinch myself.
I have a quick beer and a bite to eat before boarding an early evening flight to Bangkok where I will hook up with my director/boss Lynsey. She has been on holiday with her sister in Thailand. Wonder where I’ll be off to next???