Would you believe it, the Mekong Crossing Pub does breakfast too - result - what a great way to start the day; fresh coconut and home-made cheese and tomato crumpets. Perfect, and just as we were finishing, our driver arrived twenty minutes early and off we went. Another two-hour drive back to Phnom Penh saw the usual mixed bag of heart-stopping overtaking, frighteningly loaded motorbikes and cows riding in the back of open top pick up trucks!
By the time we got back to the capital and checked in to our rooms it was of course beer o'clock and so we lounged by the pool trying to keep cool and I managed to finish my second book (albeit with a few silent tears) called "Children of the River" (another Khmer-based story).
We pottered about getting our gear charged and ourselves ready for the big meet up, during which I managed to completely blow all my attempts at cultural decorum.... I knew there was a reason I don't iron clothes.
I had done a bit of washing (smalls) and after finding the laundry price-list in the room decided the bigger items were better off done by hotel staff and nipped down to reception to hand over a couple of sweaty T-shirts and my long shorts. Whilst I was down there I also asked for an iron (my style of rolled-up travel-packing is great for maximising space, but doesn't do much for the appearance of skirts). Tonight we were to meet Eric and Greg for the first time and I wanted to make an effort. The girl on reception radio'd housekeeping (her brother I think) and told me she would bring the iron up. I returned to my room and sure enough moments later expecting to open the door and take said iron, I was faced with not one but three staff members carrying an item each... the first came in and set up the ironing board, the second plugged in an extension lead while the third connected the iron and placed it neatly in the holder on the end of the board. Much bowing and thanking went back and forth and all three of them departed giving me slightly strange looks - it was then I turned and came face to face with the 3 pairs of knickers I had hung up to dry on the wall hooks right beside the door!
I sauntered down at 7pm and red-faced walked straight past reception to find Mum and almost immediately afterwards, Eric, our photographic guide. Tall. Very very tall. Dutch, friendly and speaks incredibly good English. A short while later Greg came down the stairs, he had arrived at the hotel last night, he too handed over a pile of laundry before coming out to meet us and we all piled into a tuk-tuk headed for the Riverside pub/restaurant for dinner.
Greg is from Oregon and went on one of Eric's one day workshops in Siem Reap last May, so he has already been to many of the places we will go in a few days time. He is married, retired and seems to travel a lot around Asia. They both seem nice enough and the evening passed with a gorgeous meal (fish amok), a few beers, easy chat and some instructions about what was to come for the days ahead. I am a little nervous as Eric wants us to use shorter lenses than I'm used to and says we will be taking portraits in a food market tomorrow and will need to get up close and personal with our subjects. I'm so used to using a zoom for wildlife and staying at a relatively safe distance it will be a whole new experience for me.
Staying at - Hilary's Boutique Hotel
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins