[Wednesday, January 4, 10:30 am]
Dad and I both slept well. After I got out of the shower, dad asked if there was hot water and I said yes. (Yesterday, he had tried to shower, but couldn't get any hot water. I pointed out that he had it set to cold. It's not as strange as it might sound since the hot and cold sides aren't marked and you have to let the water run for 2 minutes before it gets warm).
There was some unpleasantness around the computer stations this morning. There are only four terminals and one doesn't work. Frau Fabissiner was up at 6 am this morning to go on the computer, but the lounge was dark. "Tex," who likes to start political discussions and cheers Fox News, came up and showed her how to turn everything on. She sat down at one terminal, he set up his skype to call home. She then complained that he was talking too loud and it was disturbing her; couldn't he please step around the side. "I can't get reception if I do that," he replied. He then turned somewhat passive aggressive and spoke in his normal tone of voice.
I came in just as they both done. She accused him of trying to push her off the computer and he called her a "geezer" and an "old shit." As I told dad, I don't have a dog in that fight.
One of the problems is that while there is wifi in the lounge, it only seems to work with laptops and Ipads, not with smart phones. Don't know why.
At breakfast we learned that a fair number of people on the ship are sick, some with colds or fever, others with nausea. I'm being extra careful to use the hand sanitizer and soap and water.
By the way, in terms of the break down of passengers, I would now guess that a third of the passengers are Jewish, a little less than half are Australian, and about 6% are Israeli, and 8% are gay or lesbian.
This morning we sailed up the Mekong from Phnom Penh about 20 kilometers to a weaving village of Chong Koh. We walked across the gangplank and were surrounded by small kids trying to talk us up for change or sales. We gave them small pieces of candy. Walking through the village was a blast. We saw hand-run looms, workshops, a mobile barber, and climbed up to sit in a house on stilts with a 90-year old woman. I sat down by her, made the namaste gesture, which she returned, and then took her picture. I showed her the photo and she grinned and grinned, and held my hand to get a better look. She had two tvs (one didn't work).
At one loom, I bargained for a gift. Gloria had one that I liked and they quoted her one for $5. I countered "how about two for $5?" We settled on two for $6, but Gloria wouldn't go for it. The girl then sold it to me for $3.
We also visited the monastery and school. I saw the kids doing their lessons and the teacher at the chalk board. There was also a small temple nearby with some new stupas, and one really old one made of bricks and decomposing.
This afternoon, we'll go to Phnom Penh. I'll update later if I can.
Update: 5:05 pm, Cambodia Time
I joined Richard and Shannon, and Steven and Terri for lunch. At first dad was going to skip lunch, but later joined us. He ordered a hamburger off the regular menu. They were planning to hit the Central Market before the 3:30 optional excursion and were happy to have dad and I along. We were joined by Judy, and both Judy and I needed to stop by the ATM.
Steve and Terri negotiated two round-trip tuk-tuk rides ($2 each way) while Judy and I found the ATM. Judy wasn't happy with the terms, so only I withdrew money. Dad decided to wait to see if he could find a Citibank.
Traffic in Phnom Penh isn't as hectic as in Hanoi, but has some similar traits. One must always cross the street by walking slowly and deliberately, while allowing the scooters, tuk-tuks, cars, and trucks to pass you.
The Central Market was a blast! We all headed off in our separate ways. Dad noticed almost immediately that all the shops were run by women. In fact, we later discovered, there was one set of shops run by men: the ones doing jewelry repair and other mechanical services.
The central hall was dominated by jewelry shops, and everything glittered and gleamed. Radiating outward were the wings, which varied from Chinese or Vietnamese restaurant decoration supply stores, to brassieres, to children's blouses, to men's suits. At one end, they had a floral shop.
I found some gifts I wanted and negotiated for a good price. Dad wanted to buy me a shirt, but at first I didn't see anything I wanted. We found some nice light-weight cotton shirts with some Cambodian patterns. I tried two on over my t-shirt to make sure they fit and then bought them at $9 a piece.
At the western end we finally found the food market, which is always my favorite part of any market. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, many we had seen growing in the country-side villages we visited. Only a small butcher section, but lots and lots of fish. Some of it was dried and smoked, but there were baskets and baskets of fresh prawns, crabs, lobsters (including some small green ones), clams, mussels, cockles, and live crab and eels.
On our way back dad found a gift for one of the poker managers in the casino he goes to, and then a pair of cargo shorts he really liked. They measured his waist and then sold it to him for only $5.
Dad, by the way, says he likes Cambodia more and more, the more time he spends here.
We ran into Terri and Steven, who are far better hagglers than I am. They were bargaining over t-shirts, while Shannon and Richard looked at more leather bags. Eventually we all headed back to the ship at 3pm.
After dropping off our stuff, we went back to the lounge for the brief walking tour of downtown Phnom Penh. The highlight was the Wat Phnom, the original shrine of the city. There we saw people selling small little birds that are released for good luck (they then fly back, like homing pigeons, to be sold again). We had the opportunity to visit another Buddhist service, but I was the only one in my group to avail myself of this.
By the way, the guide explained that the blessing we received yesterday was for: happiness, prosperity, health, good family life, and good friendships.
On the side, we saw a shrine to Madame Penh, the woman, who according to legend founded the shrine on this hill. The shrine is known as Penh's hill, and since he khmer word for hill is "phnom," the town she founded is known as Phnom Penh.
On the walk back to the ship, we saw groups of men playing a Cambodian form of chess. Apparently some bet on it. On the drives through the country side I noticed the most popular game appears to be volleyball.
We came back to the boat after an hour and I did some laundry. Tonight we have a performance of Khmer children and then tomorrow, it's off to the national museum, the royal pagoda, and the killing fields in the afternoon.
[Second update: 9:40 pm, Cambodia time]
After a very nice dinner (khmer beef salad, duck with orange pepper sauce, though a typically middling dessert), we were treated to a performance of traditional khmer dance by a group of children from a local orphanage. Their dancing was beautiful.