tuk tuks, bikes, death, and blessings. / by tina gonsalves

Another intense day in Phnom Penh. We started off at the Markets, searching for some breakfast. Set in an old art deco building, it was huge, and pretty wonderful. We found the food section quickly, and it was packed to the brim filled full meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and people. It was hard to find a place to sit, especially with the pram. Had some great noodle soup, and the kids had chicken and rice. 

venturing through the markets, trying to find somewhere for breakfast.

venturing through the markets, trying to find somewhere for breakfast.

 

We made our way out to the killing fields -  some land, about 20km outside of phnom penh, that was one of the khmer rouge’s many sites of mass burials sites. Again, a hard one with Pablo - but he wanted to do the audio tour, and listened to all the atrocities that happened. The only word for it is horrific. This poor country, after being bombed more by the americans with more   bombs than they used in Europe in the second world war, then Pol Pot, and a land full of landmines - the recent history is a harsh one. As you leave, you walk inside a stupa filled full of thousands of skulls of the executed. Each monsoon, more bones, teeth and clothes reveal themselves in the mud. I can’t quite describe the bleakness of the place. Its sobering, deadening and all consuming. Matt asked our tuk tuk driver about it, but the conversation was cut short pretty quickly. I asked Pablo if he understood it, he said, yes and no - said parts of him were interested, and parts of him didn’t want to know about it. It felt like he was losing his innocence a little too quickly seeing this.  We had a few hugs, and a lot of conversations about it since. We talked about the importance of being aware of political situations, voting, etc We talked a little about different politics - democracies, communism, dictatorships, etc. He starts talking about his grandpa and that he wishes he was still alive, and that he wishes there was no violence in the world. Why do people want to be violent? he asks. He wishes we could stay young forever and never die. He doesn't understand why people want to hurt each other. He has been talking about this a lot over the last few days.

the stupa at the killing fields.

the stupa at the killing fields.

 

We found a duck place for lunch, as Pablo has been asking to eat duck for a while. We bought a whole duck, a few beers. Pablo and Hugo moved inside to play, and an old man came out beside Matt and I and started peeing on the side walk. He was so old, he had no idea what he was doing, but we both looked at each other and shuddered at the thought of getting older. He left him self standing there, until the very last drip of urine hit the pavement - about two minutes later. His kids came out, and just chucked some water over him, and dragged him back inside. We had finished lunch at that time. It was pretty sad.

 

Nick took us too another Temple, a beautiful monastery. Alive with monks gliding about in their saffron robes out and drinking tea. I love the 'lived in' temples. Lots of smiles for Hugo. Lots of calmness. One monk tried spread the calmness to hugo by wrapping some red string around his wrist. No chance for that, he was running wild - but Pablo loved it, and so did we. Pablo walks in, sits down in front of the buddhas and pretends to start meditating. I love the color of these temples, the golds, the reds, the illuminated pictures of Buddha. They have such an eclectic, crazy, yet calm quality. There was a buddha statue with sunglasses on - its like there is a sense of humour here - a sense of lightness, and not taking things too seriously. We further explored the grounds, and an old man opened another temple for us. We moved into this very tiny, claustrophobic space, filled with huge candles, buddha, and heaps of incense. He asks us to sit down, and he begins to chant, he grabs a pile of incense, dips it in water, and asks us to put our hands out. He hits the incense on our open hands about ten times, and asks us to rub the water over our faces. We leave a small donation of Riels, feeling great. 

 

We headed home for some rest time. Hugo has been brilliant - he sleeps in the pram, and then we just put the pram in the tuk tuk, so his sleep continues while we are rushing about the city. The colors and smells amuse him. Its a constant watch out of what he is picking up, and sometimes he likes to sit on the ground, sometimes spontaneously lie on the sidewalk, so we have been using a lot of disinfectant on his hands, as he is still eating mostly with his hands. The baby wipes comes in handy. I feel really proud of him, as you never know how the kids are going to adjust to the craziness of Asia, the unexpected, the noise, the smells, the strange food, and so far, so good. 

 

We head out again around 5pm, to walk to the boardwalk - the meeting of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. We walk through a couple of streets of girly bars and old white men. The boardwalk is alive, there are people doing dance classes, people on exercise machines, paying foot ball, enjoying the view. The mekong is the most amazing rose colour.Pablo called it the see of blood. and you can see pouring rain whiting out the river in the distance.  The afternoon rain comes in, and it empties in about one minute. We found a bar, and enjoyed a few Angkor beers. We went to the markets for dinner, and enjoyed some bbq’d chicken and some noodle soup. Our last night in Phnom Penh, and we are finally getting our bearings. Despite what I presumed, its a sort of calm city. The streets and that full with bikes and tuk tuks, and the pace feels more gentle than most asian cities. There are some lovely buildings left from the french colonialists. The people are seem to have a slower pace, and everyone eats out on the street. We have enjoyed the street food a lot. The people after an initial suspicion, warm fast.