Yesterday we woke up slightly dazed after a big night out. Drinks for Dave’s 40th at Tamarind turned into dinner at Aussie XL ( excellent !) turned into Pontoon. Anyways, with Srey Nek and Pek staying over ( now a weekend ritual ! ), it was time to get the hell out of the city. The girls mentioned a new park that had opened up in Phnom Phenh Thmei ( New Phnom Penh) so we rang our trusty driver, loaded the tuk tuk and headed out into the steamy day. Man was it steamy yesterday. I doubt I could find this place again if I tried. Lefts, rights,past Wats and reclaimed lakes, over bridges. Bloody hell. On arrival, the Bayon Temple inspired gates gave a hint of what was to come and with visions of Chevy Chase and Wally World in my head, we entered the venue.
The first thing you notice is the complete lack of traffic. They actually do not allow ANY cars or motos inside the park. Incredible. No threat of being run over, clipped or swiped. The second most obvious feature is the huge lake they have created. Or maybe the lake was always there and the land was created ? Who would know ! At any rate, the lake is very nice and came complete with a “Marina” and the naffest little paddle boats you have ever seen. There was a choice between the Luxury Swan Lake model ( a boat with a fiberglass Swan shell ) and the Dad and Dave Workshop model (two bare boned steel pontoons with an umbrella over them). More on that later.
As we walked around the complex. it was clear there was a little something for everyone. The prayer rooms with monks present, the Stalagtite “cave room”, the “mural room”, the “soap opera room” ( with television blaring soap operas ! ), the marina and it’s paddle boats, the Green Room ( a topiarist’s delight !) and several random canteens where you could get instant noodles or a simple Loc Lac. It was all a bit surreal and had me either giggling and the inanity or shaking my head at the hilarity of it all ( or vice versa ). The girls all loved it though and Grace was on full “OOOOH ! ” mode as she ran around safely on both feet with no restrictions for the first time in her life.
We ate lunch in one of the canteens which was a bizarre experience. No-one else in it and it seemed like the people even live there. Still- the food was fine and cheap too. Sreys Nek and Pek then asked if the could take a pleasure cruiser out on the lake and I stumped up $2 for 30 minutes in a 7ft long Super Swan Cruiser. They donned life jackets ( god knows how deep the lake was – probably shin deep ) and headed out onto the expanse of water. Leakhana, Grace and I headed over to a shelter and whilst the adults played a lazy game of pot limit hold ’em poker, Grace watched as a chap nearby de-feathered and gutted a chicken. Soon enough a rain squall complete with very strong winds came up and all hell broke out on the lake. Boats were getting blown into the marshes only to get grounded in shallow waters and we caught the sight of a saturated Nek and Pek abandoning ship and running back to our shelter. Rather amusing.
We were soon back in our tuk tuk and heading back to the city but first I wanted to stop at a wonderful garden centre I saw that specialises in my favourite tree – the frangipani tree. This place had them in every colour and in every size and I really must go back there with Veasna. Might get either the bright pink one or a golden yellow. Once back at The Compound the rain started coming down and kept coming down and Leakhana and I resumed our Poker game while Nek dealt and Pek entertained a very tired Grace.
I can recommend a visit to this park to anyone who has a toddler. It is a nice safe expanse and I will definitely go back with Grace when she can ride a little bike. There seemed to be much more to the park than the parts we saw but it is new so hopefully they will add some proper restaurants and maybe some huts with hammocks for relaxing.