Its been a bit quiet on the blogging front and I know how impatient you all are but I have a good reason. My oldest mate in the world Anthony and his sister Michelle and her children have just visited Cambodia and I have been off work for a week tour guiding. Anthony has been here before as he was best man at my wedding but for Mich and her kids ( Brittney 14,James 12 and Eddie 10 ) it was their first foray into a third world country so bound to be an eye opener and the OOOHHS and AHHHHHHs pretty much started the moment we walked them out of Ponchentong last Thursday. Luckily, they were staying at Raffles Le Royale so shell shock would be limited…..
After checking them in to their rooms we did what most newbies do and headed straight for the FCC for lunch as were all starving. The kids loved riding in the back of my truck and after lunch they headed off to check out the riverfront and Central Market. That night we dined at Aussie XL and the two boys in particular were suffering a combination of exhaustion and heat stroke. Eddie passed out on the floor and James simply went to sleep at the table. With a big day of Russian Market shopping coming up, we all said goodnight and retired for a much needed rest.
The following day I picked everyone up and we headed to the market. The kids had money burning inferno sized holes in their pockets and before I could give them the proper low down on bargaining ( start at half that they ask) they were already being fleeced of their dough. Eddie was buying everything in site including $2 watches in hot pink and bright yellow and when we cane to the shoe section, he picked out a garish pair of high tops which he immediately offered the lady $1 less than what she was asking.With some intervention from me we saved him $6. Mich was keen to buy some bulk toiletries for thier visit to an orpahange so we were soon bargaining on boxes of toothpaste and long stings of shampoo and soap sachets and we also got some dvds for Anthony including The Wire which I know he will love.
After the markets I took them to Toul Sleng and after a spot of lunch they all retired to the hotel for a swim and a rest while I tore around gettting ready for a bbq at home for our visitors and the family. My Khmer family as usual were absolute troopers and the kitchen became a hive of activity. Soon enough everyone arrived including Paul and family and whilst the adults sat down and enjoyed a few cold drinks and a good natter ,the western kids ( with no Khmer skills ) and the Khmer kids ( with limited English skills ) circled each other like a bunch of UFC fighters sussing each other out in round one. In a testament to the joys of being a kid, before you could say ” hey…..what’s your name ?” they were running around on the roof and then huddled up talking about …well…you know…..kid stuff. Brittney (14 )was asking Srey Pich (14 ) if she had a Face-book account to which we had to explain.Pich had never used the internet before ! Britts took this in her stride and soon had a photo of her new friend loaded to her FB page, much to Pich’s amazement. I could not stop glancing over and just shaking my head. Mich’s kids come from a completely different world to my Khmer nieces and nephews. They attend good schools and have all the gadgets a kid could want and then thereis my lot who go to very basic Khmer schools and have nothing but the clothes on their back. HOWEVER, Mich’s kids are extremely grounded and outgoing kids and they teamed up with these khmer kids in not time at all. They were all laughing and smiling and swapping stories and practicing English and …well….it was just very nice to watch. Britts in particular fascinated Srey Pich as Britts is very tall and a real little fashionista and Pich was very taken with her. Britts to her credit carries absolutely no pretentiousness at all and was great with Pich and as Pich come out of her little-girl stage and in to her teens, meeting someone like Britts must be a bit of a moment. Anyways, I have now set Pichup with an email address and hopefully they can stay in touch.
After dinner the kids were whisked home and then we headed out for a few nightcaps at Liquid Bar. It wasn’t long before the yawns started though ( we must all be getting old) and so an early night was called. The next day they were all due to fly out to Siem Reap which went horribly wrong as the flight was canceled and moved to the next day. This saw Anthony and his crew spend some 6 hours at Ponchentong being jerked around Siem Reap Air staff giving them all manner of varying reasons including,hilariously, ” the plane is stuck in New York “. Unfortunate but hey…this IS Cambodia. The next day whilst Mich and the kids headed out for the obligatory orphanage visit, Anthony,Leakhana and I opted for a leisurely lunch at Titanic Restaurant on the banks of the Tonle Sap. Call me a heathen but I am pretty sure the cold beer and Tempura Prawns were a much better option than handing out toothpaste to kids. With lunch finished they all headed back off to the airport and Siem Reap and on their return yesterday we had a final dinner at Bistro Lorenzo which saw all the kids together again before a final nightcap at The Elephant Bar.
It was just fantastic to see Anthony and catch up and I have not seen his sister for many many years but it was like no time had passed at all. OK so we are all a little older and wider and rounder but I grew up with these guys so it really was amazing to see them and the kids who are top little buggers and I felt very honored they came over and were able to meet Grace and my family.