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A room with a view in Phnomh Penh

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We arrived in Phnomh Penh today, a five-hour bus ride from Battambang. The five-hour ride turned into more like six or seven when the bus broke down near the city limits, leaving us stranded on a busy, dusty road while one of the drivers went to buy more gasoline. (Yes, how does a long-distance bus run out of gas unexpectedly, anyway? Poor planning? Who knows?) He eventually returned with a giant jerry can full of gasoline, but that didn’t do the trick: turns out the battery was also stone cold dead.

Rumours began to surface that the problem would be remedied in five minutes, when a car from the bus company would arrive. Five turned into 10, then 15, and meanwhile we were being approached from all directions by tuk-tuk drivers eager for an assignment. We were just in the process of making a deal with one of them when all of a sudden what should appear but a shiny white van bearing the bus company’s logo. I thought, mistakenly, that the van was there to boost the battery. It turned out the van was there to pick up all the stranded passengers and convey us to the bus station.

That would be great, I thought, since the guesthouse we’d just booked that morning was supposed to be sending a driver there for us.

Wrong again – turns out the white van was bringing us to the bus company’s main booking office, nowhere near the bus station, where we were unceremoniously dumped out and ended up needing to hire a tuk-tuk anyway.

Our guesthouse is great for the price -- $20 for a room with two double beds, air-con, a mini-fridge, hot water, TV with cable, and two big windows. On the other hand, it’s quite removed from the city’s major hot spots, including the pleasant riverfront area. In fact, it’s on a strange, busy little garbage-strewn street that looks more like a back alley.

We ended up here after we left the hotel search to the last minute, finally booking something about 10 minutes before we boarded our bus this morning. Finding rooms in Asia with two double beds has been a problem since we set foot on the continent; most rooms have two singles or one double. Getting two double beds often means booking what’s called a “family” room, which is code for “the most expensive room this hotel has” (when it has one at all). There are alternatives, of course: sometimes we take two separate rooms. Sometimes we can find a triple room, which is fine if one kid sleeps on the floor (we carry an air mattress) or if we’re in the mood to push all three beds together and make a giant family bed out of them (not very often).

We left things a bit late when it came to booking a place here in Phnomh Penh. Most of the best places were full, virtually none had “family” rooms, and the few that did offered, strangely, mostly windowless rooms. When I mentioned this to the owner of our Battambang guesthouse this morning, he pointed out that the steep number of windowless hotel rooms here in Phnomh Penh are the result of the not-so-long-ago time when a room without a window was the most desired kind, as it offered protection from hand grenades being tossed in. Okay then….

We plan to whirl through Phnomh Penh tomorrow and hit all the highlights in a single day, then go rural again after that, heading south to Kampot for a few nights on the river before we cross the border into Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. So tomorrow’s itinerary includes the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, the National Museum, the Russian market, Tuol Sleng (the genocide museum) and, possibly, the killing fields. We’re not sure we need to see the killing fields now that we’ve seen the killing cave (see earlier entry), and we’re quite sure the kids don’t need to see the killing fields, but that’ll probably be a last-minute decision.

Posted by The Rymans 07:44 Archived in Cambodia Tagged family_travel

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