19 May 2010

Goodbye Phnom Penh

There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.
-Charles Dudley Warner

P5140285It was our last day in Cambodia and so it seemed to me a fitting end to an amazing 6 weeks here that it was the King’s birthday.  The city turned on its lights and put on a spectacular show of fireworks to bid us goodbye.  We walked around the independence monument and with encouragement

Intrepid_Cambodia-13from Dino, decided to join the street aerobics, a daily feature of life in Cambodia.  P5140294 The groups of dancers are lead by young men who yell out instructions through microphones.  Cambodians of all ages take part in this exercise and I was amazed to find more men than women engaged in this activity.  It was hard to stay coordinated or look cool in the hot, humid climate found here in Cambodia, the hottest time of year.  So, most of us just gave up after a few minutes of looking silly to just stand on the side lines, watch and reflect on our time in Cambodia. 

We’d had a great time here and earlier on that last day I’d managed to contact my old friend and tuk tuk driver, Ravi who was delighted to hear from me and came around to take Jane, Al and me P5140278on our own private tour.  I introduced them to the seeing hands massage and we stopped at Riverside to have a few cocktails and take in the Quatre Bras (Four Arms), where two arms of the Mekong meet the Bassac and the Tonle Sap tributaries.  Phnom Penh got it’s original name of Chaktomuk due to this geographical feature. 

P5140333 We had out last dinner together in Cambodia, but there was one more experience to enjoy before we called it quits.  This night was also a celebration of Gay Pride and of course Dino invited us to the best party in town..!

P5150342 That night we got a real insight into the gay scene in Phnom Penh, an experience completely off the beaten track and one you encounter only through  friendship with a local gay man.  I was surprised to find so many openly gay men in a culture that is still quite conservative.  We learnt the gay scene was still quite new and this celebration was obviously very special to them. 

We would all travel together to Ho Chi Minh City and say goodbye there.  It had been a wonderful experience made far more authentic because of our local guide Dino and his willingness to share his life and culture with us.  We will all miss him greatly and some of the funny things he said,  quite inadvertently.  Smashed potatoes anyone?

It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had.
Elzabeth Kubler-Ross

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