Saturday, November 20, 2010

crowds and fetal eggs

Phnom Penhers do love their city, and of course this makes me love them. As a Texan and a Manhattanite, I really get pride of place. When we were coming to the hotel, our cab driver said, after we told him we're from NY "Oh, that's a big city like Phnom Penh." I laughed and said yes. In Cambodia, PP is "the city."

Yesterday afternoon we walked all over the place, including locating a different hotel for our return to PP. This one is fine, and we've enjoyed the central location, but we'd heard about this other place that sounded amazing. Also, this is a giant hotel, and we tend to prefer smaller ones.

 we're on the 2nd floor, that room on the mid-corner. it's like being in the prow of a ship.
this is our room - surrounded by windows, these are just a couple. the entire wall on the left is solid windows.

So anyway, yesterday afternoon we wandered around, found (and booked) our next PP hotel, rested a bit, wandered out into the insanity of the Water Festival, and got massages. We each spent $7 for an hour-long massage - I got a foot massage and Marc got head and shoulders. We both laughed afterward; our young masseuses had no training or skill, they just kind of rubbed us, but it was ok, and at least somewhat relaxing.

For dinner, we decided to go to the Bopha Phnom Penh Restaurant; it was highly-ranked on TripAdvisor, and we'd scouted it out earlier in the day and it looked great - decks overhanging the Mekong, deep cozy chairs, nice ambiance, and they had a set menu of Khmer specialties we wanted to try. WELL. As evening fell, I swear the number of people attending the festival quadrupled. It was shoulder-to-shoulder, packed. Like Times Square on New Year's Eve. Families had spread out blankets all over the sidewalk and were eating; vendors were out in force selling food, and for the first time we saw the mounded platters of deep-fried tarantulas and grasshoppers. And another thing they eat here that I find really hard to imagine is fetal duck eggs. Here's a YouTube video - don't click play if you're squeamish:

 these egg vendors are everywhere - the bicycle with the sidecar, filled with fetal eggs.

So anyway, we navigated through incredible crowds and made our way to the restaurant. We got wonderful seats, right at the edge overlooking the river. Happy. A lovely breeze. I wanted to try Angkor Beer, but they were out so I tried a Tiger Beer (meh). Lovely. And then, after we'd ordered our food, we saw the first in a long parade of  .. gosh, I don't even know what to call them. Floats, I guess. They were on HUGE barges, and they were these intricate filigreed light displays. For the most part they didn't flash, they were just static light displays of different things, moving slowly past on the river. We're not familiar enough with the iconography to understand a lot of it, but my favorite one had a brilliant green dragon with flames coming up out of its back in a recognizable Buddhist shape. Some of them had music accompanying them on the barge, and a couple did have small bits of moving light - one, for instance, had a person with what looked like a 1950s satellite receiver thing on top of the head, sending out rays. One float was what looked like a demon. And one was clearly a city, and then one of the waiters stopped by our table and pointed and said, with enormous pride, "That's my city." I just loved that.

Anyway. They were gorgeous. One after another, after another. After a while we noticed that at some point farther up the river, they turned around and came by again, facing the other bank. I think that thing from the previous post was one of these light displays - here:

Our dinner was 2/3 great; we started with a beef and pepper salad, really great. The 2nd course was fish amok* which was an OKish curry, I don't tend to like fish curries because of the fish texture. The last course was some kind of deep-fried pineapple spring rolls that were divine.

*do you know what the word amok references? We run amok, as in "Don't you kids run amok while I'm at the store!" But amok is a Malaysian concept for a murderous frenzy, a killing spree perpetrated by an individual out of rage or resentment over perceived mistreatment. Wikipedia says the syndrome of "Amok" is found in the DSM-IV TR. Anyway, I guess the cook went all amok on the fish's ass or something. Or else amok is the curry. Whatev.

We're going down to breakfast now, and then we'll wander around some more. Our cab is picking us up at noon to drive us the 2-3 hour trip to Kep, on the coast. I'll post from Kep.

HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME. Do not want to leave. :)

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