With a mid-afternoon flight scheduled, I couldn’t plan to do much today in Bangkok. Rather than battle with heat, humidity, crowds and traffic, I decided to do something close by and cool. A shopping mall! The nearest mall was Terminal 21 only two stops away on the SkyTrain. There was definitely enough to occupy me for 2 hours. There were seven floors about three of which were devoted to food courts. I wasn’t hungry and so bypassed the many delicious items on offer and occupied myself haggling over the price of some very lovely silk scarves and earrings.
Fortunately the Don Muang airport also had a food court and I had time to chow down a spicy noodle soup with fish balls.
The flight to Phnom Penh was uneventful but immigration was a hassle. The unsmiling immigration officers were like the progeny of the Khmer Rouge.
On the long taxi ride into town through the outskirts, Phnom Penh displayed all the grim poverty of the third world. Unpaved streets, chaotic traffic, motorcycles, stores filled with cheap clothes, tire stores, auto parts stores, people dressed in rags sitting next to steaming bowls of soup or smoky grills selling their Wares to passers-by.
Villa Silk Road Hotel
That Villa Silk Road Hotel gave a good first impression displaying their major highlight, a swimming pool, right in the hotel lobby.
It was definitely a step up from the hotel Atlanta in Bangkok with much more decoration and amenities in the room.
By now it was nightfall and I took a stroll down the wide Boulevard to the riverfront.
Phnom Penh Riverside
What a scene! The king’s Palace was ablaze with light, glittering like a spacecraft from a wealthy planet. The atmosphere was festive. People were picnicking on mats stretched along the wide Promenade.
The Promenade was well paved and a cool breeze from the rippling river made for an extremely pleasant walk.
Kids were playing, there were food sellers, people ambled along or sat on the banks and gazed out over the river. What a delight.
I thought it was curious that there were no westerners strolling the waterfront. They were all camped out in a series of bars cafes restaurants and pizza parlors on the other side of the road. I soon figured out why. They were afraid to cross the street! It’s true that traffic was a nightmare. There were no rules, no traffic lights, no crosswalks. It was a free-for-all. It was terrifying. The first few times I hung out behind the local and tried to figure out what their technique was for getting across the street in one piece. Finally I figured it out and was happy and proud to cross the street by myself. Victory!
I grabbed a pad thai and a local beer at one of the restaurants along the riverfront, wondering how I was going to stay healthy when the guidebook went to such pains to warned me about eating almost anything. I decided to go heavy on the spices all the time figuring that the capsicum would burn up any bacteria. Go hot or go home.
Back at the hotel I asked about the extraordinarily lively scene at the riverfront and learned that yes, it was yet another holiday. The king’s coronation day! It’s followed by a festival of water which will take place around the full moon next week so basically everybody has just given up on work and is going out to party. It looks like my museum program will be foiled once again but it should be fun.