Cambodia – Day Three – Let’s Play Chicken

“I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.”
-George Bernard Shaw

This is the day we had to say goodbye to Siem Reap, and to our nicest of hosts at Siem Reap Rooms. Seriously, they were so nice. Despite their sadness, they helped us arrange a ride from Siem Reap to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. We had our choices of travel arrangements in terms of plane, bus, or car. By plane seemed like a hassle and unneeded expense, while the bus felt as though it would eat too much of our precious time. (We later learned we were right, ten hours. Despite the pamphlet projecting six). We decided to book a car.

What we did not know was how daring this car ride would be. Imagine being in a car with a driver you cannot properly communicate with, who is being paid a flat sum to get you there and get himself back home. The speed and efficiency of the journey is where he can make his money. On mostly dirt roads crowded with motorbikes, lorries, chicken, cows, people, and cars we rarely were traveling below 60MPH. We would swing out into the oncoming lane of traffic in order to chicken the other driver into moving over further in his lane, allowing us more room to dodge the obstructions in our own. Lots of honking, blinking of lights, and not giving up while driving into a monsoon. I found it quite thrilling, the girls were not as pleased. Alas, we made it but not before taking a couple snaps.

“Personally I like going places where I don’t speak the language, don’t know anybody, don’t know my way around and don’t have any delusions that I’m in control. Disoriented, even frightened, I feel alive, awake in ways I never am at home.”
― Michael Mewshaw

After four or five hours or something in the car, we needed to regroup. We made it to our accommodation in Phnom Penh where we had decided to splurge a little and settled in. Settling was quite easy considering how nice it was at The Pavilion.

Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.
-Francis Bacon

I like this quote from Francis Bacon, yet I hope that travel remains both an experience and an education throughout my life. We made our way out of the hotel later that night to explore and take in some proper nightlife in Cambodia’s capital. We were staying very near the Royal Palace and the riverfront. The riverfront is where many of the international bars are and is also where you will find many of the travelers and tourists imbibing.

We made our way to FCC, Foreign Correspondents Club, and had ourselves some familiar food and drink on the rooftop bar overlooking the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap. I didn’t bring my camera out that night, so this link will have to suffice. Ken, I am assuming that is his western name, was waiting for people leaving our hotel and was our ride for the night. He quickly snatched us up for the next day too allowing him to go home early knowing he had work the next day.

When he dropped us off at FCC there was a wiry man in his twenties that wanted to know if I wanted any smoke. I smiled and declined, and Ken slapped and kicked him away, quite literally. Ken grabbed my arm and told me to never trust that man, and if I must take part in such activities he will find me safer ways of going about it. I appreciated the lookout, and perhaps felt better about our travel arrangements for the next day but assured him I didn’t need such arrangements. Who knows, Ken may have been looking to profit instead.

After FCC we wandered up and down the riverfront without much of a plan. We were hoping to make some friends and have a grand night out, but it turned out harder to do than we had expected. We turned into our flower covered beds a few hours later and would meet Ken again at 10 AM.

Independence Monument lit up at night. During the day it is brown sandstone. Quite a transformation. The monument celebrates independence from the French, but later also serves to remember those lost in Cambodia’s wars.

By Daniel Hatke

The author was born and raised in Indiana. After graduating from Purdue University he worked in the asset management industry in New York City. He holds an MBA from Columbia Business School with concentrations in finance and entrepreneurship. Currently, he is fueling his curiosities through taking time off for extended travel and experiences in Europe and Asia, as chronicled here.