Phnom Penh….we survived!!
What a city! Well, we had big, big plans for Pnom Penh, and then half of our group got sick. I’ll give you a hint: it’s the half of our group that is NOT a germaphobe and who is always teasing the germaphobe half about being too concerned about germs. :-P NEENER NEENER NEENER! But on a more serious note, please pray for him to get better…he’s running a fever and has body ache, and that’s about all we know. We figure it’s a virus since there are no other symptoms, and he’s feeling a lot better now that he’s rested for 36 hours.[UPDATE-he’s 100% better now].
We still got some cool activities in.
We left Siem Reap at about 10 AM (the bus was running fairly late). (BTW, THANK YOU, Nick Yu and HCMI for getting us 50% off the posted rate on our hotel room!).
On the bus, we chatted with an American tourist (he was on vacation from teaching English in Korea) who had gotten totally screwed over by his Tuk Tuk driver (motorcycle-with a wagon attached to the back). The normal price for a bus (for tourists) is $7 USD. We paid $8 b/c our driver booked them for us in advance and wanted some recompense for it. The guy we chatted with, Jason, paid $15 USD for a single seat, buying it from his driver. Bummer. He was also charged $50 USD for his moto ride (we paid $10 USDfor the same ride). MEGA bummer. I guess we have Nick and the Lonely Planet: Cambodia to thank for giving us guidelines that kept our losses to a minimum. We still “got our heads shaved” by Khmer standards, but when that means paying $1 for a pineapple instead of 25 cents, we’re OK with counting that as our contribution to the seller’s personal account.
Soooo, the bus ride was hellaciously long. Like almost 8 hours long. We were in the back third of the bus this time. It was really gross–lots of sneezing people, a peeing, naked toddler, unwashed people, food on the floor, etc. Fortunately, we’d taken our motion sickness meds and I zoned out during the bad parts on my ipod. The Wunderhub was fine and enjoyed the scenery.
We also chatted extensively about Dr. Beatocello, a doctor who has devoted that last 40 years to establishing the Kantha Bopha hospitals: corruption free, Western standard-compliant, FREE hospitals for Cambodian children and pregnant women. He is passionate about getting funding for these hospitals and heavily criticizes the WHO (World Health Organization) for not allowing funds from the UN to go to his hospitals. They say that his standards don’t match those of the country’s status and are thus too expensive and impossible to sustain. He argues that children in Cambodia deserve the same standard of care as children in more developed countries. He gives free, amazing benefit concerts in which he plays the cello then talks about his quest to raise money. We attended and were quite moved–he’s apparently a famous, Swiss entertainer and is quite jovial, interesting, and extremely intelligent. When I have a better internet connection (i.e., faster), I’ll post his website for you to check out! His hospitals’ stats are extraordinary, and the way they operate “creatively” without corruption in a country dominated by corruption is quite inspirational.