Sipping a dry martini in the roof garden bar of the Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom Penh I could not help thinking back to what it must have been like in ’93 when Cambodia opened its doors to foreign journalists and diplomats. The country had been through hell and the FCC as it became known was THE place to hang out. It still retains a special atmosphere with its wooden rafters, ceiling fans and wide selection of menu surprises – such as cottage pie or fish and chips with mushy peas. Clearly the Brits had let the restaurant know what their favourite food was. No noodles for this crew!
Our ride town the esplanade along the river front by tuk tuk was an education in itself. The streets were crowded, motorbikes competing with fancy imported cars. The riverwalk pathway was wide enough for what looked like an aerobics class – speakers set down on the pavement, instructor standing in front of what must have been 50 people. At first I thought it was a line-dancing class – hey you never know.
Every second store seemed to offer either food or massages – or maybe both. Can you believe $4 for a massage? Conterfeit DVD’s were on sale everywhere. Films probably not even released in Hollywood yet…. And yet I found the street sellers so much nicer than places like Mexico or Jamaica. Yes they wanted to sell their wares but they did not become a nuisance, were never aggressive and those big smiles just melt your heart. So needless to say I have a whole bag of “stuff” that I would normally not have purchased but console myself with the thought that I am doing my bit for the Cambodian economy. Just hope I am not going to end up paying for extra baggage!