Rambutans, spring rolls and stray sheep

We decided to try somewhere different for breakfast this morning, so when we spotted a random flock of about 6 very dirty looking sheep roaming the streets around Boeng Kak lake and wandering down the lane towards the Sunrise Guesthouse & Restaurant, we decided to follow them. The Sunrise is actually a really friendly little guesthouse. It’s part British owned and because it’s off the main drag, the prices aren’t as inflated as they are everywhere else. We’d just finished eating when the two owners invited us to join a gambling game they were about to play with a couple of the long-term guests.

The game features a plastic board split into six segments, each featuring a picture of an animal (fish, crab, ladybird, chicken, tiger, and shrimp). There are also three dice, featuring, in equal quantities, pictures of all six animals. The idea is to place a bet (we were all playing with five 100RIEL notes, which is about $0.13) on as many animals as you wish. The caller then rolls the dice, and if any land displaying the picture of one of the animals you’ve chosen, you win back double the bet you placed down. Otherwise you lose your bet. I lost my money pretty quickly (that dam fish!) but it was fun watching everyone else and listening to their shouts of “ooh!”and “yay!” as they lost their money and then won it back again.

After the game, we returned to our table and were joined by an Australian girl called Emma who had just arrived from Sydney. We chatted for a while before Kotoe and I realised the time – we’d been eating, gambling and chatting for the best part of 4 hours, and the day was quickly disappearing.

I had to apply for my Vietnam visa before 2pm, so i hurried over to Same Same But Different Guesthouse (where I’d been quoted the cheapest price for a 30 day Vietnam visa) to place my application. Due to the fact that it’s Khmer New Year from the 13th through to the 15th, the embassy would be closed (a fact that had previously escaped me), meaning that I was unable to use the cheaper 4 day service if I wanted my visa returned to me before i left Phnom Penh. So I used the 1 day service : $38, ready for collection by 6pm the following day.

This evening, for a change of scenery, Kotoe and I walked down to Sisowath Quay and ate and Happy Herb Pizza. We caught a moto home Cambodian style : me and my rucksack squeezed between the moto driver and Kotoe, who was balanced precariously on the back of the bike!

The following morning I walked into the centre of Phnom Penh to post the New Years card I’d been carrying around for Tao for the past week. Despite there being several post boxes around Phnom Penh, it appears the only place to buy stamps is at the post office. So this is where I headed, passing numerous moto drivers asking the usual, “you want motorbike, lady?”, followed by, in a lower, more discreet tone of voice, “you wanna smoke?”. I declined on both accounts, although the ride would have been a godsend, considering that i was contantly having to wipe the sweat from my brow as the sun burned down on my face as I walked.
On the way back to the lakeside i bought some rambutans from the market and shared them with random people at the guesthouse on my return, most of whom didn’t even know what a lychee was, let alone one of their hairy relations! I spent the afternoon sitting out on the guesthouse veranda, catching some rays, reading my newly purchased book ‘Tiger Balm’ and enjoying the refreshing breeze blowing gently across the lake.
In the evening Kotoe and I ate at La Dolce Vita, worthy of a mention because the friendly waiter here served up some of the best food I’ve eaten in Phnom Penh. The main reason we chose to eat here was because the menu contained fresh spring rolls, and Kotoe and I had been hunting for a restaurant at which we could eat these, since our arrival in Phnom Penh. We were both reasonably hungry, as we’d not eaten since breakfast, so we ordered the fresh spring rolls as a starter to share before our main course. when the dish arrived, it was the strangest interpretation of fresh spring rolls i’ve ever seen : it looked like half a baguette on a plate and when we cut into it, it was almost like calzone with a slightly pickled spring roll filling. It was indeed delicious and certainly unique, but left my taste buds a little confused, having expected something a little more like the the fresh spring rolls served in Thailand and Laos.
For my main course I ordered an eggplant dish, which looked like eggplant pulp when it arrived but the flavours blended brilliantly and it tasted supreme. Kotoe had a coconut milk curry, which was equally delicious. Unfortunately, due to the pastry from the spring roll sitting heavily on our stomachs, we became full rather quickly and had to request to take away what we hadn’t managed to eat.
Photo is of an banana and green mango vendor at the market.

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