January 21st, 2010

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Thursday Jan 21 in Pnom Penh

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Yesterday I could not manage to get on line. I left off yesterday’s blog that we spent Tuesday evening with a couple from Vancouver, B.C., Phil and Leilani Robson. We met them on Monday on the tour. They are sailors, spent two years in Tortola working with a charter fleet. We had drinks in the Victoria Hotel, a very nice hotel, done in the style of the Royal Hawaiian. With a grandiose view of two branches of the Mekong. They are staying in a hotel just down from on us on the river front here in Pnom Penh. 

 We left early in the morning from Chau Duc, Vietnam on the Mekong near the Cambodia border, by boat. first we visted a fish farm where they were raising, mostly, Tilappia. Most for export. The next stop was at a Cham village. The Chams in Vietnam are 90% Muslims. Many of them fled to Malaysia when the South was “liberated”. Some of the older men in this village new to speak some Malay. I have to read up on why the Chams became predominantly Muslims. The chams from the 600 to 1200 B.C. period were Hindu. The weather did not cooperate it rained almost non stop from Tuesday afternoon through this morning. The curtains were drawn most of the trip to P.P., to keep the rain out.

To-day we saw the National Museum, a treasure of antiquities of this incredible sophisticated culture. We will see a lot more of this at Angkor Wat. Then we got our bicycles. Hesitant at first, we visited the terrible prison, turned into a museum/memorial of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. On the way back we had a peak of a pagoda through an alley way. We snaked through narrow alleys to find the entrance. It turned out to be the Prayou Vong pagoda. It was built a 100n years ago. Six monks make their home here. One of the monks, I assume the leader, spoke good French. We sat down and had tea with him. Am Sam Nang (Chheng) turned out to be a fascinating man. He had served in the French and then the Cambodian Navy. He had spent time at Subic Bay in the sixties. He was forced into slave labor by the Kmer Rouge but managed to hide his identity because his previous government service functions would have been a death sentence. He survived. Then he ended up as under secretary of state under Noradom Shihanouk. He became a monk in 1996 when he was 61. This was definitely an unusual coincidence. This temple is completely hidden from the town and totally surrounded by the slums and not on any tourist itinerary.