Happy new year from Phnom Penh! I’ve been back to work now for two weeks so new year’s eve feels like years ago. We went out for dinner on the 31st then watched the fireworks from a rooftop bar before heading to a club.
I only have three weekends left now in PP, which is strange as it feels like I have been here for years. The first weekend of the year my roommate and I went to a Cambodian boxing match at the TV studios, north of the city. That weekend Cambodia had made international headlines with the government crackdown on protestors, although it had been building up for ages.
Rath, our cook, is a staunch supporter of the opposition party and she had been going down most days to join the (peaceful mostly) protests at Freedom Park. She came back before lunch and normally she is fired up with the odd “Sam Rainsy yeah yeah yeah, Hun Sen no, no, no” (Hun Sen is the prime minister) but this time she was crying because she said the police had just shot a monk. As we had lunch military helicopters flew overhead (our house is next door to the Army Headquarters), and when we left for the boxing match, there was a heavy police and military presence on the streets. It was a bit unnerving seeing so many people in riot gear but tourists were completely ignored so we weren’t in any danger.
The TV studio is basically a car park with a roof and scaffolding seating. The boxing itself is a mixture of punching and kicking but it looks hilarious – a cross between the Hugh Grant/Mr Darcy fight in Bridget Jones and a Peter Kay style walking-to-the-dance-floor-dance. When they do hit the target though, it’s pretty brutal and we saw one KO. The music is played by a live band in the corner and sounds like Moroccan snake charmer music, our driver told us was funeral music. It was an experience!
The next day four of us left the city for a day trip to Koh Dach, or the Silk Island as foreigners call it. We boarded our own private boat just after a lunch and sailed down the Mekong for an hour before arriving at a sizeable island that has a few silk houses. We had a walk around and checked out the local pagoda which was really impressive for such a small place, before heading back.
It was a gorgeous day, bright blue sky and pretty hot. After the ‘cold’ (20C – it was freezing for me!) snap, the warm weather is now back to a comfortable 31C.
The January issue of the magazine is out too. This month I have a four page feature and some other bits and pieces so that was great to see in print!