We had another natural alarm this morning as we awoke to more thunder and lightning. Still, I don't think that any of us was all that tired given that most of us (with the notable exception of Araceli) took generous naps in the afternoon.
So, only a little groggy, we decided not to fight it and got up. With Francene meeting us at eight o'clock we had plenty of time to get cleaned up, eat, choose our photographic poison, and get out the door. But instead we sat around chatting over breakfast as got a slightly later start than we intended as none of us was entirely ready when Francene arrived.
When we finally got out the door our first stop was to get pre-paid SIM cards for our cell phones. Travelling in a group this is a nice thing to have if we decide to split up or if we have to make local calls. The cell phone store was luxurious, it made most Apple stores look rather dull and dated by comparison. Once our phones were working all we then had to do was hop into our tuk tuks driven by the brave and helpful duo Sok and Sam.
We were then whisked away to Phsar Tuol Tom Pong, most readily known as the Russian Market. The market got its name in the 80s when it became the favored haunt of foreigners and at the time most of them hailed from Russia. It is jammed with clothes, souvenirs, tools, kitchen wares, motorbike parts, jewelry, hair salons, nail parlors, food, and fresh meat and produce. Nothing is uniform, some aisles are narrow and others wider, most of the market is covered but there are some sections where the various roof lines failed to come together completely, and some stalls are enclosed and modern while others are just old support beams and little else. It is crowded, lively, colorful and interesting but also extra humid in the close quarters.
For hours we wandered, getting split up and then finding each other again. Suk and Sam were going to meet us in the early afternoon so we sat at a cafe chatting and people watching. A few darling children watched us with curiosity and encouragement from their parents. Below is a precocious little guy who wasn't sure if he was brave enough to overcome his trepidation and approach a much of scary people wielding huge cameras. Still, his cherubic innocence was endearing and I tried to repay his willingness to model with a gesture of thanks to his grandmother and a small handful of candy.
When Sok and Sam returned we mounted our tuk tuks and headed off for lunch. Our destination was Romdeng, a restaurant established by Friends International to help street kids learn to become productive citizens with valuable job skills. The food was all Cambodian and prepared wonderfully. I, being a pescatarian (think vegetarian plus fish) had a rather tame shared meal with Francene of fish amok, spicy green beans with tofu, and crispy rice with fresh mixed vegetables. It was all delicious!
Nicole and Araceli were more adventurous and started their meal with crispy tarantulas followed with a bowl of frog legs with tree ants and a beef salad. Only one of those dishes didn't have invertebrates and of those none were aquatic. It was agreed that the spiders tasted like hairy soft-shell crabs. Brian kept his food more sedate having a chicken dish.
Full from our afternoon feast, we decided that after the long flight and a warm day of running around that we should treat ourselves to a massage. Almost all of us had been massaged professionally before but Brian apparently likes self-denial because this was to be his first ever massage. It was lovely, relaxing and not too vigorous. I am always a little surprised how quickly an hour passes.
Reinvigorated from our pampering we met up with Tim, Francene's husband, and watched the sun set from the top of his building. When it was well and truly gone it was time to cram another meal in our faces but we all ate lightly in a rather luxurious restaurant near Tim's apartment. The long day coupled with relatively slow service left us all exhausted by the end of the meal so we said our goodbyes and retreated to our hotel for a much needed night of quality sleep.
Canon 1D X, Canon 24-70/f2.8L Mark II
70mm, f4, 1/640 sec @ 100 ISO