paul and i had quite the adventure over the long four day weekend for water festival. we took the bus to saigon to get away and visit our dear friend, Jen! saturday morning we left PP at 6:30am headed for the border and interested to see what would happen. the bus is a cheap way to travel--$24 round trip for each one of us. the ride includes a snack and a bottle of water. it was nice and quite comfy. the old school (read late 80s and 90s) karaoke music became a bit much, but other than that we will travel by bus again. the most interesting points of the bus trip were crossing a body of water by ferry where there was not a proper dock. the ferry just pulls up to the dirt "landing" and we drive across the "bridge" that is attached to the boat. interesting is all i could say. the other tidbit was the border crossing. leaving cambodia was not a problem--we all had to get off the bus, listen for our name to be called from our passport and then get back on the bus. then the bus drives about 50 yards (maybe) and then we go through the border check for vietnam. this time we have to get off the bus, collect all of luggage, stand in a building which had no air circulation at all, strain to hear the Khmer/Vietnamese man calling out names one at a time at a barely audible volume, pass through, put our bags through a x-ray machine, walk outside, load our bags back in the bus, and get back on. it was nuts! two more hours on the bus and we arrived at our stop in saigon. whew!
we checked into our hotel, well really hotel #2 since the one we had originally made reservations with had a water issue and rerouted us to another one in a better location where the room was better than the original. Yeah! we met Jen for a late afternoon snack and then walked over to her favorite Indian dive. it was good and fun to hang out and catch up. she is a great friend whom i met in seoul my first year there. she was in korea teaching english and we met on skype. crazy, i know, but it all worked out for the best. we had coffee at the coffee bean which paul was thrilled about, talked some more and then turned in for the night.
sunday, we met up for a late breakfast and walked around the city. we were on the look out for a spa to get massages at and paul wanted to get some work done while the girls got pampered and did some browsing in the shops. it was good afternoon. jen and i had a lot to catch up on and share. it was so great to be with her. she is living there, so it was fun to get her input on the city. we went to dinner at jaspas which is tucked away off the street in a alley. the food was good and as always conversation even better. the only downside is that we did not get to play scrabble, our tradition and favorite pass time when we hang out. next time for sure.....
jen had to work on monday and tuesday, so paul and i spent much of the day just wandering around the city. it rained a bit, so we were a little wet getting around. we ate sushi for dinner which was divine and wonderful. saigon has a great japanese community and quite a few places to eat. we love this part of saigon. we looked for a few of our favorite shops only to find them no longer in the same place.
tuesday we left on the bus about 1pm and went through the same sort of adventure coming back to PP. the border was slightly different. vietnam was the same, but more tolerable this time since we knew what to expect. it was a little less hot the second time. on the cambodia side we had to unload ourselves and wait in line at immigration like stalls to get cleared back into the country. we also went through a customs like experience, but without our luggage. back on the bus and four hours to PP.
we arrived back to news that there had been a massive tragedy on monday evening. about 375 had been killed in a stampede on the bridge at water festival and some 700 injured. as soon as i had cell phone service, i texted my khmer friends to see if they were okay. we met sophea, our tuk tuk driver, at the bus stop and immediately asked if his family was okay. they were okay, but he was obviously shaken up about the incident. it was crazy. PP was quiet and had a weird, solemn vibe about it for the next few days. ming, our housekeeper, and meng eang, my teaching assistant, all responded back that they were all okay. thank God! it's been interesting to see how the Khmer people respond and react to such a tragedy. the news was filled with many stories and accounts of what might or might not have happened or caused the panic on the bridge. last thursday was national day of mourning. we had school, but i had seven students out. the whole week was out of sorts and carried a solemn vibe to it. i was thankful to finish the week, have a rest, and try it again this week with a fresh start. it's been heartbreaking to watch a country go through so much pain and sorrow especially a country that is already struggling to move forward.
i am thankful for many things.