We took the 2pm bus from Saigon and arrived at a very dark little station in a questionable neighbourhood on the outskirts of Phnom Penh at 10pm. We stared around and were quite happy Chat was picking us up. He arrived with his driver, in a large SUV, which looked a little out of place beside the swarm of tiny tuk tuks and tenement buildings. He took us to our beautiful downtown hotel and then out to supper at a restaurant with a live band. Chat ordered way too much food for the four of us to eat. It was all delicious, but I think my favourite was a plate of fried cashews.
In the morning we had a lovely big breakfast at the well appointed buffet in the hotel, and then Chat picked us up and took us out with his family to a big breakfast at a Chinese restaurant.
Chat dropped his family at the wedding site to help with preparations and took us to the National Museum, and to a big Cambodian lunch. We went upstairs and sat on mats at a low table. The mats roll up at the back so that you have a triangular pillow. There was so much food! I loved the big crispy bowl that was made of rice!
|The big rice bowl!|
In the afternoon we visited the Royal Palace. The palace grounds are huge, with so many buildings and temples and pagodas. In one small temple, a monk was reading fortunes. You put a sacred book on your head and insert a stick. Then the monk opens the book and reads the passage and tells you about it’s meaning and yourself. When I did it, the monk said that i have many people that are bad to me in my life, but that I will always be stronger than them and I will always overcome them. It made me think of a Japanese saying “Seven times I fall down, eight times I get up”. Greg slid his stick in between the pages and the monk read his fortune too. He said that Greg needed to listen to me. He said that I was the one that kept his life in order and would bring him good fortune if he followed me, and made me happy. I think Greg was a little disappointed that both fortunes were about me. I think he should have listened to the monk. Tomorrow I am going to become a Buddhist.
|The Royal Palace|
Later we went to the mall… and after Chat did some shopping, we ate. The food court was quite interesting and we tried some Cambodian popsicles which were delicious. That evening, Chat took us out to another big restaurant with live music, and again ordered 17 dishes of food. I may need to stop at the market to buy larger clothes.
On the wedding day, Chat picked us up at 6:30am. A Cambodian wedding starts very early in the morning, and lasts all day. While they were having the ceremony, we were fed a lavish breakfast with delicious iced coffee and a lot of delicious food including soup which is the traditional breakfast staple over here.
In the Cambodian wedding ceremony, everyone change clothes many times. Instead of buying all the different outfits, it is common now for people to have a wedding company that provides a set if rental outfits. Each set of outfits is a different colour and the entire wedding party changes to match the bride and groom. I think the prettiest outfits were orange and peach silk.
There was a pair of singing MC’s who talked a lot, told jokes, and sang many songs. There were dancers who came up and performed. Dancers in Cambodia stretch their fingers when they are young so that they curve backwards when they dance, which makes them look double jointed.
They asked us to come up and tie a string on the couples wrists for good luck and blessings and to use a jasmine flower stalk to anoint the bracelets with water. They also let us come up to give the newlyweds their wedding gift envelope. Usually only family and close friends do this, so we were quite honoured and tried to do our best. Most guests give their gift at the reception where gifts are recorded in a ledger so that they can return a similar gift to each family at their weddings.
In the afternoon, we went out with Chat while he did some shopping. We went to the shopping mall for lunch. Chat took us out for supper and then back to the hotel to change for the reception. It was in a big banquet hall, and was very similar to a North American reception. The music was the same live traditional musical group that had played for the wedding, and the MC’s were there to make speeches about marriage and sing about relationships etc.
There was a giant dinner with fresh water lobster, shrimp, baked fish, and dozens of other dishes. People danced and chatted and started to drift off home around 10pm.
Chat let us stay at his apartment for a couple of hours until it was time for the midnight bus to Siem Reap. We got there and were able to switch to the 11:30 bus and said goodbye to Chat’s driver, and left right away. The bus was lovely. It was a full sleeper bus with real bunk beds and blankets and curtains and we slept pretty well.
|Our cozy sleeper bus to Siem Reap|