My office is conveniently located next to a temple (Wat Than), so on my first full day at work I thought I’d take advantage of this fact to go for a contemplative wander before eating lunch with colleagues.
The temple is being lovingly restored and I wandered slowly around taking in the atmosphere of peace and tranquillity before finding a bench in the shade to sit and be for a while.
A short while later a monk appeared next to me and asked me where I was from. We chatted for a while about my home country, why I was in Cambodia and the like and then the next thing I know he’s inviting me to attend an international conference on Buddhism to be held later in the month in Phnom Penh.
Now, at first I wasn’t quite sure if it really was an international conference and if he really meant to invite me to it, but further discussion and a chat with his boss (also a Buddhist monk) over jasmine tea revealed that yes I was being invited to attend the upcoming ASEAN International Buddhist Conference – Buddhist Harmony in AEC: Regional and World Peace as a delegate. I accepted (what else does one do when one is intent on having crazy adventures) thanked them and went on my way.
After work another apartment viewing was on the schedule. And this time I think I’ve struck gold (or gold plated at least). My new home (fingers crossed) is on a lane leading off Mao Zi Dong Street – surely a sign. It’s got a great outdoor living space allowing me to channel my inner Martha Gelhorn, is clean with relatively new appliances and has no coffin like stairwell or fridge that once housed a dead body. The only downside is the ridiculously tight spiral staircase leading all the way up to the second floor, but my new landlady assures me this is good exercise which will make me less fat and as long as I go one by one on the way down I won’t fall!!!
Bouyed by my success so far I walked to street 63 -the centre of the action here in Phnom Penh and not far from my new home – to grab a coffee while I waited for Totie to join me after she finished work. We walked for a while, browsing as we wandered and eventually decided to get food.
We settled on a place called YamYam and were immediately pounced upon (in a very gentle friendly way) by eager staff. It was clear there was Chinese influence to the menu and further investigation led me to discover the owner was in fact Chinese. Before long, a camp young man came bounding over and introduced himself to us as Brian from XiAn (Land of the Terracotta Warriors). We chatted for a while, with Brian gesticulating wildly as he discussed his new restaurant, explaining the origin of the name (Yum Yum pronounced the Khmer way means to cry and he didn’t think this was a good omen…pregnant pause followed by a long drawn out soooooo … he chose YamYam because it’s similar to yum yum but also sounds like Nyam Nyam which means to eat in Khmer Aha!) and the fact that the restaurant wasn’t properly open and we were in fact guinea pigs (insert very camp laughter at this juncture). At this point he suddenly ran off, returning a short while later with 2 pork buns for us to try free of charge. Next came some steamed vegetable rice – again free – along with endless free red tea. When the food we had actually ordered (noodle soups) arrived Brian left us to eat what was a really yummy meal. Paid up and with our tuk tuk home ordered we asked the waiter to say goodbye to Brian for us as he was nowhere to be seen. A few shouts and Brian appeared, bouncing down the restaurant, arms open wide, ready to hug and kiss us goodbye. We said our farewells and hopped the tuk tuk home.
The end of another eventful day in the Kingdom of Wonder.
And the conference link: ASEAN International Buddhist Conference