We went to the old capital this weekend with the students for the photo course. It was my second visit to the hill top pagodas - Odong (see my May post). As we climbed over 500 steps to get to the top I regretted mixing my drinks the night before! Sweating and avoiding monkeys while trying to encourage photo taking is no easy task!
When we got to the top there is a pretty impressive view. I last went at the start of the dry season - The landscape was green but not as lush as it was this time around. Also last time I came I felt the pestering children were all a bit much. This time however I had quite a lot of fun with then taking pictures and practising my Khmer and them practising their English. I don't know whether I came on a particlarly quiet day the last time so I was the kid's sole target for $1 but I suspect that actually I have just got used to Cambodia and its begging children who actually don't mind a bit of respite from the hard slog of asking for cash....
We made our way to a second part of the complex and fell upon (as you do) a government minister praying to her family's tombs. This being the land of bling (if you've got cash/importance then flash it) unsurprisingly it was not just her quietly reflecting on her grief. There were also 2 photographers (well 11 when we arrived), a camera man, 3 foil things on sticks to reflect the light properly, 3 large red carpets, a troop of Apsara dancers from the National Ballet and a live Khmer band along with numerous plates of offerings....Oh and an helicopter fly over (not sure if that was for her though) Everything was one at least 3 times so that the camera man could film the action from different angles!!
Then we were hungry which brings me back to the chicken story. 7 of the students went with Brian and his friends to a nearby pagoda while we ordered "takeaway". We tried a "restaurant" but they would not do take away. So... we had to hit the street stalls. After strolling up and down the 30 or so stalls it was clear that the items on offer were: frogs legs (no), bugs (no), fish with head and scales (no), chicken (ummm....). So the negotiations began.
Chosing a plumpish chicken stand (the chicken and the seller that is) we asked about the price - $5.50. Now that I beleive is certainly more expensive than an Asda/Tesco cooked chicken but possibly cheaper than a Sainsbuy's one.... so in the land where people earn about $1 that seemed rather expensive. [However, I am aware that "chicken and petrol is expensive" - you are told this alot in Cambodia].
After asking at other places it appeared that the women in all 30 stalls were partaking in anti-competitive practices and were price fixing. $5.50 was the price and no one was willing to shift. Back to the original woman... Starving - we got 4 of her chickens for $5 each (a much deserved reduction!) and got rice from her mate next door.
So... we take the chicken back to the car and using the boot area as a kitchen I begin hacking the things up to distribute it into the rice boxes. Pulling off the legs was fine... but then the claw came out as well - aghh! Then I turned it over and there was its limp head looking at me sorrowfully. Oh well we didn't want to waste any - off with its head - one of the boys will eat it the girls told me. As I ripped the birds apart I rememebered how about 15 years ago I cried when Sun Valley gave my school free chicken to use in our cooking class and I almost had to make a chicken dish (I was veggie at the time). Perhaps it is true ....Cambodia does have a certain effect!!
The rush to serve the chicken was so I could get back to PP to have some art fun with the kids at CCH. Painting and glitter and all sorts of messy art provided the children with some entertainment. They painted massive pictures and made masks.