I am excited to share a guest post from my sister, Alexis, who turned 30 while traveling with us. See her story below and enjoy!
A quick snapshot of my latest stats:
6 days of travel
5 street food samples
4 guest houses
3 traveling friends
2 public group exercise sessions
1 spectacular birthday
I found myself entranced with the whizzing and choking of the engine, the light spray of water, and the constant wake as our river boat broke through the seemingly calm surface of the Mekong. It was as ideal a setting to reflect on thirty years and cast thoughts on what lies ahead as one could imagine. In this serene atmosphere, I was ready to recap the events of the day before, which was the Eve of Christmas Eve, also known to some as my birthday.
We awoke to yet more glorious sunshine in Phnom Penh, sauntered up to our third floor deck and started flipping through The Word, the local events newspaper we picked up the day before. We decided to start off with a little adventure to build up our appetite, and off we went in search of a hidden lunch spot in the arts district.
Lee was at the helm with his map and compass, Dominique was armed with the camera, and I had the day bag and an eye open for ancillary adventures. Mind you, the maps from Lonely Planet are not true maps, as Lee taught me, as north does not always point towards the top of the page and not all the streets are named or even included. Despite this, we found a winding alley that looked like it might lead us to our designated lunch spot. We turned down, past some open living rooms (indeed so open that it seemed as though the front exterior wall of the house had been left out of the building process), snaked by moto-bike parking and landed at our quaint oasis in the alleyway. It looked like a Grecian cottage with turquoise shutters and white washed walls, not the typical Cambodian style we had grown to recognize. Inside, the husband-wife duo had created an art gallery, clothing boutique and café with delicious juices and fresh sandwiches.
We had our fill and started our hunt for live music. We consulted The Word again, and picked out a few spots to stop by throughout the day. To our surprise, a wedding reception had gathered in the twisting alley, complete with banquet tables, centerpieces and Cambodian cuisine. We were greeted with big smiles as we delicately dodged the tables and families gathering; it was decided it was a good omen.
Out on the main street, we didn’t make it too far until we found a chocolatier (the Donoghoes do love chocolate). We stopped in for some birthday treats, and I was given a chocolate birthday lotus on the house, all of which was devoured immediately.
At this point, it was about time for a birthday toast, so we headed to the first spot for live music. Not only did the bar not have the band listed on the music bill, they didn’t even host live bands! We liked the spot regardless and made ourselves at home in the outdoor seating with a cold round of beers complete with a koozie!
Dominique then presented me with the sweetest hand-made card, filled with thirty memories, one for each year. There were even illustrations for each one! We laughed and cried while going down memory lane, and toasted to another thirty.
For dinner we went to a jazz club on the Mekong river front. We continued the toasting revelry at dinner and moved inside right before the jazz band came on. I had a chance to talk with the lead singer / saxophonist before they started and let him know that it was not only my birthday, but that I was born in 20 minutes (luckily my parents had sent me a reminder earlier that day). At 8:50pm, the band dedicated the next song to me, which was an off-the-cuff birthday melody. Mind you this wasn’t just another rendition of the birthday song, it was a ten minute jazzy serenade and made the birthday girl oh-so-happy! We continued dancing and enjoying the music for the next couple of hours, then made our way out to negotiate the tuktuk fare back to our room.
It was certainly a birthday for the books, and I owe it all to Dominique and Lee for so graciously taking me in and sharing their adventures.