Da In Wonderland
For the 20-minute trip from Kampot to Kep, Da – Nick’s 63 year old mother – was in the front seat; she needed to keep an eye on the horizon to avoid motion sickness. Andrew tried to fasten the seat belt, but gave up after two tries as Da insisted it went behind her head. The driver walked over, spoke in Khmer, and buckled her in properly.
The Nurse, her partner Andrew, his daughter Ebony and I announced we were going to act like tourists in Kampot to get away from the dusty capital for a few days. Nick shyly asked if we could take his mother with us as she had never been to either place. “Of course, why not?”
“You buy credit for your phone,” Nick instructed me. “Then if my mother doesn’t understand you call me and I will sort it out.” We weren’t worried as in tourist places there are always people who speak English.
We rented a car with a driver as it was cheaper – and such a better option – than the bus. With four women in the back, however, it was a touch crowded. After the first instance we warned Andrew – who scored the front seat simply by size – that if he fell asleep and started to snore again we would take turns and smack him. Really, how dare he?
Once at Kampot we settled into a guest house. In her room, Da’s eyes widened. A huge bed, cotton sheets, a bathroom, and a television. Pure unadulterated luxury. Privacy.
We belched softly and watched the sunset over the river. Not quite as spectacular as some of the ones I’ve seen in Saskatchewan – which isn’t sufficient reason to make me want to live there again – but enchanting nevertheless. Da was enthralled. I asked the waitress to explain that we were going to go to neighouring Kep for lunch the following day.
At 06:05 the next morning there was a knock that slowly got louder. I struggled to crawl out of my groggy sleep. When I stumbled to the door, Da was standing there, suitcase in hand. With about 13 words of Khmer, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to explain we were staying for another night and she didn’t have to take her bag with her. I took her to the front desk and had them translate. I suspect it was her first stay in a hotel.
Once at Kep, Da had another “virginal” experience: the ocean. The tide rolled in and she skipped around in the shallows and clapped her hands. Andrew and Ebony waded out to swim. When Andrew dived under the water Da frantically grabbed The Nurse’s arm and pointed wildly. When he resurfaced she relaxed until he went under again.
Does it get much fresher? The food photos say it all.
The Nurse and I looked at each other and smiled. For us the highlight of the trip was living it vicariously through Da’s wide eyes and constant smiles.