ABOARD AMADARA-What do you do on a 300 kilometer bus ride through the Cambodian countryside between Siem Real and Prek Dam?
Learn a bit about the country and its customs from Nip, our genial guide for this leg of our voyage.
For example, don’t be insulted when a Cambodian asks how old you are then if you tell him you are anything over 60, he remarks how very old you are.
It’s a compliment; very few Cambodians reach that age and are successful or strong enough to travel the world.
Similarly, if they look at you and say, “You are so fat,” don’t be insulted or cry as some have. In a country where many never have enough to eat, being fat means you are prosperous.
We made stop at a “happy house,“ comfort stop, in Amping, the spider town, known for its preparation, cooking and sale of insects. We learned starting with tarantulas – drowned in brine before cooking – and ending with crickets – taste like roasted sunflower seeds.
That Cambodians can’t conceive of Americans taking hot showers on a hot day or sleeping on mattresses, soft or otherwise, because they sleep on the floor covered in mosquito netting.
Arrival at AmaDara
At last we arrived in Prek Dam and eased down a rutty incline to see the brand new AmaDara, our home for the next week. Awaiting us was a band and four exuberant lion dancers plus a small crowd of onlookers.
We admired the panoply, posed for photos, boarded and greeted the smiling crew and were ushered into the Saigon Lounge where a troupe of Cambodian dancers and musicians performed a series of lively dances.
By this time, luggage was at our cabins and we settled in just in time for the mandatory evacuation drill, which became a bit of a party when the bartender on the sun deck began dispensing beverages.
A sunset later it was time to shower and change for the captain’s welcome party where everyone from the maître d’ of the Fusion, the specialty restaurant, to the owners and partners of AmaDara and AmaWaterways were introduced. Rudi Schreiner, whose vision of the Mekong as the perfect river for cruising, told of how it all came to fruition.
We had discovered a few glitches –table lamps that were not plugged in, a toilet seat not securely fastened in place – and not a few delights, among them good French house wines and the exquisite embroidered silk robes in the cabins (I want one!).
Surprisingly, Rudi, like the rest of us, had not seen the finished ship until we all came aboard today. He was smiling ear-to-ear by evening’s end.
Come to think of it, so was everyone else.