A month before we left on this trip I asked friends, family, and clients to help us treat the kids at PE2 to some special things. The one event the kids were most excited about happened today.
We woke up bright and early, had breakfast at the hotel and hopped on a tuk tuk out to Prek Eng to meet a bus load of excited kids who were eager to show us their zoo. Part of the money that was donated helped pay for the 25 passenger van that we used to take about 36 people on the 1.5 hour trip. You can see by the photos that we were pretty packed in but no one uttered a single complaint as kids shared seats and joyfully sang songs in unison the whole way there. For most trips as a group, PE2 uses their 10 passenger van that all 30-some people cram into, so this was livin' large! It even had AC!
The Phnom Penh zoo is unlike what we are accustomed to in the US. The most prolific animals there are the monkeys who misbehave, taunt visitors and follow you around the zoo. If you're not careful, they will grab anything loose, a scarf, a purse, a camera and scramble up a tree. Good luck getting it back.
The coolest part is that many of the animals--mostly exotic species of deer, roam the park freely and they walk right up to you, hoping that you will pat them on the head or scratch their noses. The cages used for many of the animals, including bear, monkeys, peacocks, and crocodiles are no more than chain link fences. Get too close to the monkey cage and they will grab you! It was nice to be so up close and personal with many of the animals. Sometimes at the Columbus Zoo, the animals like to hide in the back. Not here though, these guys come right up to the fence; most likely because the tourists here tend to feed the animals.
After the zoo, around lunch time, we all piled back into the bus and headed to what is similar to our metro parks. It had a very wide river running through it and little bamboo thatched huts built out over the water on stilts connected by a split log bridge. We rented the spot for the afternoon. The staff served a fantastic lunch of rice, grilled chicken and pickles. One by one, as they finished eating, the kids changed into their swim suits and jumped into the brown water. It was clear that this was a rare opportunity for them as they played for hours. Becky, the kids and I stayed in the hut and watched the fun as the bacteria in the water would have ruined us for the rest of the trip and beyond.
On the ride home several of the kids fell asleep while others played car games like chop sticks. Everyone was tired and we were ready to head back to the hotel.
Our family walked to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant and had a great dinner of Bun (one of our favorites). Very nice open air place with white table cloths. Most of the entrees were around $4 each. A fantastic dinner to wrap up a wonderful day.
Once back at the hotel, we did a little swimming to wear out the kids before bed.
Thank you to everyone who gave to make this special day a reality!