We were jolted awake by our alarm ringing in the darkness for the fifth day in a row..this sight-seeing business can be pretty demanding...and dressed whilst half-asleep for the early bus to Phnom Penh. Amazingly, the minibus to take us to the bus station turned up on time. Then, even more amazingly, the main bus left on time too. Will wonders never cease?!
We settled down for the 5hr journey and attempted to get comfortable, despite the fact that the Cambodian people are tiny and our limbs had to be bent into unnatural shapes to fit in the seats. The little Khmer lady in front of Liam slammed her seat back as far as it would go, meaning that Liam had to have his legs either side of the seat and the old woman's head practically in his lap. I tried to surpress my laughter.
After 5 hours or so I thought we'd scored a hat trick of miracles when the bus pulled into a bus station. Surely we couldn't have arrived at our destination on time? "Of course not," laughed the driver when I asked him. "We have a short break." Hmm, I guessed as much.
We got off the bus to stretch our legs and were immediately accosted by groups of kids touting their wares - soggy , warm pineapple is not that appealing but I felt sorry for them so bought a couple of sweaty plastic bags of it anyway. Groggy from the journey, I hadn't actually noticed until this point that the kids were covered in....TARANTULAS!!!!
I screamed as they yanked them off their t-shirts and began thrusting them towards me, saying "you like spider madam?". "No," I screeched as I took off across the marketplace. "No bite, friendly spider, " they called after me.
Once I had managed to reduce my heartrate to a normal level, I walked gingerly back to where Liam was happily allowing the girls to attach the huge furry tarantulas to his t-shirt. I'd held the python the day before, but I definitely drew the line at these badboys.
I looked over at the market, wondering what those crispy black things were on the silver platters that all the women were selling. More tarantulas, no less! So the women cook the tarantulas to sell as crisy snacks, whilst a few escape the cooking pot and become pets for their children. I was horrified, although I preferred the company of the deep-fried variety, glad that the cretins had got what they had coming to them.
The huge cooked spiders were accompanied by deep-fried locusts and crickets. I stared at them bug-eyed, wondering who on earth eats these things. Everyone in Cambodia, it seems. The other local delicacy here are duck embryos, which are incubated under hot lights then removed from the shell and eaten whole. I thought I'd seen it all when I saw people chowing down on roasted guinea pigs in Peru but this really takes the biscuit.
After 20 minutes of near heart-attacks as the children dropped their "pets" near my feet and chucked them about near me I could take no more and scrambled back on the bus, where thankfully the driver was now ready to continue the journey., refuelled on crispy duck embryos and a side order of tarantula no doubt.
The bus driver then proceeded to honk his horn annoyingly all the way to Phnom Penh, arriving only 2 hours later than promised....