The highlight of the day was food, but more on that later. We are in the 8th day of our drive, and things have got down to some sort of a rhythm. We left the hotel at seven in the morning and turned towards Angkor Wat where the official flag-off was to take place. While we waited for the flag-off, the participants went around the waiting crowd distributing caps and t-shirts.
After flag-off, we set course for Cambodia’s capital city Phnom Penh more than 300km away. An hour and half later, we stopped to visit the 1000-year old Kompong Kdei bridge. The road continued to be narrow, with potholes in some sections. One stretch was just a broken dirt road, and the dust thrown up by the vehicle in front drastically cut down visibility. However, what every participant will always remember about this road is not the road conditions, but the thousands of children who flanked the rows on either side, waiting to welcome the ASEAN Rally. It seems that children from every school along our route were out there to welcome us. They had been standing in the scorching sun waiting for our convoy to pass, for god knows how long. There was a column of children every few kilometers all along the route. The warm reception we got from the children of Cambodia made the drive unforgettable.
Going back to the topic of food. This afternoon, we stopped for a sit-down lunch at a place called Solar Cafe. And amongst the starters, served to us at the table, were fried crickets and spiders. Yes, a few brave souls from the Indian contingent did give it a try, but most were happy just clicking photos of the spread. It was a quarter to six by the time we parked the cars at our stop for the night, Hotel Cambodiana. And yet again, this brings me back to food. If you ever travel to Phnom Penh, you must try the special Happy Pizza, available at most restaurants. Made with special herbs, Happy Pizzas are available in a variety of options – you can choose between Happy, Very Happy and Very Very Happy. The happiness lies in the herb.