Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and most important city. What a capital, what a past and (hopefully) what a future!
In 2009 I spent a week in Laos and the next week in Cambodia. In a series of six articles I am offering transcripts of my travel diary, a lot of photos and several videos.
Friday 10.7.2009, Siem Reap – Phnom Penh
The route to the capital
Yesterday I bought a bus ticket at one of the numerous outlets in the centre of Siem Reap for 6 USD. I was picked up by a motorcycle at my guest house and taken to the bus station. Usual practice and included in the price. Most people travelling like this are apparently tourists. We left and drove fast for six hours. I dozed along the route over flat territory.
In Phnom Penh I jumped on a moto to a place recommended in my guide book.
- PARAGON HOTEL, Sisowath Quay by the river. No view, but clean and spacious with AC and great shower and bathroom. 23 USD is too expensive. Nice. Lift. Good location.
This is apparently the strip to be, with cool hangouts on every corner along the river. They are all furnished with low manila chairs and sofas with broad armrests and small or medium sized tables. Perfect for cocktails or coffee.
There is a lot more traffic here than earlier on my vacation. I saw a large number of beggars too on the riverside, some sleeping on the streets with their children. Touting Tuk-tuk and moto people everywhere get kind of annoying. Bargaining is a must.
The Royal Palace
I took a moto to the Royal Palace not far away. Incredibly golden and fabulous buildings. One place there was a full size Buddha in gold with 9000+ diamonds on. It is a wonderful area in all respects. It must surpass Bangkok which is in approximately the same style? “Same same… ” as they say here.
What a magnificent palace!
I had a chocolate cake and a coffee in a bar-restaurant by the river. Lovely!
The Night Market and fine evening
Before dinner I had a look into the Night Market, a place mostly for the locals and with pretty good standard. Here people ate on the street. The vendors roll out tarpaulins in front of their stalls for customers to sit down and eat on. Looked alright but I dropped it this time. I walked along the streets behind the river strip. Fairly low activity levels at night.
Dinner was eaten at a place with idealism. Children from an orphanage serve and the profits go back to them.
I was hailed by a guy on the next table. If I could join him as we were both single? Okay. He turned out to be Norwegian (as me). Surprise! Apart from that he was very all right to be talking to and he had travelled a lot. His job allowed him to travel four months a year. It has been years since I was in the tropics and he advised me to drink a minimum of 4 litres a day, in addition to food. He also tipped me about www.hostelworld.com to find good and reasonably priced accommodation. He books his accommodation always on that site, sorted by best references.
Nice evening. It is sometimes nice to be social. The Norwegian also said that he booked at places with dormitories not because he stayed in a dorm himself but because they have communal areas to meet others in. Apart from that it is apparent that he has more time and does not hurry to see the sights. I’ve always been travelling at a good pace.
Saturday 11.7.2009, Phnom Penh
A depressing visit to Choeung Ek
On the bus yesterday I noticed a girl was reading about beaches (admittedly Thailand) in her guidebook. Then I got the idea which developed into a plan. Sihanoukville on the coast has great beaches and some “unexplored” islands. A bus would take four hours. Okay! The plan is to go there already tomorrow morning and return here Tuesday morning. My flight home leaves at 1540 so it should be possible. I bought a ticket for 7 USD here at my hotel. A day and a half on a beach will be nice and I won’t need more than a day here to see what I want.
While I until now in Cambodia have seen the proud past – Angkor and the Royal Palace – this day was dedicated to the recent dark history: The Khmer Rouge reign of terror from 1975 to 1978/79. Between one and three millions were murdered and the country’s educated people were exterminated. The population consisted of 70 % females at the end of the war. The people were forced out to the countryside by Pol Pot & Co.
I first went to the extermination camp “Killing field” Choeung Ek. As much as 8000 skulls have been dug up of the mass graves on a comparatively small area. Not all have yet been dug up. There are many such places in the country. A gruesome memorial.
A visit to the Killing Fields with a memorial and mass graves at Choeung Ek outside Phnom Penh.
And a visit to S-21
I then went on to S-21 Tuol Sleng torture centre inside the city. A school had been converted to cells and torture chambers. There was a lot of pictures on the walls showing the prisoners along with stories of horror. This was a very strong experience too.
The Russian Market
I also went to the Russian Market, a gigantic place. But it did not turn out to be much to see….
Otherwise I have not much to tell. I dropped into a finer restaurant in the evening, right by the riverside. But there is little life on the river. Lovely food though.
Walks through Phnom Penh’s Night Market and Russian Market (Psar Toul Tom Poung). The latter is a covered maze of stalls and small shops selling just about anything.
This trip to Laos and Cambodia is described in a series of articles.
- Laos (1) – Vientiane: This year’s vacation is in the form of an egotrip to the Far East, more precisely Laos and Cambodia. I was in this part of the world in 1985, but these two countries were at the time practically sealed off to foreigners. The backpackers are now pouring in, groups are following suit – and I want to see the countries before they turn into another Thailand.
- (2) – Vang Vieng: What’s wrong? Entering a backpacker’s haven on my own, twenty years older then the rest and what more?
- (3) – Luang Prabang: Ahhh! This is more like me. A fascinating landscape and a beautiful city full of temples, high on the World Heritage List in my opinion.
- Cambodia (1) – Siem Reap & Angkor: This was going to a most extraordinary experience: The temple complex of Angkor.
- (2) – Phnom Penh: What a capital, what a past and (hopefully) what a future!
- NEXT CHAPTER: (3) – Sihanoukville: Trying to get a tan in the rainy season. Here is the story of my last few days in Cambodia.
There is a YouTube playlist of Cambodia with my eight videos.
I have a large collection of pictures from Cambodia. Browse all of them here.