Published: July 26th 2005July 16th 2005
Suz found a friend... after we realised the temple was actually closed
After a bit of a disappointing trip to the Mekong Delta we arrived at the border crossing into Cambodia which seemed to be marked only by a concrete sign saying 'borderline'. We had heard that some other people had waited four hours at the border trying to sort out their visa so we obtained ours in advance and walked straight through, got a few stamps on our passport and borded another boat (third boat of the day) to embark on a three and a half hour journey. When we docked, we borded a minibus that took us along a very scenic, though very bumpy road before reaching the city. We were so surprised when we reached Phnom Penh after hearing almost nothing but negative things about Cambodia-We couldn't believe how much more similar to Bangkok it was in terms of development than anywhere in Vietnam. (We though maybe it is to do with Vietnam being communist which would have an effect on private companies and foreign investment) We acted like kids in a sweet shop as we excitedly pointed out familiar shops, health and safety signs (non-existent in the other parts of Asia we've visited) and fast food joints. there was
even a London radio station playing on our minibus.
When we finally pulled into our hotel (literally) we were really excited to be in Cambodia and began to think that the week we'd planned to spend there might not be enough. The people were very friendly at our hotel called 'Kings' and had a restaurant/bar, nice rooms and a happy hour, it was also the only one around the area we were in so we decided to stay. We later checked out the 'backpacker' area which was lively but smelly and the guest houses we saw were pretty scummy so we stayed put. We got some food at the lakeside (backpacker) area and all opted for a massive bacon, pineapple and egg cheeseburger! (it came with a free beer), before heading back.
The following day we chilled out at our guest house playing cards (we also changed rooms as we reckon someone had hidden a poo in the rafters above our bathroom) and later in the evening visited the other area popular with backpackers at the riverside to play some pool before retiring for the night in preparation for an early morning city tour.
booked our own driver instead of doing a coach tour as for the four of us the cost worked out the same. This also allowed us to add in anything we wanted so we added a Nikon shop to replace our stolen camera cable and the post office! (We took out a monument and a pagoda). The most interesting and at the same time most distressing places we visited were Khmer Rouge S:21 Prison (Tuol Sleng) and the Killing Fields. Having seen the thriving city of Phnom Penh and meeting many friendly and happy it was hard to believe the country's recent history. We have put some pictures of the Killing Fields on here, they're not very nice. If you don't know what they are, S:21 was a torture prison where men women and children from peasants to politicians were kept for up to four months (if they didn't die before that) before they were taken to a field and bludgeoned to death and buried in mass graves for 'crimes' against the Khmer Rouge regime. There are many around Cambodia but this is the most famous. The museum had mugshots taken of all the prisoners and even some photos of
They will fit anything on a motorbike in asia!
some dead bodies discovered in the cells by the Vietnamese army where they had recently died during torture. It seems no-one can agree on the number of people who died at the hands of the Pol Pot's regime but estimates seem to range between 1 1/2 million to 3 million people.
After our tour our driver was explaining to us about the corruption in Cambodia- apparently the guest house owner is related to the royal family and government officials drink there in the evening so they have some very comfortable arrangements. he said that he can race through red-lights and rarely gets stopped, if he does he hands over five dollars and goes on his way. The more time we spent there the more we noticed the rich/poor divide though begging was nothing compared to Hanoi or Saigon. One morning however, a beggar came into our guest house asking for money from them, they gave him some but he wouldn't go and eventually they dragged him out but when he still wouldn't go he got a kick in the face. We wished they didn't do that, though by this point his pants had fallen down and he didn't seem
Guest House Manager
This guy only put his shirt on when the next load of potential guests arrive
to want to pull them up so they must have been worried that their guests eating breakfast would be offended.
On a more cheery note, the same morning we saw the grand unveiling of a 6ft long poster advertising a new VIP bus service- ordinarily this wouldn't have been exciting except that when we first arrived a couple of days before a guy had asked for our help with wording and, low and behold, there it was on this enormous poster- 'Spacious seating, ample legroom'! We proudly took a photo to the confusion of the guests.
So, after a surprisingly good visit to Phnom Penh we caught a bus to Sihanoukville, on the south coast to check out a Cambodian beach.
There are more photos below