Today we left Ho Chi Minh City for Phnom Penh, about 8 hours away. Luckily the coach was spacious and comfortable and the journey seemed to fly by. We also met some Italians on the coach who had recognized us from our first hostel in Vietnam! On arrival we were bustled into tuktuks and taken to our hotel. Despite the rooms apparently having had a recent refurbishment, we seemed to have drawn the short straw with the state of ours! We arrived about 5pm so after settling in we headed out for dinner at a a restaurant that served traditional Khmer dishes, we opted for a Khmer curry which we soon regretted as although it was delicious it was very spicy!! As we were leaving the restaurant there was a torrential downpour and lightening lit up the sky, this made for an exciting yet scary tuktuk journey back!
Today we set off to explore the area and the central market which was teeming! It was also set out with masses of narrow zigzag paths between shops so it would have been very easy to get lost! Due to the heat and the need for something other than noodles or rice, our healthy lunch consisted of a healthy icecream sundae! Our next stop was the Royal Palace, we had underestimated the distance and so by the time we had walked there, we'd easily burnt off our lunch time treat! We were greated by a friendly guide who was an employee of the palace so we agreed to a 15 minute private tour which turned into 2 hours! The guide spoke very good English and was passionate about the history and culture of Cambodia and the Royal Palace so it ended up being 2 hours very well spent. He explained a lot to us before leading us around each building. He also willingly turned into our personal photographer! Without the guide we would have been none-the-wiser when we left as strangely there were no signs with information on. The Royal complex also included a Silver Pagoda, (the floor is made of silver plates made from the coins that used to be their currency). The pagoda housed the most expensive Buddha weighing 94kg of gold and 4000 diamonds! There was also the largest emerald Buddha made from a single stone. He also took us around Elephant Place where the elephants used to be kept. Throughout the tour he seemed adament that we gave him our email addresses...apparently for the king...Our next stop was the nearby National Museum of Cambodia which housed many Buddhist statues.
Next we went for dinner by the river where we were hounded by many children trying to sell us souvenirs. For their young age their english was good and the phrases, 'lovely jubbly' and 'easy tiger' were thrown about a lot!
Today we headed out to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which was based in the former prison buildings used under the Khmer Rouge regime. It was quite shocking and poignant especially as we weren't that aware of this brutal history prior to our trip. Next we visited the Choeung Ek Killing Fields where the prisoners of the Tuol Sleng prison were taken to be executed. Their deaths were brutal and 8000 skulls are displayed in a central monument. The grounds were eery and had quite an impact as you wandered around listening to first hand accounts through our audio guides. Due to the rain, clothing worn by victims had become unearthed which added to the unsettling atmosphere. We then headed back to the river front by tuktuk for dinner.
Today we got on a 8 hour bus journey (again) to the Siem Reap in the north. This time however the journey seemed to last for a lot longer. As soon as we arrived at the bus station tuktuk drivers swarmed the coach! After driving along dirt paths we were pleasantly surprised to see our 4 star hotel! On arrival we were given a refreshing drink and nibbles as well as a free welcome massage which we have to look forward to tomorrow.
Tomorrow is a very full day with a cooking course in the morning followed by a floating village tour in the afternoon with our massages in the evening to unwind.
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