Published: September 25th 2008September 20th 2008
Cambodia’s been great so far. As the plane is arriving in Phnom Penh I am looking over the country side and its 85% water, it looks like a typhoon had just destroyed everything; a guy from England who lives there assures me that it is normal for this time of year to look like that. Getting through the airport is a bit messy, you have to buy a 30 day visa, and I didn’t have a picture, so the guard says “one dollar” a phrase used often in Cambodia. OK well I know he probably shouldn’t get it, but why argue and delay the process. So after a bit I am through the airport and outside in the rain. I blow off about ten taxi offers until I can get my bearings, and figure out what the rate should be. I opt for a Tuk Tuk, as this is the cheapest option for $4.00. BTW …everything here is in US dollars. Unless they have to give you change for something less than a dollar.
On the recommendation of the guy on the plane who lives here, I ask to go to OK Guesthouse, along the way I think to myself,
I wonder if he is just taking me to an ok guesthouse? The traffic is the worst I’ve seen, and I witnessed a family of 5 on one moped!! They drive on the right side (mostly) but there are no rules, and traffic jams are very frequent. Then a police officer comes, gets off his bike and sorts it all out, then goes off to the next jam. It’s actually very comical. A 10km trip took almost an hour. The guy’s motorbike breaks down and he apologizes as he hops off to fix it. Within 5 minutes he’s got it figured and back running. So eventually we pull up to a sign that says OK Guesthouse. Perfect.
OK Guesthouse has been brilliant. The room I have is very clean, and even has a TV, for less than a dorm room in Malaysia. They give you a little book, and you just help yourself to whatever you want in the restaurant and mark it in your book. At the end of the stay you pay for everything at once. The system works very well. The common area is actually the restaurant but everyone hangs out there and a TV keeps
you occupied if there is no one to talk to, which hasn’t yet happened to me. It seams there are much much more travelers in Cambodia than in Malaysia. I have met loads of people.
The first day I head out for a quick walk around the immediate area, and find myself at the Royal Palace, so I head in and do some sight seeing. The palace is done up very nice, and the gardens around it are manicured with perfection. Inside the compound you can tour the Throne Hall, and the Silver Pagoda as well as a few smaller building. The Silver Pagoda is by far the nicest, inside the floor is covered by 500 silver tiles, and there is an amazing Emerald Buddha glowing Baccarat crystal high up on a dais. In front of the Emerald Buddha stands a life sized Golden Buddha with over 9500 diamonds on it, the biggest said to be 25 carats. You can’t take pictures of the best parts inside, so the best I got is the outside which is still quite impressive.
The following day I visited the Killing fields of Choeung Ek and S-21 with a group of travelers
I'll save you all the close up shots
from Israel. The first stop was the Killing fields where reportedly during 1975-1978 about 17,000 men, women, and children died at this extermination camp. (I’m not saying this was going to be a happy day) When you walk around the area you can see fragments of bones, and bits of old clothing scattered around the mass graves. Of the sites 129 mass graves, 43 have been left untouched. At the site stands a Memorial Stupa which houses more than 8000 skulls arranged by sex and age. As if the Killing fields weren’t disturbing enough, we head over to S-21 also known as Tuol Sleng Museum, where the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, were detained and tortured before being sent to the Killing Fields. Inside S-21 there is room after room of pictures of the victims, as the Khmer Rouge were meticulous in documenting there barbarism. Some rooms have been left completely they way they were found less a corpse, and you can see the tools of torture and old blood stained floor tiles and splatters on the roof and walls. I must say this was very disturbing, and pretty much ruined the rest of the day for me.
Again no pictures aloud inside.
The following day a couple of guys and myself whom met at the OK Guesthouse decided to go tour the National Museum, there really wasn’t a lot there however it was a pleasant change from the day before. There were a bunch of sculptures, almost all of Buhhda, and one note able one of Vishnu from the 6th or 7th century. There was also a small display of paintings and pottery from the 4th through the 10th centuries.
After three days of intensive cultural excursions I decided I had earned a good night out, and a bunch of us from the OK Guesthouse, went out on the town. We started the night off at a place called Happy Pizza. I didn’t know when we arrived, but I’m not going to pretend that when the waiter asked us if we wanted him to make our pizza’s “Happy” that I didn’t know what he meant. So I ask “How much extra” … Same price he says. Alright everyone agrees. Now I’ll save some stories for when I get home, but it was like drinking all night, without having drunk all night. Afterwards we somehow pile all 7 of us into one
I didn't want to incriminate annyone.
tuk tuk that comfortably sits four (even the locals have there limits, and are staring at us like we're weird) and head off for a nightclub called The Heart of Darkness a very positive sounding place, (I’m thinking on the way over, at least I’m not alone). Once inside and through all the security pat downs it was actually quite nice, and played mostly love songs, so I didn’t dance much. The group of us lasted an hour or so there and then all promptly headed back to the guest house.