Day 1 - PhNom Penh, Cambodia

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January 18th 2018
Published: January 18th 2018
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After catching a much-needed night's sleep, we were woken by some lovely chanting melodic music, and when going out onto our balcony, the source was easily identifiable as a Yoga/Pilates style of morning exercise class. White, tunic-clad enthusiasts of all ages and gender getting their limbs lumbered on the riverside, in fact, the whole length of our visible vista showed a veritable outside gym, every type of machine in fervent use, and this at 6.30am with the sun barely risen. We almost felt the urge to join in ( only lasted a second though) and we settled to watch a perfect orange sunrise as the heat of the morning began to settle and whilst Leo slept , Paula drank coffee and enjoyed the morning bustle which is Sisowath.

Today we plan to explore on foot, as tomorrow we have arranged a full day with our Airport Taxi driver, Sock, to take us to some of the more sinister and appalling sad sites and museums that makes up an important part of Cambodia's recent bloody history, and which helped shape it's future.

Setting off before the heat of the day overwhelms us, at 9am it already feels mid- 20 degrees Celsius and will reach 30s by midday, so we dust off the walking shoes and brave the traffic crossings to head in the general direction of the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, must-sees for any self-respecting tourist! There is a lot going on, along the quayside. We observe fishermen trawling nets from worn wooden fishing boats, local women, old and not so old, sorting various types of rubbish from the many communal bins, piling it into meticulous recycling sacks before loading onto basic carts, leaving nothing behind. They have effectively 'cleansed' the quay of the usual daily rubbish that hundreds, if not thousands of us have passed through, eating and drinking and discarding, as some do.

Not rushing , we finally reach the Royal Palace, and very grand it looks. Eager to see and learn of it's history and past inhabitants, we paid our fee of $21 for two tickets (most prices are in USD here, which is easier to convert to UKL than the 40,000KHR to 1GBP math) Dissappointingly we are turned back at the entrance as a Paula's sleeved top isn't long enough, over the shoulder. Having preempted this situation, a shawl is quickly produced from our backpack, only to be declined also as unsuitable. No problem, we have our tickets replaced with re-entry ones, we trundle back to the hotel post haste and change Paula's top, on advice from the concierge we also ditch our backpack and Leo's hat is placed out of sight in a small bag, (all apparently potential reasons to bar entry). Declining all tour-guide offers at the entrance we confidently re-present our tickets, only for the same young man to tell Paula "So sorry madam you cannot enter as you have walking sandles and no socks". We both react to this by loudly protesting that the group of Asians who preceded us had big floppy hats ,flipflops and backpacks aplenty! We think our combined indignation won the day and they sheepishly let us enter. We couldn't help wondering though, if the gate guards were just bored and decided to pick on us for their entertainment as once inside we observed all the so-called dress codes were universally ignored. No matter, we spent a couple of hours wandering and absorbing as much history and past Royal glories as we could, wandering around the spectacular temples, Chedies and the tranquil and lush gardens and pools without further ado. On leaving the heat and humidity of the Palace we made our way to the National Museum where for another USD 30 we enjoyed a couple of hours strolling among the many Buddhist and Hindu statues and artifacts of Cambodian history.

The heat and humidity restricts all but leisurely excercise so after this we went for well deserved refreshments and brunch at the "FCC" , Foreign Correspondents Club, one block away from our hotel. The atmospheric, and from a recent history perspective, iconic press club. The views of the river are spectacular here where there is a confluence of four rivers including the huge Mekong and Tonle Sap, watching the Ships and river boats plying their trade. Fascinating.

Heat excavated, afternoon nap and early Dinner beckons. Early to bed for big day tomorow.

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19th January 2018

Do you do you think that the fact you declined a guided tour had anything to do with not being appropriately dressed. Probably guards get backhander from guides! Maybe just getting cynical in my old age. Love the blog looking forward to following with you on this journey!
20th January 2018

Hi Sheila, we had the same thoughts - spot on. Xx

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