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Published: October 23rd 2017
(Well actually here we are in KL airport at the end of our trip , and it’s been so busy every day and evening I haven’t had time to blog.)
So let’s go back in time to about two weeks ago and with our trusty guide and group of new friends we were off on a walking tour of the Kings Palace and Silver Pagoda in Phnom Pen , which was only a stones throw from our hotel. First thing we had to learn was how to cross the street: absolutely no point in waiting for the millions of cars , rattling old vans , bikes and tuck tucks loaded with everything the sun!!! You have to be confident and look for the tiniest gap in the traffic and start walking and keep walking and the traffic will weave it’s way around you , crossing points with green man were also a possibility but don’t think the traffic will actually stop and look around in all directions because that’s where it’s coming from. We never yet found that there were any real rules of the road ... but we must’ve done something right as we survived.... the mantra was “keep
walking, keep walking ” . Walking around in Naples had been like a mini training but with traffic nowhere near as crazy as here.
We were taken around the most beautiful palace complex by a local palace guide who gave us lots of information about history and buildings. The French had taken over Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos back in the mid 1880s as part of their colonialisation and this was at that time called French Indo China. So lots of building here have that influence. The palaces were magnificent ..such riches as always astound me when know that such poverty existed at the other end of the spectrum....but what’s changed over the centuries ? and how about a floor covered in silver tiles ...such splendour.
Both Buddhism and Hinduism have been religions practised in Cambodia and this is evident in the temple complexes... quite a mixture of styles and influences on the population too and their beliefs.
There were lots of children and others in the streets asking us to buy things and some beggars also , but we were told by our Intrepid guide not to buy from the children as the company has a general
policy of responsible tourism and by buying from children we are encouraging them NOT to go to school , and the company supports several NGOs which get kids into schools and training. We were happy to go along with that... in fact at Siem Reap airport there were also leaflets and signs asking for that support too.
We visited restaurants which were training schools for kids off the streets, shops where clothing and goods were made by people with disabilities and women who had been abused or trafficked.
Cambodia is a poor country with not so much infrastructure but lovely smiling friendly people ... don’t expect pristine clean streets . In front of their homes and shopfronts we would see someone sweeping and cleaning their area but then there was rubbish by the side of the road and on spare bits of land. The recent monsoon rains had taken their toll of some of the roads and there was flooding in many areas and lots of potholes. Our hotel room looked down upon the Old Market covered in awnings and this was amazing to walk through and see locals buying and selling.... everything is bought fresh each day...so
many stalls selling flowers ,vegetables, fruit, fish and meats ...and we didn’t see any flies !! Some of the crowded alleyways were for buying pots and pans and plastic goods, some for clothing. All so colourful, and great to see how these local people live. We have been very happy with the standate of hotels , our first one had great views of street life and the market , palaces roof tops and the Mekong . Also a pool for swimming as well as two roof top pools and bar ...what more could we want.
And now to the food ..we loved it all ...we all got on so well we ate all our meals as a group and our guide would choose the restaurants and sometimes we would have a set menu which was great as the chef would just send our plates of stuff for us to try... Fish/Chicken Amok is a popular National dish and we ate loads of spring rolls and yummy fresh salads with mango and banana flowers and lots of things we had never heard of ...but all delicious. Yes there was curry and chilli but we never found anything too hot ..it
Such perfect body control
was all so flavourful. Then of course there were some SURPRISES.... would we like to try the rice wine in this jar which had tarantulas the bottom. I couldn’t believe it when Jenny said she would try it ! And she actually said it was nice and tasted like grappa. Next thing you know Maree and Annette were eating a fried tarantula . A plate of deep fried crickets in chilli was brought out and not to be outdone by these girls from Down Under I ate a cricket having been told to take the wings off first , and what a surprise -it was very tasty and nice and crunchy. In the market one evening we stopped by a stall selling all sorts of insects and snakes too... so I had to try a bit of tarantula ...not as nice as the cricket but I drew the line at the snake , it didn’t look too good!
This my first visit to SE Asia and I have found everyone friendly and helpful, lots of people speak English , signs are mostly in English . The airports have been very good - so far we have been in Kuala
Lumpur, Phnom Pen, Siem Reap , Ho Chi Min City and Hanoi so we have had a bit of a taster of airports. Toilets are always of concern (to me anyway ) and we have found almost all of them have been very clean and some very nice and modern ( better than Eastbourne seafront) and mostly western style. And I will include a photo of the sign for the Ladies in Cambodia which I had never seen before . Jenny was amused also by a sign inside the toilets which said NO STANDING ON THE TOILET !
In Cambodia it is easy to pay in US dollars and most everything is signed in $ so that make it very easy.
During the week at Siem Reap we also saw a Cultural Show with traditional Dancing which was splendid with beautiful movements of the dancers telling a story , and what fabulous costumes. Another evening our guide arranged tuck-tucks to take us to an acrobatic circus show . That was just amazing ...what joy and enthusiasm and skills from these young people who had at one time been street kids with no hope but now had a profession
and career opportunities. We were wowed by it all.
The following photos show some of the life in our little corner of Phnom Pen and next blog will be about Angkor Wat and some of the
( I have taken about 1000 photos so I am trying hard to whittle them down ...hope you like them )
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