Day 01: Old Phnom Penh, New Experience (Aug 2018)

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August 9th 2018
Published: August 15th 2018
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Thursday, 9th August 2018

More than 10 years ago, I was travelling by myself on this Jetstar flight 3K593 to meet my Cambodian friend, R at the Phnom Penh International Airport. Fast forward August 2018, there were more than 30 of us on this very same flight for our 4 Days 3 Nights retreat over the National Day long weekend. It was a last minute decision from my end to participate and I was really happy to be able to make it for this retreat. At the end of the 4 days, new friendships were forged and old friendships strengthened as we carved out our uniquely Phnom Penh experience.

Our flight took off at 3+ in the afternoon from Changi International Airport. Flight time was about 95 minutes. As usual, I always find the leg room on budget carriers to be extremely lacking for my 1.77m frame. More so whenever the passenger in front of me were to recline their seat. Very soon, I found out that I was one of the tallest guys among our travel party ranging from ages 17 to 70+.

Our trip started really well with a smooth flight and virtually no queues at the Cambodian Customs. Phnom Penh International Airport that greeted us was modern with sparkling clean restrooms. There were lots of construction activities going on around us and it seemed that these investments were dominated by PRC Chinese investors.

We soon linked up with the tour bus to bring us to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields located about 10km southeast from the city centre. This was one of the many Khmer Rouge killing fields that sprouted across Cambodia during the Pol Pot Regime in the 1970s which exterminated an estimated 2 million people during the genocide. Phnom Penh city was emptied out and the inhabitants sent to rural areas where there were met with harsh conditions, oftened with little food. It was no coincidence that the mortality rate was extremely high during the period.

After spending an hour or so at Choeung Ek, we were bussed to our hotel, Asia Tune where we would be staying for 3 nights. The hotel is located right smack in the city centre within walking distance to eateries, museums and the riverfront.

C and I did not join the rest to Nagaworld Casino. Instead, we went exploring around the busy streets for dinner and visited the night market along the tail-end of the riverfront. The fish amok that I ordered was ok to my taste and needed very little for us to get used to. My minor gripe was probably that it contained an overdose of coconut milk.

We took a slow walk back to our hotel after dinner passing by a couple of convenience shops owned by PRC Chinese as well as the red light district where we were seemingly "welcomed" by enthusiastic and naughty owners.

This was a day that started well for us as I looked forward to our days ahead in Phnom Penh.

Btw, Happy 53rd National Day, Singapore!

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