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January 2nd 2009
Published: January 9th 2009
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Friday 2nd
Up early for the bus to Phnom Penh. The tuk-tuk turned up at 7am and took us the short distance to a intersection by a busy café used as a bus station. Many locals were arriving in town crammed on the strange motorbike pulled carts that act as buses for the country folk. The bus was a little bit ancient but okay. As expected we first headed off to Kep to pick up more travellers. Beyond Kep we travelled for several miles slowly along a sandy road before turning for Phnom Penh. The road was then tarmacked all the way. Ox-drawn carts were much more common than on the road from PP to Sihanoukville. We stopped at a roadside café for a wee stop and were surrounded by the usual kids selling fruit. There were also selling something elaborately wrapped in banana leaves. I bought some. Each 'straw' contained some tasteless tapioca like substance. As I discarded the leaves in the nearest thing I could find to a bin - I realised that the bin contained three semi-alive half plucked chickens that were dying in the full midday sun - not nice. I decided not to eat the rest of the tapioca. The bus dropped us off at a bus station near a hectic market. As we had anticipated we were immediately surrounded by a mob of tuk-tuk and moto drivers. In our usual tactic now, we dived off to the nearest café with our rucksacks so that we could collect ourselves before approaching a tuk-tuk driver ourselves rather than being ambushed by ten at once. As well as a coffee I also had a tasty sour fish soup. We decided to try a different guest house in PP and a tuk-tuk driver took us the short distance for a dollar to the Royal which is a short walk from the river front. Settled in, we strolled down to the river front along a road which seems to be of outdoor workshops with engine parts strewn across the pavement being repaired. The river front is being redeveloped so is currently a very unscenic boarded up building site. There are numerous beggars - many of them amputees. We headed for a charity café and I bought a pirated copy of a travel book on Laos from one child pedlar. It was $4 and he disappeared off with my $5 note to get change. I didn't expect to see any but amazingly he returned with the change. Meanwhile another street person pointed out the stitching coming undone on my sandals and he repaired them at the roadside armed only with a needle and some thread. He did a good job so I gave him a little bit more than the agreed price. It is incredible how these people scratch a living. Phnom Penh is difficult to like with its grinding poverty so evident on the streets. That said, it is a vibrant place with strange sights around every corner. We spent the evening in the sanctuary of the guest house - not keen to walk the streets of PP at night. We watched a video of the 'Killing Fields' incredibly poignant and appropriate to watch it here. It is so moving especially the meeting up at the end.


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