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Published: August 12th 2011
Gasoline Being Sold on the Side of the Road
The gasoline in Cambodia is very expensive so it is smuggled in from Thailand and sold on the side of the road. It is stored in old alcohol bottles - at first Seth was wondering why so much booze was being sold on the side of the road.
After a 6 hour busride, we arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The ride wasn't too bad as we got to see much of the Cambodian (Khmer) "countryside" - very interesting views... So poor and all of a sudden you'll see a multicolored, huge, golden gate - leading to nowhere... The homes are on 8 foot high stilts so as to avoid being wiped out by flooding. The exposed underneath is used to work, hang hammocks and TRY to escape the heat. Also - the cows are all so skinny... We were told, that this time of year is when they are at their plumpest, to give you a better idea - we could count their ribs.
We arrived in Phnom Penh at 4pm and our hotel was 4 doors away - sweet location - but as soon as we got off the bus we were hounded by so many locals: "taxi?motorbike?tuktuk?need hotel?good price...." It was also a great location because we were leaving from the same bus stop the next day. We dropped our bags in what is a very simple but clean room and ran to some sites before they closed. It was SWELTERING heat! Who
would have thought we could be so liberal as to how sweaty and sticky you feel - but you just cant care... An ice bath is needed...
As we reported about the "Cat-Rats" in Siem Reap, our friends were still scurrying around us in Phnom Penh, we're thinking that they will be escorting us throughout our travels, joy. Between the giant insects and rats, Gali is definitely being calm about it and Seth turns a blind eye to them, unless they land on his shoulder, at which point he freaks out a little.
As we were saying, after we dropped our bags we began walking, knowing that we only had about an hour until the sites would close their doors for the evening. Our first stop, two blocks from the hotel, a beautiful temple built on a hill. We then jumped on a tuktuk and asked the driver to drop us at the local market, markets in Cambodia are not the markets we have encountered on most of our travels, it is difficult to stomach the local fare and smells when walking through the food section, hence we try to avoid the food and stick to the wares.
After a few souvenir purchases... we opted to walk back to the hotel and see more of the city, while it remained light out. We came across a park, where the locals were partaking in a game of badminton, walked through some smaller local markets and wandered past our hotel to the palace grounds, which we did not check out as that was our day two itinerary.
The city was bustling, very different from Siem Reap, much less touristy but we still see the gringos, not as poor- but still poor.
As we walked back to the hotel along the riverfront, Seth spotted some NON FAT FROZEN YOGURT- the do it yourself kind. yumyumyumyum- Seth promised we could go back the next day 😊 (and we did).
As we got back to our hotel, it was almost 8pm and we were starved so we headed right back out to grab some grub. A dinner of curry, noodles and spring rolls... seems like this is becoming our staple food. As we turned in for the evening we could not help but wonder about the sketchiness of the individuals staying at our hotel. Owned by an ex-pat, who was
always sitting at the bar, there seemed to be only older Caucasian guests and quite a few local women hanging around.. we just let it be, locked our door and did not inquire. It was a clean room and shower, we were therefore happy.
The next morning, following the hotel soup and noodle breakfast with undrinkable coffee (Gali has yet to have a coffee since our flight from Toronto) we set off for the Russian market. We were told to head to the market as our first stop as the heat and enclosed spaces cause stuffiness and smells. As we walked through the rows of stalls, we found some souvenirs, Gali purchased chop-sticks made of her favorite tree, the palm tree as well as a few other trinkets. We then tuk-tuked to the Royal Palace. The Palace is a complex of buildings which serves as the royal residence of the king of Cambodia. We were told that Gali would have to dress modestly for the palace as it is still in use by monks, so she brought along her sarong. As we tried to pass security, they stopped her and said... skirt too short and scarf not ok to
cover shoulders... eep, we thought we were going to have to forfeit seeing the palace. Luckily, at the market Seth bought a t-shirt, so Gali was beautifully dressed in a long sarong skirt and Tiger beer t-shirt, did we mention it was 35+ degrees?!?! The Palace was composed of many architecturally beautiful buildings and temples, after a short amount of time Gali took Seth up on his offer and as promised we stopped for frozen yogurt which was a couple of blocks from the palace.
Refreshed and ready to tackle our third stop for the day, we tuk-tuked to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This is currently a museum which was once a high school prior to being used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge communist regime, led by Pol-Pot, from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979. An estimated 17,000 people were imprisoned there. Most of the victims included soldiers, government officials, as well as academics, doctors, teachers, students, factory workers, monks, engineers, etc. Later, the party leadership's paranoia turned on its own ranks and purges throughout the country saw thousands of party activists and their families brought to
Tuol Sleng and murdered. As we walked through the buildings and floors, we witnessed the cramped spaces and tools used for torture. There were a few photograph exhibits, the Khmer Rouge regime kept very precise documentation of their acts and had photographs of each prisoner who was murdered, many of these were on display. As well, testimonials of Cambodians who served in Pol-Pots army discussing their regrets (some did not regret) and reasons for participating were also exhibited. Interestingly, those leaders responsible were only detained in 2007 and are currently awaiting their trials. Pol-Pot passed away years ago, before he was prosecuted.
As we tuk-tuked back to the hotel, we stopped at "Blue Pumpkin Cafe", this was a chain we had been seeing everywhere and we both really wanted a sandwich, enough of noodle soups. We were in luck, Gali had a feta & eggplant sandwich and Seth had a chicken sandwich, we enjoyed the international fare. Most importantly, Gali had a delicious cafe 😊
Back to the hotel, quick shower and onto the bus for 2pm en route to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. So long Cambodia thanks for the hospitality it was beautiful and a great
Gali making her selection
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