Phnom Penh

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September 16th 2010
Published: May 25th 2012
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16th Sept: In Bangkok, woke up v. early, 6:30 am, as someone started playing music, luckily it quickly stopped. Dossed around the hotel until it was time to go to the airport, only venturing to Tesco for water and red bull, as I was still feeling knackered. Go tthe shuttle to the airport, check-in was striaght forward and very quick. Headed through to departures and had some lunch. Wife in the coffee shop forgot to give me my coffee not impressed. People say Thai people are really nice and friendly, I didn't experience this, but maybe I wasn't there long enough or Bangkok is different. Was very apprehensive about the flight to Cambodia, as it was lashing down and thunder and lightening. However it stopped raining just before we got on the plane. The journey was short, but bumpy. Got my visa on arrival ($20), very straight forward, but they did lose my arrivals card that was in my passport so had to fill out a new one.

Got picked up by a tuk-tuk arranged by the hostel. It was cool, 1st time in a tuk-tuk. Loved it. The streets were choc-a-block with traffic and very chaotic. It's good to be back in Asia. A pleasant surprise at the hostel, I had been upgraded to a twin room, instead of being in the dorm. Love the room it has big high ceilings and matresses on the floor. Waqs sharing with a canny lass, called Britney. We went down to the waterfront for dinner. Had the Amok fish curry I had read about, it was delicious! I think I will be having that a lot here in Cambodia. Finished off the evening with as few beers.

17th Sept: Up early. The hot water that the room is meant to have failed to materialise, so the shower was a bit nippy. Breakfast was included in our nightly rate, score! Brittany and I decided to share a tuk-tuk to see the sights of Phnom Penh, which we arranged through the hostel as they have tuk-tuks who work with them.

Our first stop was S-21, a cheerful way to start the morning. Security Prison 21 was a notorious prison used by the Khmer Rouge. It is now known as Tuol Seng Genocide Museum and chronicles some of the horrors that took place in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge. S-21 was originally Tuol Svay Prey High School. However a few month after the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia it was converted into a prison and interrogation centre. The building was surrounded by electric barbed wire fences, classrooms were converted into cells and torture chambers, and windows were covered with bars and barbed wire so inmates couldn't escape. The cells were tiny and our guide told us that they were shared by two people. It was horrific to even imagine what went on there. Approximately 17,000 people passed trough s-21 and there were only seven known survivors. Our guide lost pretty much her whole family to the Khmer Rouge, her husband, daughter, father, and three brothersand sisters. Only one of her sisters survived. She also said that even though S-21 was such a horrific and devasting place people had no where to go so hung around the area, hoping thaqt their family members would turn up.

Back in our tuk-tuk we headed out to the Killing Fields. Choeung Ek used to be an orchard and is about 12 kilometres south of Phnom Penh. After the Khmer Rouge regime had bee toppled, the mass graves containing around 9,000 bodies were discovered at Choeung Ek and many of the dead were politcal prisoners who had been at S-21 to be tortured first. Despite such horrific things happening there, there was a very peaceful feeling to the place. We had a wander around the area, visiting the museum there and the Buddhist stupa that has built there. The stupa has 17 storeys and each one is filled with clothes, bone and skulls of the victims that were found on the sight.

After a very deep morning we stooped for some lunch, a rest and to escape the midday sun. We had lunch at a pretty non descript guesthouse near the National Museum, the ice coffee was a welcome cool down from the heat. We visited the National Museum. It is a very beautiful building and has beasutiful grounds, too. The museum has lots of Buddha statues and old artefacts. We sat in the shade and had a bottle of water before heading over to the Royal Palace.

We had a good wander around the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda and the palace grounds. It is all very ornate and beautiful. The Silver Pagoda was a bit of a let down as I expected something a bit grander. The gardens were pretty though. We got picked up by our tuk-tuk driver and headed back to the hostel for a short nap. We headed down to the waterfront again for dinner, having a quick look at the night market on our way down, and while we were walking the heavens opened so we dived into the first restaurant that we could find and had Kampot Pepper Squid for dinner, very nice and spicy. We also polished off some chocolate ice cream. On the way back to the hostel we got drenched by the rain.

18th Sept: Shopping Day! We decided to have a more relaxing day than yesterday and headed out to do some shopping. Our first stop was the Central Market. It was fairly big, with loads of little alleyways crammed with stuff. Whatever you wanted or needed you could find there. They had everything for sale. We went to Wat Than. Wat Than is a temple that helps people with disabilities and or suffered from polio. They have workshops were they train people to make things and then sell the stuff in their shops. I wish I could have bought the whole shop. So many beautiful things, but sadly it wouldn't all fit in my backpack. Our final stop on our shopping trip was the Russian Market. It was absolutely huge, with loads of stalls crammed in and goods piled high. The market was absolutely boiling so we couldn't stand being in there for too long. They also sold everything from tourist tat to fresh fish and meat.

Went for lunch at a cafe near the market called Jar of Clay. It is run exclusively by woman to support themselves and their families. Had a lovely lunch, chicken and roasted vegetable baguette. Took a tuk-tuk back to our hostel and decided to wander over to Wat Phnom. Wat Phnom was surrounded by beautiful gardens and we walked up the hill to the temple. It was really pretty and I also saw an elephant! For dinner that night BRitanny had invited me tio go with her to meet a friend of a friend. So the three of us were on Sorya's motorbike, when the heavens opened. Eventhough Sorya went and got us some ponchos the damage was already done. We looked like drowned rats when we turned up to the restaurant. And the restaurant seemed pretty posh! The restaurant was gorgeous and Sorya ordered us loads of lovely food. Had a lovely evening. We got drenched on the way home, too.

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