Cambodia Part 4 - Pnomh Penh

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October 7th 2016
Published: October 27th 2016
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Killing Fields
After a good night's sleep we got up early as we had until 11.00 a.m. until Makara picked us up to go touring. So, a quick breakfast with Eric Kayser before we hired a TukTuk to take us down to the Mekong River and the Royal Palace on the river bank. The Palace appeared at first glance to be a spectacular monument to conspicuous wealth, privilege, power and a finger up to the masses. Inside, it was a gleaming display of gold, silver and jewels often on the Bhudda's which festooned the halls and rooms of the many buildings. King Sihanouk was (still is?) revered by the people but was actually a corrupt, power hungry, dissolute despot (my take on him) until overthrown by another despot in 1970.

Lyn was really feeling the heat so we found our TukTuk driver and asked him if he could do a mini tour of the city for us. For US$6 he agreed and took us on an interesting trip through old and new parts, modern and traditional, markets, the river area - he was really good value and delivered us back to the White Mansion where Makara was to meet us with his
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Pnomh Penh
driver. We went to the the infamous prison, S21, where the Khmer Rouge tortured and murdered hundreds of Cambodian citizens usually for no good reason at all. Makara gave us a sit down lecture before we were allowed to go walking through the place. We didn't need a lecture. The place is horrific enough on it's own and has plenty of commentary for those visiting. No need to describe it. Men can do very awful things to others. A foul place.

And so to lunch at a local Khmer eatery recommended by Makara. We both had Cambodian sour soup to try it out. It was better than it sounds; like Tom Yum soup. Then it was back to the car and out to the Killing Fields to see more evidence of misguided butchery and savagery inflicted on those who couldn't help themselves. The mass graves, the bones, the skulls - evil. We didn't need to go. Felt like a voyeur.

Back to town to visit the Russian Market. A jam-packed, sweaty tangle of tacky stalls. Seriously hot and fetid inside with stalls only a metre and a half apart in the aisles. Selling? Junk. I bought a junk watch. It's still going. While we were in the maze of stalls the monsoon rain came again and shredded down onto the streets. Absolutely sheets of water which turned, once again, the streets to rivers. Amazing how quickly it starts and how heavy it is. It's coming to the end of the rainy season and this happens every day for a few hours.

Back to the hotel where we bade Makara adieu. We had already checked out but the staff were extremely obliging and allowed us to swim (we didn't), use the showers (we did), and generally make ourselves at home until picked up by our driver at 6.50 p.m. to go to the airport. We thought we'd allowed enough time to get there and we had, but the journey at that time of night, in the rain was a nightmare for the driver. We crept along at 5k's per hour in and out of the motor-scooters and TukTuk's until, an hour and a half later, we got to the airport. I was impressed with our driver though! He kept his cool through the packs of scooters, TukTuk's, cars, trucks as we splashed our way along the muddy, brown rivers that not long ago had been streets.

Once at Pnomh Penh International we got access to the ANA lounge so were able to relax, eat a bit, catch up on news, before we boarded the ANA flight to Tokyo at 10.50p.m.

Cambodia had been special for the short time we'd been there. Too short. There is an awful lot more to experience and we'd like to go back and explore more of the country. Pnomh Penh was a bustling, exciting, crazy place and has a lot more to offer than we saw in 24 hours. Traveling up the Mekong River to Pnomh Penh from Ho Chi Minh City would be fun to do and a great way to kick off a tour. Next time.


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