Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville

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April 19th 2011
Published: April 19th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Our fourth and final day in Siam Reap was spent on the Tonle Sap lake visiting a floating village. Unlike the floating village that we had seen sometime ago in Thailand the difference with this village was that, due to the large difference in water levels during the year,this village actually floated and was not on stilts.

We had a look around the village and also learned a little bit about the trades of the villagers, who were largely fishermen during the dry season but stopped in the wet season when the fish were pregnant. We also saw the crocodile farm, which we weren't too impressed with as it was very cramped and they did not have that much space.

After we returned from the trip we lounged by the pool a bit before taking the sleeper bus to Sihanouk ville. Now, the sleeper bus was our third attempt at overnight travel and it started promisingly with a large chair and plenty of space to spread out to sleep. However, the rules of the road in Cambodia seem to be Horn -Mirror Hom – Manoeuvre – Horn. Needless to say this does prevent a good nights sleep and we were bleary eyed when we arrived in Sihanouk ville just before dawn.

Unfortunately it was Cambodian New Year and a lot of the locals had fled to the beaches for a holiday. This meant two wonderful things: one a lot of the hostels were full and; two the hostels all had inflated prices. That said we did eventually find somewhere that was nice, had a pool and wasn't too expensive.

Alas the problem with us going to the beach appears to be that whenever we try it at least one of us is ill. This time it was Stephanie's turn and, as a result, we never strayed too far from the hotel. Which is actually a bit of a blessing as there is not much to do in Sihanouk ville and, when we did visit the beach, it was over crowded and covered in rubbish. It is probably a bit nicer if you are there when it is not too busy, or if you visit one of the islands nearby but we didn't.

After 3 days catch up on a tan, by the end of which I am still not tanned, we caught an early bus over to Phnom Penh. The bus ride was miserable as the air conditioning did not seem to work and on a full bus in Cambodia during the day that made it very hot. Luckily we made good time to the capital and didn't spend all day on the bus.

Unfortunately, when we arrived the guest house we wanted wasn't exactly where it should have been. Or moreover, it was where it should have been but our 4 year old copy of Lonely Planet had put it somewhere else. Thankfully the Tuk Tuk driver recommended somewhere nearby that was actually nice so it wasn't much of a problem. It was even close to pretty much all of the sights we wanted to see which made it pretty useful.

After we had checked in, and cooled off a little, we headed pretty much next door to the Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace. It was fairly impressive as there was a lot of detailed work that had been carved into the Royal Palace making it look very grand. The Silver Pagoda was a bit more of a disappointment. Named due to 200 plus silver panels on the floor this affect is pretty much lost to the world when you cover the floor in blue carpet. The only bits that you could see had been lovingly restored, holding them all together with cello tape. All in all not the best attraction in the world and, when you were in the smaller display rooms there was again no information about what you were seeing. This all would not have annoyed me too much apart from the fact that, as a tourist, I had to pay a massively inflated price to get in – a common theme in Cambodia.

The next day we walked around some of the other temples in and around Phnom Penh. There were only two recommended in the guide book these included the temple and stupa housing a piece of Buddha's eyebrow hair, Wat Ounalom and a temple on a hill, Wat Phnom. The temple with the eyebrow hair had more lights in it than Las Vegas, which I think detracted somewhat from the look of the place and the temple at the top of the hill was closed. It would have been nice for them to tell you that before you bought your ticket to get up there, but that would clearly have been cheating.

We then headed of to the Central Market, we didn't buy anything but we came close, before heading to the National Museum. This was an impressive display of the art and sculptures, largely from the Angkor region of the country and did have some information about what you were seeing, and even some information about the lives of the people at the time (hurray) however, you still needed to hire a guide to fully appreciate what you were seeing.

Afterwards we went out and bought a boat trip down the Mekong Delta with a few stop offs and a homestay – which may or may not be on a boat. Clearly this is the lazy, if somewhat easy way of reaching Ho Chi Minh City and saves us the hassle of planning anything ourselves. So it is time to sit back for what will hopefully be 4 stress free days of doing what every other tourist does when they get here!


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