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Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia


We arrived in Phnom Penh by bus, but thankfully the road from Siem Reap is tarmac, not dirt track. And the bus was newer, air conditioned, and had more leg space - a good thing when you're 6ft 4! Our friends Niall and Tini travelled with us on this route, and stayed with us for our time there.

Lucky Number 11 Guesthouse on the lake was our chosen home for our 4 day stay. The room was comfortable - and we were getting to like having cold showers all the time. The view from the pier was superb, especially for watching the sunset across the lake. And the food and people were wonderful and helpful in sorting everything out. One thing though, a lot of the guesthouses have bathrooms that feature showers and sinks that drain straight onto the floor - meaning if you not quite with it, you get wet feet or trousers when brushing your teeth or generally using the sink.

Phnom Penh was quite a contrast to Siem Reap, with everywhere being a lot more built up, and all the roads heaving with bikes and street sellers. I particularly enjoyed Central Market, a massive domed structure in the centre of town featuring stalls selling everything imaginable at knock-down prices.

We were also starting to learn that there's a few things you need to know about the road system in Phnom Penh in particular, but most of Southeast Asia appears to have variations on this theme:

You can drive both ways down one way streets, on either side of the road. It's your choice.

Roundabouts feature 2 way, no-one has right-of way traffic flows where pedestrians are expected to cross through the middle, not across the peripheral roads.

The bigger the vehicle, the more right of way it has - most people are on scooters.

When passing a vehicle, bib the horn as many times as humanly possible, often to the point the poor thing is giving up. And the bigger the vehicle the bigger the horn - ear damaging when riding on a open sided tuk-tuk!

You turn left by driving into the oncoming taffic till someone stops.

You cross the road by doing something akin to Marla Singer in Fight Club, by wandering into the traffic making everyone swerve round you. Large vehicles provide good cover for this dangerous manouevre!

Traffic lights are optional.

As are headlights at night!

Needless to say, we didn't attempt to drive on these roads!

In the south of the city, there's the S21 Genocide Museum, which is the original school where the Khmer Rouge tortured and murdered thousands of men, women and children wiping out whole families in the process. It was a very sobering and shocking site, made worse by not really knowing it had happened before we went there! More reading will be required to fully understand what went on.

Some 15km outside of town - about 40 minutes on the bumpy roads in a tuk-tuk - is the killing fields, where thousands of the victims were executed and buried. The site now features the open holes, and a memorial containing the skulls of around 8,000 of the victims.

I also took to my usual habit of wandering around the streets randomly. I find this a great way of seeing places, and finding things that you wouldn't otherwise find in the guidebook, such as the rollerink and fairground tucked away to the South. I don't think the locals were used to seeing a Westerner wandering the streets as I was, as most tourists seem to stick to certain areas. It was nice as people would say hello to you - including the slightly annoying scooter taxis that seemed baffled by me wanting to actually walk instead of riding a bike!

We also sampled the nightlife, starting off with some friends in the Guesthouse, and then moving onto Heart of Darkness - which, believe it or not, is not a goth club! It featured cheesy music, locals hustling the tourists on the pool table, and the seemingly obligatory dirty old men. But, we did have a good laugh, particularly when Niall did a cartwheel on the stage which involved him finishing off planted in the middle of a nearby table, and me trying to persuade the bouncers that despite his somewhat compromised position and inability to talk or walk, that he was infact, not drunk.

Phnom Penh was a wonderful place to and I'm glad we got the chance to meet the lovely people that live there. Our one regret on leaving for Vietnam was that we didn't spend longer there, or visit Sihanoukville (a beach resort to the South), which is a favourite with the locals!

Posted by Glug 05:36 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Siem Reap and Angkor, Cambodia

Visiting the magnificent temples of Angkor, we discovered a whole new world.

sunny 30 °C

We arrived in Cambodia slightly nervous as so many people had told us it was a slightly dodgy place at times. The road in didn't help matters! It had to be on of the worst roads ever 'built', and featured a range of potholes, mud and assorted slow traffic that our driver insisted on vearing across to pass other vehicles. Thankfully, though the bus arrived in one piece - but only just I think! We also heard one horror story from the day before where a bridge had needed repairs, causing the usual 8 hour (sore bum after that), to take 18 hours... Thankfully we missed that!

Our first day, we headed into the temples bristling with excitment after seeing a documentary on Discovery the night before. We had 2 mopeds - the preferred form of 'taxi' here - and after buying our passes - $40 for 3 days - we headed straight to Angkor most famous temple, Angkor Wat. It was amazing actually being there! The place is truly magnificent, and everyone should go and see it if they get the chance! We wandered freely around in the temple, climbing the stupidly steep stairs - worse was to come though.

Next, our drivers took us to the ancient capital of Angkor Thom, where we saw our favourite temple, Bayon. The main feature of this is that all of the towers have 4 faces, facing the 4 points of the compass. But what made it even better was the hap-hazard way it's been built, creating a labyrinth of passageways.

After wandering around the rest of the capital, we moved onto Ta Keo which is an unfinished temple. The towers are squared off, with no decoration, and even steeper steps than before! Coming down them was quite frightening, but worth the effort for the fantastic view it afforded from the top!

Next, we went to Ta Prohm, which in my opinion was one of the more interesting temples as the Jungle has started to reclaim it. Trees are growing out of and on top of the buildings, creating an almost alien landscape within the temple.

We finished the day off, watching the sunset from the top of Phnom Bakheng - the only hill in the area. Sadly, it seemed most of the tourists in the area also watched the sunset.

The next day, we went further afield - and sitting on the back of a scooter for an hour on dirt tracks is very painful! We started with the waterfall at Kbal Spean, which mainly features some ancient carvings and butterflies (a lot of them!)

Next, we went to Banteay Srei, which is one of the smaller temples, but also the most intricately decorated and intact of them all. After lunch, we then moved onto East Mebon - sorry, but by this point I was starting to get templed out. Next came Neak Pean, which was different as it featured a shrine set in the centre of a resevoir, surrounded by 4 smaller resevoirs.

Our final temple was Preah Khan, which blew us away. First of all for it's shear scal and complexity, and for the state of the disrepair it's in. This one hasn't so much been claimed back by the jungle, but age is taking it's toll on the structures, making it a great place to wander around inside and get almost lost.

Siem Reap and the ruins are amazing, and I can't recommend going there enough!

Posted by Glug 23:31 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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