Goodbye Vietnam, Hello Cambodia

Trip Start Mar 21, 2010
Trip End Mar 16, 2011

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Monday, April 12, 2010

12 APRIL 2010 - We were to leave Ho Chi Minh City on a bus at 7am but didn't leave till 8am. It took about 2 hrs to get to the Vietnam-Cambodia border.  The trip took a total of 6 hrs.  We got to the border and we were told to take our backpacks off the bus and go through security.  We lined up and zapped our bags through, no worries.  We waited sometime to get our passports stamped and finally we went through.  Back on the bus we drove to the Cambodian side and had to get off the bus again and customs sighted our passports. A security guy zapped us on the forehead with a zapper gun assuming it was to check us if we had flu like symptoms - or maybe 'price check'. We got back onto the bus and had a pit stop for 20 minutes and then we continued on our bus trip which was good (no sleeper bus) so it was fine. We drove through the most driest, most brown countryside we have ever seen. Most of the rice fields were bone dry with just a few patches of green rice fields.  The countryside was so dry and dusty (worse than Vietnam) dotted cute houses on stilts.  As we were getting closer to Phnom Penh we saw some of the poorest rural areas we have ever seen. It was incredibly dirty, very run down and the roads were just dirt and plenty of piles of rubble, dirt and stuff everywhere.  We both thought is this Phnom Penh? To be honest I (Mary) thought what have we come to? As usual you take it for what it is as it is a third world country.  As we got closer we stopped in a town to get on a short ferry ride across a lake. As soon as we stopped we had touts nearly coming onto the bus but no-one got off because we were just going through the crossing.  We kept driving and then closer we came to Phnom Penh the better it looked.  As we arrived Phnom Penh is a mish mash of a place, with really flash buildings including government buildings, gorgeous temples to really run down city living apartments.  The roads here seem to be somewhat cleaner, not spotless thats for sure and hardly any street food vendors and not many touts.  

We arrived at our bus depot and was waiting for our free pickup that our guesthouse arranged for us.  No show, not happy waiting around in the scorching heat with our heavy backpacks it wasn't fun. We were hassled by tuk tuk drivers and were told that no-one will pick us up because they probably have gone home because as its Cambodia new year celebrations.  Not believing them that they wouldn't turn up we waited around for a while.  We gave up waiting, it was so hot so we grabbed a tuk tuk for $1 to take us to the "Me Mates Place" guesthouse.  It was only a couple of blocks away so we probably paid too much.  We told the guy at reception that we weren't happy that no-one picked us up but they didn't seem to care because it was New Year celebrations and staff go home, still why did they offer pick up in the first place. Our first impression of this guesthouse wasn't a good one. We settled into our rooms and had cold showers, a room once again without no external window feels a bit strange. 

We walked around town, hardly any traffic was a relief and we had a late lunch/early dinner.  We had delicious chicken spring rolls and pizza.  The pizza was really nice, not like in Vietnam which made hard and crunchy ones, here in Phnom Penh they are actually very nice. We try to have traditional food as much as we can but sometimes its a nice change to have a little western food too.

We have already been pleasantly surprised with Cambodia.  Firstly, all the locals that we have come across speak very good English and they seem more friendly here.  The food we have had here so far has been fantastic just like in Hoi An. According to Lonely Planet Phnom Penh is supposed to be one of the top places for eating in Asia - we think its really good, so much better here than a lot of places we ate in Ho Chi Minh City and other parts of Vietnam. Everything here is quoted in US dollars, in one way it makes it easier to work out. We went to the ATM here and the only currency the machine would offer us is US dollar so we didn't get any local currency out.  4,000 riel = $1 AUD.  
13 APRIL 2010 - We had breakfast in our guesthouse, a "Canadian Breaky" which had two eggs, buttered toast, fried potatoes, bacon and tea or OJ. It was so nice to have tea with normal milk (no condensed milk - woo hoo) and it went down well. Breaky was delicious and only US$4.50 each. After breaky we went for a walk to Wat Phnom, a temple which had beautiful surrounding gardens.  Only tourists had to pay to get in, typical.  We walked around the gardens and came across monkeys just roaming around and as soon as I went to take its photo, it looked at me and gave me a really funny look like to say "how dare you take a photo of me" seriously, I thought he was going to attack me so Mary does a quick detour, hate monkeys!  There was a gorgeous elephant which you pay for elephant rides but he didn't mind having his photo taken, nice elephant.  Ever since we have been here Mary has been getting a bit too much attention - we think its my camera, so we have been cautious. This guy was just standing in front of me and staring at me and my camera for sometime and I asked Troy to stare back at him, we were sitting next to a tourist policeman so we felt ok

Today has been the most hottest day ever, incredibly hot and we both have been feeling light headed so we made sure we drank heaps and stopped to have drinks at a cafe along the way to the Royal Palace.  We got harrassed by tuk tuks a lot, one guy wouldn't give up on us, we told him plenty of times No Tuk tuk today. We should get t-shirts that say "No tuk tuk today".

We walked to the Royal Palace in the scorching heat only to be told its not open till the afternoon due to New Year celebrations.  We walked to the National Museum where Mary felt very very hot and bothered and couldn't be bothered looking around.  The heat was suffocating, at times it felt like Mary couldn't breathe properly, the heat was too much.  After trying to cool down and drink water we walked around the museum.  There was another lady in the foyer that was just lying on the seat, she was affected badly by the heat and they went back to their hotel. We spent several hours here because we didn't want to go back to our hotel and come back again. Mary takes a break and sits in the foyer waiting for Troy, thinks about Renee and tears start to roll, Its so hard, I miss her everyday, only Troy really understands.

At 2.30pm we walked to the Royal Palace.  Its a big place.  It had several gorgeous temples. Mary wasn't really up to seeing temples any more but now have changed my mind.  They are just so different here.  The Royal Palace was very ornate and Mary loved the gorgeous stupas (concrete statues that were very intricate).  We went into the Silver Pagoda which was lovely, the floor was covered in silver tiles but most of it was covered to protect it. We walked around in the heat drinking lots of water, eating ice-cream and trying to stay out of the sun but it was just incredibly too hot.  We were like drowned rats, Mary has got some really stunning self portraits looking like a drowned rat. Mary's hat has been a multi purpose item -- used as a hat, a fan and a face washer.  My eyes have been stinging because of all the sweat and the dirt make my eyes very sore.  I should of bought cleanser for our faces, they get so much dirt and with all the sweat it just sticks to you and its feels disgusting.  I suppose that shampoo and conditioner become a multi-purpose item, to wash hair, body, clothes and scrub our faces. The joys of travellling....but its all good believe me! You also really appreciate it when you have clean clothes so hand washing has become the norm for us.  

Troy was happy to get a photo with a monk and we probably paid too much for a tuk tuk home but we were exhausted, you got to bargain hard here.  It was such a relief to be back at our guesthouse and had a cold shower and dinner in the guesthouse.  Once again the food has been great.  We had honey chicken wings, vegetable spring rolls which was delicious (so good to have really nice ones and once again they were different), Quesadilla and a chicken schnitzel sandwich.  Most of it western food but tomorrow we will try some local cuisine.  It is Cambodian New Year's Eve tonight but we are only interested in relaxing, its been an incredibly hot day for us.

To be honest Mary too sure about visiting Cambodia, not a country I ever intended to visit but with Troy's influence on visiting Asia I am glad I came here. Mary had enough of temples in Vietnam and really wasn't interested in seeing any more.  Once we arrived here and saw the gorgeous temples and pagodas I changed my mind.  From what I have seen so far I have been rather impressed and hopefully we are in for more pleasant surprises here in Cambodia. 

14 APRIL 2010 - "Happy New Year Cambodia". Today was hot but no way as bad as it was yesterday.  After a delicious breakfast of banana pancakes at our guesthouse we booked our bus tickets to Siem Reap. We walked down the street and grabbed a tuk tuk (they really bump up there prices here a lot so you got to haggle these tuk tuk drivers). Mary purchased an expensive pair of fake Gucci sunnies for US$2 because I accidentally broke my good pair on the bus coming into Phnom Penh.

Unfortunately Cambodia has a dark side, its history.  Our driver took us to Tuol Sleng Museum which originally was called Tuol Svay Prey High School. In 1975 Pol Pot's security forces turned the school into Security Prison 21 (S-21) the largest centre of detention and torture in the country.  Almost everyone held here was later executed at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. The rooms were covered with horrible photographs.  This is where we each bought a traditional "krama" a versatile checked cotton scarf (like a huge tea towel really) which is worn by Cambodians on their heads, around their necks or around the midriffs, for blocking sun and dust.  We paid 2 for US$5 (cheaper elsewhere but we couldn't be bothered getting it cheaper).  

We tried to negotiate a price with a tuk tuk driver as they were overcharging us too much.  So we kept walking and at one stage we had three tuk tuk drivers at once chasing us down the street wanting our business.  Troy tried to set a price with one driver and I kept saying to Troy I don't think he has agreed on a price, sure enough he said yes and then said no so we left him. We still got chased and finally settled a better price with another driver.  We told him to take us to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.  As you walk in you see a blinding white stupa (religious momument) which is a memorial to the approximately 17,000 men, women and children who were executed here by the Khmer Rouge between mid 1975 and December 1978.  Encased inside the stupa are almost 9,000 skulls which were found during the excavations here in 1980. It wasn't a pleasant sight to see so many skulls.  We walked around the grounds and saw many mass burial sights, it was a peaceful place but it wasn't nice to see. 

As we were getting driven home by our tuk tuk driver a group of young teenage kids were standing on the road and our driver had to slow down. They were yelling "Happy New Year" and were approaching us asking us for money. As we were holding on to our bag and camera tightly we hand signalled our driver to keep going, he listened to us and so we left.  We just don't know what they intended to do or they may of been just silly or drunk from the New Year Eve celebrations last night. We just got back from a delicious dinner at the Camory Restaurant - we chose traditional Cambodian food - Fresh spring rolls, shrimp wontons, Eastern Loc Lak which was a beef stir fry with onion sauce, fried egg and lemon pepper & rice, Grilled Amok - chicken with a spicy sauce with coconut milk and egg curry sauce (similar to a vol-a-vont).  It was all very nice and cheap.  

Tomorrow we take the bus to Siem Reap.



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Kath Riley on

Hey guys.....................what's been happening since your last entry?????It's been over a month since your last entry??????I enjoy reading all your stories....
Kath PS thanks for the bday wishes

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