A couple of days in Phnom Penh

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Apr 30, 2011

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Flag of Cambodia  , Krŏng Phnum Pénh,
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

From Kratie we took a speedy minibus south through a flat landscape of rice paddies and palm trees to Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. We arrived at about midday and checked into the accurately named Okay Guesthouse before venturing out into the city.

Phnom Penh gets mixed reviews so we weren't sure what to expect. It seemed to have a slightly more edgy feel compared to other cities in Asia with dodgy looking bars aplenty and drugs being widely touted. We had also heard some stories about rich local kids throwing bricks at tourists from out of car windows! There is a big divide between rich and poor with lots of shiny Lexuses (Lexi?) being driven about by rich local kids while young children carrying babies beg for money as you walk past. The streets are also pretty chaotic with motorbikes whizzing about and street vendors hauling carts full of chilli fried snails and other delights. We also saw a wok full of large deep-fried spiders!

Overall we decided that we rather like Phnom Penh, especially the food! We had two exceptional meals here at a Thai resturant one night and a Khmer one called Green Pepper the next. In the Thai we had a herb salad, a green mango salad and a wonderful fried fish. In Green Pepper we had fish Amok which is a delicious Khmer curry. We also liked the two for one deals on cocktails in many of the bars along the riverside, like the colonial styled Foreign and Correspondants Club where we had a lychee martini and expertly mixed Singapore Sling, and another bar whose name I can't remember which serves all sorts of heavenly passionfruit cocktails.

When we weren't eating or drinking we visited some of the city's other attractions including the ornately beautiful Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda and the National Museum which houses an interesting collection of ancient Khmer sculpture.

Most visitors to Phnom Penh go to the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng museum but we decided not to. We have read up on the history of Cambodia and Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime that was brutal beyond description and decided that the museum would be a profoundly depressing experience. Tuol Sleng was a prison called Security Prison 21 and was the largest centre of detention and torture in the country. In just three years, over 17,000 men, women, children and babies were taken from here to the nearby Killing Fields and murdered. For a country that has been through so much horror it amazes us just how warm and friendly the people are.
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