Off to the capital

Trip Start Aug 14, 2006
Trip End Sep 04, 2006

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Yesterday evening I went to a Khmer (Cambodian) restaurant with Peter again. This time we ate snake soup. Very interesting indeed! It's a bit weird having to chew on the pieces and then take out the bone (spine pieces) after every bite. Lets just say it's good, but I prefer chicken.

This morning I got up quite early and checked out. A few minutes later a guy from the guest house drove me to the bus station nearby on a scooter (with my small and large backpacks). There I realized I left my ticket for the bus on the table at the hotel while paying for my room, so he drove back and got it (and I gave him $1 for it which made him very happy). The bus ride was a lot better than the last one through Cambodia...luckily there is a proper bus route between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh! That's where I ended up after about 5 hours. The capital of Cambodia. I though I might as well squeeze it in while I have the chance! The bus was full of Cambodians and 5 other tourists like myself. I sat next to a Cambodian (we had assigned seat numbers) that didn't speak a word of English hehe. Across to the side were 2 Buddhist monks of which one seemed very friendly and smiled frequently. The other one slept. On the way I ate a loaf of bread (kind of like a baguette but softer. Tasted very good actually. Then I had 2 small bags of chips and a pineapple. The ride was alright, I pretty much just listened to music and gazed at the rice fields and huts along the way. At the stops children smiled and talked to me in English (everything they knew in English that is..."hello...hello...hello...hello" hehe).

What I have seen of Phnom Penh is not very nice. The city is very run down and dirty. The only nice things in it seem to be temples and tributs to the king...the contrast is even stronger than in Bangkok for example. We drove along the river (Tonle Sap) for a while up to the bus station. The 5 tourists on the bus were "greeted" by about 30 or 40 Cambodians anxious to get us to come to their guest house! It was mad. "You come here you come here my frien'!" I ended up looking at a few and choosing the best sounding one near the royal palace by the river. On the ride there in a tuk-tuk it turned out it was highly recommended as a backpacker location in Lonely Planet. Perfect. It's called Okay Guest House and is just below the royal palace. I wanted to make the most of the day so I quickly checked in to a decent room with fan and cold water for $4 a night. Then I asked a driver to take me to the Tuol Sleng Museum. He agreed to take me there for $3, and I haggled until I got him to take me there, wait till I was finished, then take me to the Royal Palace for $4. Seems quite reasonable.

This is the infamous museum located at a former school that was turned into a kind of torture chamber during the Khmer Rouge ruling in the late 70s. It was horrifying. As soon as I walked in it started raining more than it has the whole time I have been in Asia. This added to the gloomy atmosphere. I walked around for over an hour, looking at rooms that people were in, pictures, reading stories told by people involved etc. Everyone in the museum was quiet the entire time...just absorbing the horror of the Khmer Rouge rule...

When I was done the rain suddenly got a lot less (although it continued) and I got my driver to take me to the Royal Palace. I walked around there for a looks quite magnificent. It all "fits together" quite well...various temples and palace buildings surrounded by lovely gardens and trees. Very unfortunate that it was still rain coat started soaking through a bit too which wasn't too helpful. I talked to a guy from Holland for a while who happened to have been on the same bus as me in the morning. Then I took off again and got another tuk-tuk driver to take me back to my guest house, which is where I am now.

The two main sights to see in Phnom Penh are the museum and the royal palace, so I think I won't spend much more time here. I hope the rain stops sometime tonight so I can explore the area a bit, although it doesn't seem too spectacular (even though it's meant to be the most happening and nicest area of Phnom Penh). A few days left now! I haven't really planned the rest yet, so I'll see what happens! Bye bye!
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