Proud Cambodia

Trip Start Jan 16, 2008
Trip End Nov 2008

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Where I stayed

Flag of Cambodia  , Phnom Penh,
Monday, April 28, 2008

After goodbye hugs all around the next morning we started our three hour jaunt to the Cambodian border. An hour queuing on the Vietnamese side to get our passports stamped and then the lonely walk across no-mans land into Cambodia.
We both agree that seeing the differences in each countries culture is what is so enjoyable about traveling but even so we were taken aback at how much things can change in the matter of 100 metres.
Instantly we were thrown headfirst into Cambodian culture where food, transport, roads...everything is at an incredibly basic level.

After meeting our guide we set off on our four hour journey to Phnom Penh. Stopped at Neak Loung at a ferry crossing for lunch. We were constantly surrounded  by people begging and pleading for some ways even more than we had experienced in India.
After ordering at the local street restaurant I went for a walk to see the local memorial and check out the town and all the local lads followed my every step. The food here is not processed....I mean what you order is exactly what you get. I ordered chicken and that's what I got; a half starved fried chicken with head, feet and all. Hubba Bubba chewy chicken (uuuuugh). Salud got lucky though as she ordered the prawns which were very fresh and delicious.
Prices are all in US dollars here and as a result everything is much more expensive.
Crossed the river by car ferry and made our way slowly but safely to Phnom Penh where we joined up with the rest of our new group and enjoyed a boat cruise along the river at sunset. The heavens opened as we were docking and we ran through the rain to the Foreign Correspondents club where Peter and I continued our pool battle and enjoyed the local Angkor beer!
Cambodia reminds us of India. Very poor, very very dusty, people begging and pulling out of you. Kids asking for everything from one dollar, to coke to bracelets.
Its also a country recovering from years of genocide and senseless killing of its own people by Pol Pot and his party who overnight tried to turn the entire country into a communist state. They played over loudspeaker in the cities a message saying the US were going to bomb in order to evacuate all the citizens to the countryside. Their idea was to empty the cities and have everyone working as farmers growing rice for export. Anyone who opposed or showed any signs of intelligence (even wearing glasses) were killed.
We called to Tuol Svay Prey High School  which had been turned into a hideous place of detention and torture. It is now a testament to the horrors that the Cambodian people suffered. We also visited the killing fields where mass graves were discovered. 8000 skulls are now arranged and visible in the memorial stupa.
We were glad to return to the city especially Salud who was suffering from a severe bout of Delhi Belly. We saw the Independence monument (from the French), the royal palace built in 1813 with its emerald Buddha in the Silver pagoda and many many Buddha's with gold and diamonds.
That night the group were brought to a local place by the guide which turned out to be a karaoke bar which is the number one pastime here. Bit different to the karaoke back home. Imagine turning up outside the door where rows upon rows of beautiful girls bow as you enter. Later they all come into the dim and smoky interior and parade on stage as one by one they take turns singing. They then come and sit with the group and try and get you up dancing with them. Bit kitchy but the girls were fabulous singers.
Guide informed us before we left that the girls were available to take home for a certain amount of USD each! It turns out that this subtle, expensive(cause you have to non stop buy them drinks if you like them) and longwinded method of meeting girls is very popular with the local men and is a way of life here.
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