IndoChina - Cambodia & Independence Day

Trip Start Jul 30, 2010
Trip End May 29, 2011

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Obsession with alcohol damages your memory"
Old, and wise, Cambodian saying

"You from Big Ben country?" asked the Cambodian customs official. We answered yes, he smiled broadly and ushered us thru' into Cambodia.

We’d had a 3hr drive in a 'public’ coach that we’d shared with the public from Saigon to reach the Vietnam border where we’d be processed in a drab grey functional building. A further 2 min drive brought us to the Cambodian border where we were greeted in a large, colourful and ornate building. Best of all it was sunny. The rain that had plagued us since Hoi An was finally behind us.

Our further 3hr drive to Phnom Penh was characterised by the usual, and now routine, near misses and pot-holes designed to shake your teeth out. Unlike Vietnam the roads were not dominated by suicidal lunatics on scooters. Aside from the ubiquitous Land-Cruisers everyone in Cambodia seems to drive a Toyota Camry. Old and new. Almost every non-SUV is a Camry. It’s like Toyota have dumped every used or unsold Camry built in the last 20 years on Cambodia.

Shortly after checking into our hotel we, as a group, went for a Cyclo tour around Phnom Penh which involved some elderly and wiry gentlemen cycling us (individually) around PP during rush-hour. Let me assure you that it is quite scary watching a huge SUV pulling out at a junction – actually, failing to stop at a junction would be a more accurate description – when your head is a couple of feet away from its bumper.

First stop was the iconic Watt Phnom. Entrance was 1 USD (US Dollars are the primary currency in Cambodia. Only when change for less than 1 USD is needed are you given Cambodian Riels). Watt Phnom was magnificent and my photos don’t do it credit. With the light fading we headed off for the river and the Royal Palace. Traffic by now getting heavier, with seemingly all 2 million of PP inhabitants all heading in the same direction as us. We ground to halt in the gridlock and left our cyclo drivers just in time to watch the Independence Day (independence from France) fireworks. Not quite Sydney new year standard but impressive enough to elicit ‘oohs’, ‘ahhs’ and cheers from the hordes standing on the river bank.

A nice start to our week in Cambodia.

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