Phnom Penh - better than everyone says!

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
Trip End Jun 27, 2009

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

For a country that's suffered such violence and pain in the past, Cambodia sure knows how to cater for the tourists in a suitable, tactful manner; one option in Phomh Penh is the shooting range where trigger-happy westerners can fire an assault rifle or throw a grenade AT A COW! We decided against this (understandably). Here's what we did do .......

We're staying near Boeng Kak Lake, a lively hub for travellers that offers numerous bars, restaurants and drugs. Care has to be taken when ordering pizza, you may end up with a cannabis garnish ("Happy Pizza"). Our hotel backs onto the lake and watching the sunset with a beer was sublime, our room cost $4, that included ancient matress (including dodgy stains), doorless bathroom, curtainless shower, bloodstained walls and a view of the adjoining alleyway. Our first day we spent at various sites around the city. Firstly, the Killing Fields, this truly is a haunting and understated site to visit. Bones and clothing jut out of the ground surrounded by 86 open graves, victims of the Pol Pot regime. In the centre a tower has been erected housing more recovered bones and skulls. A walk around this silent graveyard was disturbing but very neccesary. Unlike the War Remnants Museum in Saigon, this site doesn't show images of the violence itself, just the effects.

Later that day we headed to the prison, S-21, where the Pol Pot regime housed victims before they were sent to the killing fields (Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum). Again, this was a rather reflectful trip. The cells, erected in an old school building were tiny, the guards subjected the visitors to horrible tortures using old PE bars from the school, they even erected a gallows. Reading about the regime is hard to take in. They banned speech! They even banned victims from crying when they were whipped.

Lastly we visited the Royal Palace with the Silver Pagoda. It's hard to understand how Cambodia can be home to such decadence, when many live in relative poverty, but that's the way it is, the palace is extremely posh! The silver pagoda is basically called that because the floor is silver, but the museum curators have covered it in carpet (bit of a let down). The palace grounds twinkle in the sunlight, there's gold everywhere.

Phnom Penh sometimes gets badmouthed by fellow travellers but I think it's a top class place mixing history with nightlife (especially by the lake).
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martin on

Phnom Penh really is a great city and if you've been to Bangkok in Thailand many times before, then coming here is a complete contrast as it is still developing with its mixture of traditional food stalls and markets with the beginnings of modernisation now happening, see Phnom Penh now, before it becomes over commercial like Bangkok has now become.
When in Phnom Penh, I always look up my good friend Wai at Xplore-Asia

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