Phnom Penh

Being in Phnom Penh really isn’t bad at all. The city itself is fairly modern with trendy cafés and restaurants and the Khmer people seems positive and happy even after Pol Pot wiped out a large part of the population 30 years ago. They are way better at English than the Thai and even though our guidebook advises us to stay indoor when the sun goes down we haven’t felt insecure for one second. The Khmer food is also quite nice; a bit like Thai but quite different as well. They have a curry dish called Amok which we’ve tried so far. Not bad, not bad at all.

When we landed in the airport we had to apply for a visa (which was basically just a question of paying the officials 20 USD). We filled out papers, handed our passports to a government official, and waited to get it back along with 50 other tourists applying for the same thing. The way it apparently worked was this official guy calling out “Hello!” in bad English and flashing a random tourist’s passport to the line of people waiting to get theirs back. Seemed that almost all the tourists (including ourselves) found that official procedure quite amusing so there was a good atmosphere even though it took a while.

In Cambodia they have their own currency, riel, but it’s worth very little so everybody just uses American dollars instead. So if the amount is less than a dollar they use the riel (4000 riel = 1 USD). Successfully recovering our backpacks we though we should get some money so Lisa used her Visa card on an ATM which was sort of broken so her card never came back out. Great start! So I tried my Mastercard on another ATM. I had a hard time remembering my PIN number, though, so even though I repeatably told the machine to give me more time it retained my card as well for “my own security”. Swearing at the ATM we concluded that we had a pretty bad start in Cambodia. Luckily we had some backup dollars and we took a taxi to central Phnom Penh and got a guest house room.

We spent the next two days trying to get our credit cards back trying out some of the local food and getting annoyed by the túk-túk drivers. The seem to be much more aggressive here than in Thailand. The Thai drivers stopped hassling you if you turned them down the first time. But the guys here just keep on harassing you with “Where are you going?”, “What are you doing tomorrow?”, “Túk-túk now?”, ”Túk-túk later?”, and the evergreen classic: “Hello, yes, túk-túk?”.

Yesterday, Thursday, we saw the royal palace of Phnom Penh and the Silver Pagoda constructed by 5000 silver tiles. It was really nice but could not be compared to the grand palace of Bangkok, though. Today, Friday, we went to check out Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which was also known as Security Prison 21 during the reign of Khmer Rouge. The instruments and pictures on the site documented that this actually happened and it indeed very depressing to watch but also good to see. The regime took great pride in taking photos and writing down personal information on the prisoners they tortured to death and all the images (both before and after death) were there to watch. But if this makes you depressed, imagine what it will be like to see The Killing Fields, which is where we’re planning on going tomorrow. By chance a film crew was interviewing one of only known four survivors of Tuol Sleng when we were there. We found out later that his name was Chum Mey and was saved just in time when the Vietnamese invaded the country in 1979. The Khmer Rouge killed his wife and son before the invasion and today he’s preparing to give evidence at the last few trials against the leaders of the regime.

Right now we’re staying at Top Banana Guest House which is nice and spacey with a travelers vibe. More to come tomorrow hopefully.

Pictures from Phnom Penh.

Print Friendly