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Monday, September 2, 2013

Cambodia - Phnom Penh

My oldest friend April planned to travel for a few months at the end of 2012. I was envious and really wanted to join her but could only really take a couple of weeks off so we planned to meet in Cambodia.  I can't go into a day by day blog like other trips but I did take some notes....

Day 1 - First impressions of Phnom Penh was that it was so different to Bangkok - I finally felt I was in "real" Asia. The airport was tiny and the staff/police there were unsmiling. Outside was a different story. My tuk-tuk driver Pauli awaited me and negotiated the crazy streets with ease. I have never, ever seen so many motorcycles. People everywhere smiled, waved and stared (I am incredibly white, even moreso than the average Irish person and this is a source of great interest for non-Caucasians). I noticed that although everyone is fighting for space in traffic there's almost a system. They squeeze in but don't push you out of the way!

The fumes!

I was excited to be on my own to explore for the day but looking forward to April's arrival. Phnom Penh is such a mixture of the modern and the old. It is a city that still bears the hallmarks of the civil war in the '70's. Could it be called a war? It was more like wanton slaughter by a dictator, people didn't really fight back!

Bird of Peace - A bird sculpted out of recovered machine gun parts - a grim reminder of war.

The city also has a lot of greenery, small shop shacks line the streets, walking was a pleasure although people wondered why I hadn't hired a tuk-tuk or motorcycle.

There are beautifully ornate statues everywhere and Buddhist objects. Strange smells and sights assaulted me everywhere on my walk. I was warned about rats down by the river but didn't see any.

April and I stayed in Me Mates place -
It had been recommended by friends and fellow travellers. It ended up being more expensive than everywhere else we stayed but it was clean and we had our own bathroom. Also, having a bar downstairs with internet was nice, and the owners have dogs (I LOVE dogs!). I didn't find any of the others guests particularly friendly before April arrived but the locals on the street were really nice and were showing me their English copybooks and trying to learn off me which was charming. I shared some of my cigarettes with them and whiled away the time until April arrived.

I felt excited about the rest of the trip and it was brilliant to have my best friend by my side again in a brand new country!

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