Our flight to Phnom Penh was delayed by an hour, so I just took a wander around while we were waiting, trying to use up the last of our Baht. In the end, I found something called ‘peanut brittle’, it was one of the few things we could afford. I didn’t have a clue what it was and the ingredients didn’t really clear things up either; 80% peanuts, ok, 10% sugar, fair enough, 10% ivory?! No wonder elephants are becoming endangered if their tusks are being harvested to make peanut brittle! Ivory must have some amazing properties though, cause the best before date was Dec 2053!
Anyway, Cambodia! We got our Visas sorted straight away as we arrived. What a change from the Myanmar Visa process! In the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok, we had to wait around 6 hours while our documents were scrutinised to make sure we weren’t terrorists, or even worse, journalists. Here, we handed in our passports and 5 minutes later we were out the gap with passports and Visas in hand!
Aisling was extra excited when we arrived in Phnom Penh, as it was a new country for her, seeing as she’d already been to Thailand and Malaysia before. And what a way to welcome her to the country! We were greeted at arrivals by our tuk-tuk driver, Marady, holding up a sheet with her name on it! We were very excited about that.
It was late when we arrived at the motel, but it looked like we were in a nice enough area, that was until we woke up the next morning... and realised we were actually in an unreal area! With views over the Royal Palace and right by the river side too!
That day when we got up, our tuk-tuk driver from the night before, Marady, was waiting outside, offering to take us around for the day. He was eager, we liked that. And we had a few places we were planning to go to around the city, so said we'd hire him. We quickly grabbed some breakfast and then hit the road. I wouldn't say we had an enjoyable day, as it's probably the wrong word to use considering the places we went, but it was definitely a good day and eye-opening to say the least.
First we went to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which used to be a prison during the Khmer Rouge communist regime. It was originally a high school, but when Pol Pot came to power in 1975, the classrooms were transformed into torture chambers, where up to 100 people were killed every day at the peak of the Khmer Rouge's power.
The place had such an eerie feel to it, and even though I've never been to a Nazi concentration camp, I'd imagine it's the same feeling there. A lot of the buildings have been kept in their original state, to give you an insight into the prison, though some are now occupied by the museum, filled with testimonials of the victims, artwork, clothes, skulls and hundreds upon hundreds of mug shots of each detainee as they entered the prison.
As I said, the Palace and Pagoda were really lovely, but the highlight for us was definitely in a tiny little hut, where we were allowed to try on traditional clothes and a man taught us how to play old Khmer instruments. It was so much fun! It's all well and good walking around looking at pretty buildings and statues, but actually getting to do things is a lot more enjoyable!
Here's a video of Ash playing some sort of xylophone too!
After the palace, we took a walk by the river, which was decorated along its banks with hundreds of flags. The thing is though, they didn't have every flag... I don't know if they were planning on having the flags of the world and just ran out, or what? And they had Italy twice too...
We rounded off our final night in Phnom Penh with a sunset cruise along the Mekong River, to celebrate Aisling's Blackhall results, and it really was a perfect way to end our stay. (When I was thinking back over our journey, Phnom Penh didn't really stand out for me, but writing this made me realise that it actually wasn't a bad city...).
The following morning, we waved goodbye to Phnom Penh and our motel, and hopped on a bus to our next stop, Kampot!