Trip Start Dec 13, 2009
32Trip End Apr 02, 2010
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Where I stayed
$38.00 per night
On January second we left Phu Quoc Island on an overloaded ferry, to catch an overcrowded bus, to arrive at an overbooked hotel, in Phnom Penh Cambodia. Everything did work out ok, and we are still married, but it was a pretty stressful day....... And how everything could be my fault??? That I will never understand.
The boat trip from Phu Quoc Island to Ha Tien Vietnam was not nearly as nice as the one we took to Phu Quoc Island. Possibly because the boat was older, or possibly because the seas were rougher, or possibly because the tarp which covered the luggage stacked on the top of the boat did not keep everything dry, but most likey due to the number of passengers who boarded after every seat was full. Little plastic step stools magically appeared and served as seats in the aisles for local passengers.
The bus trip from the Cambodia border to Phnom Penh Cambodia took 4 hours in a small bus (11 passenger van). Right from the beginning, Karyn did not like the bus because it was a little "beat up" with torn seats etc. My first mistake was to tell her to stop complaining, and that things could be worse. My second mistake was being right. Our bus made a couple of detours during the first half of the journey to pick up additional passengers, some produce, and a dog. We never did see the dog, but it was there because we could hear it. Anyhow, we arrived safely in Phnom Penh with 16 other passengers. 18 in total crowded on this bus. You would think that Karyn would have been happy that we had our own seat, (well maybe 4 of us shared a seat designed for 3). Most of the other passengers were not nearly as comfortable.
The bus finally delivered us to an intersection in the Central Tourist area and it was only a short 3-block walk to our Hotel. We arrived at the hotel where the manager explained to Karyn in a most polite manner that he had given away our prebooked river view room with balcony. He generously offered Karyn a budget windowless room for a very good price and then promised to move us the next day. It wasn't pretty, and we finally ended up taking the windowless room for our first night. I am sure the hotel manager appreciates his own wife much more, after meeting mine.
After a really good nights sleep, (nothing to wake you up in a dark windowless room), we spent the day exploring Phnom Penh. Our hotel (now a room with the balcony overlooking the river) is very nice. Great location right in the heart of the tourist area. A really neat street with lots of tourists, hotels, good restaurants, bars, etc. And of course, prices to reflect this desirable tourist area. Prices on this street in Phnom Penh bear no resemblance to the rest of the country.
I was surprised as to how developed this area was. Servers in all the restaurants, the motorcycle taxis and remork drivers, the hotel desk clerks, all spoke English. This area is exceptionally clean with flowers planted, hedges trimmed, and very well lit at night. The entire experience felt very safe. Certainly not what we expected after our bus ride here.
The number of cars compared to bikes is much higher than in Vietnam. And in our hotel area most of these cars were very high end vehicles. In fact, I am surprised that there are any Lexus’ left for sale in North America.
In order to get a more accurate taste of Phnom Penh Cambodia, we decided to wander a couple of blocks off the main tourist street for supper our second evening here. Well that is exactly how far we got. Two blocks before we turned around and hastily returned to our nice comfortable tourist street. A couple of blocks off the tourist street, it was a completely different world. I think what spooked me was the fact that there were no street lights and my little flashlight did not give us much comfort. In hindsight, the area was probably quite safe with all the families living there and it was probably just the “extreme change” that made me nervous.
We hired a Remork and driver our first day in Phnom Penh. Having your own driver gives an "easy out" when hundreds of other drivers are trying to sell you this service. A Remork is a trailer designed to hold 4 passengers and be pulled by a small motorcycle. I did notice one that had 10 local passengers piled in. Similar trailers are designed to carry different types goods in much the same manner.
The first place we visited Psar Tuol Tom Pong Market. This is the best place for designer clothing labels right out of the factory. I expect factories often produce some extra, which end up at this market. Very very crowed, and not very comfortable, but some great buys. Bought a couple of pair of Columbia pants for $7.50 each. These were identical to the pants I bought in Costa Rica for about $85.00
Our second stop was a visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This was the former security office created on order of Pol Pot, April 17, 1975. Security Prison 21 (S21). It was designed and used for detention, interrogation, inhuman torture and killing after confessions. The imprisonment lasted 2 to 4 months for most inmates, with political prisoners held between 6 or 7 months before being killed. Records show that over 17000 detainees were killed from 1975 to 1978. These figures do not include children killed by Khmer Rouge, which is estimated at 20,000.
Viewing the prison, the cages, the methods of torture, pictures of the victims (meticulous records were kept by the Khmer Rouge), was very moving and more than a little depressing. Throughout the country hundreds of thousands of people were executed, while hundreds of thousands more died of hunger and disease. Impossible to understand how the world could watch this happen for 3 years, 8 months, and 20 days. Finally Vietnam invaded Cambodia on Xmas day 1978 and drove the Khmer Rouge from power January 7, 1979.
On our second day here we visited the Killing Fields of Choeung of Ek. Most of the 17,000 detainees held at the Tuol Sleng S21 Security Prison were executed here. Prisoners were often bludgeoned to death to avoid wasting precious bullets. A memorial stupa has been constructed which displays more than 8000 skulls of victims and their ragged clothes. I cannot possibly describe the emotions while visiting this area. Very little conversations or comments from the tourists. What there was, was all whispers.
On January 5, 2010 we caught an early boat for the 6 hour boat ride to Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor.
5:45 AM that morning we were the first customers enjoying coffee at the only restaurant open. Can you imagine our surprise when an elephant wandered by? Pretty exciting way to start our day.
And then the day just got better. A great boat ride to Siem Reap, aboard (on top of) this very long, very narrow boat. It looked just like a submarie when I first saw it. But I quickly put that thought out of my head.
We spent a couple of hours riding on top of the boat and the rest of the trip inside the boat, out of the sun. The boat stopped only once, in the middle of the river to pick up a passenger, who waved us down from a small dugout.
Finally arrived at our Hotel in Siem Reap just after 2 PM on January 5, 2010.
To view all pictures we have taken to this point. Please click on this link. http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=32be787370abd758&sid=8EZMWrho4bMmm