Temples, prisons, and pollution in Phnom Penh

Trip Start Oct 05, 2010
1
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Trip End Nov 24, 2010


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Where I stayed
Royal Guesthose

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Got on the bus from HCMC to Phnom Penh and left around 7:40 a.m. It was actually pretty pleasant: A/C, tons of legroom, bathroom, comfortable reclining seats, AND it was only $10. At the border, we had to take our bags off the bus and walk across the border, and the bus picked us up on the other side. It was a little strange, because pretty much no one knew what was going on.

We're not in Vietnam anymore

Immediately, we noticed a change. The architecture was heavily influenced by Buddhism, with lots of yellow and maroon. And it was clearly poorer here: there was trash all over the roads, and many more places were logs/branches on dirt, instead of brick/steel on concrete, like in Vietnam.

Swarmed

Got into Phnom Penh around 2:00, and immediately we were swarmed by people trying to sell us this and that. One guy had pointed us out while we were still on the bus, thinking he would get an easy sell. Unfortunately, we hadn't booked a hostel before we got there, so we didn't know where we were going. But what we did know was that we weren't going with this guy.

And he was relentless. I was sitting down, looking at our map and trying to find where to go for a hostel, and he wouldn't shut up. "Tourists think they know what they're doing, but they don't," "I will give you a good price: I know a place," on and on. Eventually, I just got up and started walking, pretending I knew where I was going, but really I just wanted to get away from this guy, because I couldn't think with him barking in my ear.

Still sick

I still wasn't feeling great, and Matt was feeling worse. Despite this, I wanted to stay in Phnom Penh for at least one full day, but Matt and Joel were getting really bothered by the pollution, and so were wanting to leave in the morning. The pollution really was awful in Phnom Penh (as well as HCMC), because most of the people on the road were motos, and each of those put out as much smog as a car, but you can fit so many more of them on the road. I starterd noticing how bad it really was when Matt and Joel started talking more about it.

But in the end, Joel wasn't in a huge rush, and Matt was feeling too bad to care, so we stayed an extra day.

See the sights

Joel and I went to the Royal Palace (Matt went back to rest) in the afternoon. It was $6, which is very pricy, but after we got in, I realized why. There were a bunch of temples and pagodas inside, and there were these beautiful grounds, with tons of plants. I could have easily spent 2-3 hours there, but after about an hour and a half, we had to get going to the Genocide Museum, as it closed at 5:00.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was a prison of the Khmer Rouge, under Pol Pot (if you don't know anything about Pol Pot, look him up; he was basically the Hitler of the East: he and the Khmer Rouge killed about 1.5 million Cambodians in the 70's). This place was basically just a building, but it still gave you somewhat of a good idea of how awful this place was. They left it almost exactly how it was found in 1979, with some of the elements of torture still in the cells, and it still had the barbed wire over the opening on the higher floors, which was to prevent people from being able to jump and commit suicide. I guess they wanted them to suffer. Really awful stuff. After the museum we went and ate at the cafe in the hotel.

American food

I wouldn't have thought so if you had asked me when I left the US, but after 2 weeks of strictly Asian food, some American food sounded good. I love the Asian food, but at home I am used to eating Asian, American, Mexican, and everything in between. And there is variety here, but it's still nice to be able to have that change every now and again.

At the hotel restaurant, I got fish and chips (AKA deep-fried bread with a little fish), Joel got a bacon cheeseburger (a pork patty with ham), and Matt got Chinese noodles (Ramen). I guess they were trying, but I wouldn't say they succeeded. I was like having really bad cafeteria food.

I do think that by the time I leave Asia, I will really be craving some American food. Which is good, cause I'll get back right in time for Thanksgiving. Turkey will never taste so good.

Another bus

In the morning, we caught a 10:30 bus for Siem Reap, to see Angkor Wat and all the other ancient Khmer temples there.
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