Being done with the ugly side of Cambodia it’s time to introduce you to the Cambodia of today. A mesmerizing country filled with friendly and welcoming people that made our stay absolutely worthwhile. Our Cambodian adventure started with a surprisingly good busride from Saigon. Compared to the 23 hour busride that took us from Laos to Vietnam this ride was a walk in the park. It might have had something to do with us paying a bit more for this trip, but we gladly chipped in a bit extra to get the service that Mekong Express company gave us. Comparing it again with the Laos-Vietnam ride, where our driver kept shouting at us and we never really understanding what was happening, the Mekong Express bus crew was awesome. They served us drinks and keept us updated on where we were as well as getting us painlessly through the Cambodian border checkpoint. Recommended!
Our destination was Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capitol and biggest city by far. We were ready for the hassling from the tuk tuk drivers as we got of the bus, and actually made a point of getting off the bus, walking through the insistent crowd and choosing the person that nagged us the least. The two things that struck as the first differences between Cambodia and the rest of South East Asia was that the tuk tuk’s are just a scooter with a small two person trolley hanging on the back, and the fact that they use a combination of Cambodian Ril and US dollars as currency! The ATM’s only gave out US dollars, something that took us a while to get as we thought we had gotten an ATM machine that didn’t work properly.
As a friend we met on the Gibbon Experience had recommended the Top Banana guesthouse, and literally spoken so well of it that we just had to go there we ended up spending about 1,5 hour trying to find the place. We ended up having to go to an internet cafe and locating it ourself as it seemed like the drivers didn’t know where it was. One of them actually took us on a pretty long drive ending up in front of a guesthouse with a completely different name where he most likely got commision to take us, he didn’t get any tips to say the least!
When we finally found the Top Banana and got comfortable it was time for some happy hour beers 🙂 Cambodia seems to have a 24 hour happy hour that sets you back 3,5 kr (0,5 USD) for half a litre of beer. We also paid a visit to Friends to taste their supposedly famous Daquiris, it didn’t dissapoint us 🙂
Friends is a restaurant in Phnom Penh that only employs streetchildren and gives them a service minded education and the chance to learn english. Recommended!
The plan was to go to the S21 the next morning at 10am, as most of us went out to have a few more beer and play some pool that just didn’t happen. We ended up walking to the National Museum instead and enjoying their display of Khmer culture and hiding from the midday heat at the same time. The Museum is pretty small but worth a visit. It’s a really beautiful building with a park in the middle that is perfect for sitting and relaxing for a bit when you had a bit too much sun or city life.
As the S21 had a viewing of a explanatory video at 3pm we came there a bit earlier to get good seats. As I said in the other post, the movie issn’t really that good..mostly because the sound is crap.. If you want to know more about S21 then read my S21 post.
After witnessing such cruelty we badly needed some cheering up and what better to cheer us up than Sovy, who worked at Top Banana and his girlfriend Emilie that was in town, inviting us out to play poker, cambodian style! We took a taxi to the Lost & Found bar that luckily had enough special offers and happy hours going on to suit our budget! Karl Kristian and me found the 2 for 1 on Long Island Ice tea irresistable, while Veronica kept ordering the shot Quick Fuck..As the game progressed and our tab grew it was only Karl Kristian and me left at the table. Karl Kristian was victorious and we celebrated with a few more drinks. Sovy and Emilie were awesome and was great fun to spend some time with. Emilie owned a beach bungaloow place out in Siakhonuville and was visiting Sovy in Phnom Penh for a few days. After the game finished we figured that going out was the next logical step and got a motorider for each of us, hopped on the back of the scooter and off we zoomed! It was actually a pretty surreal feeling driving through the deserted streets of Phnom Penh in a big group of scooters, each trying to be the first one to get to the Riverhouse. The Riverhouse was a club located on the riverfront in Phnom Penh and it was a bit more high class which of course only means more expensive drinks. It didn’t stop Karl Kristian from dropping a brand new drink right on the floor though.. We had an awesome night and didn’t get back untill early in the morning after hijacking a Tuk Tuk driver to locate a burger bar for us.
Phnom Penh is a vibrant city that at first glance has nothing to do with the war torn capitol ravaged by the Khmer Rouge. It’s a beautiful city clearly inspired by cities like Paris, with wide streets and extensive parks and communal areas. It hasn’t become the capitalist paradise that Bangkok and Saigon has become, but Phom Penh is a city that is constantly changing. Before you know it the small cosy streets with parisian villas will be replaced by shiny towering business buildings, and the small town feel that Phnom Penh gave me will be swept away before the inevitable crush of progress. Some expat englishmen said that just in the two years they had been living here they had trouble recognizing parts of the city due to the rapid changes.
Things that we didn’t have time to do was getting a seeing hand massage, a massage performed by blind people, as well as visiting the kings palace. As with every other place we have visited so far on this trip we want to go back and stay longer as we have definently not experienced all that Phnom Penh has to offer.
But time is of the essence and Angkor Wat is next on the do to list, this is one not to be missed! Stay tuned!