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Some sights in Phnom Penh

overcast 35 °C

Since we have been in Phnom Penh for more than a day and not seen anything we thought we would have a look around the city today. There are some main sights such as the Grand Palace, the democracy monument and the National Museum but we are a little fed up with a constant stream of pagodas and palaces so decided on some alternatives. The first stop was brunch and we went to a cheap local place that we have noticed has been busy everyday. We had pork ribs and rice served with broth and beef curry served with bread with two iced coffees for $5 and it was really tasty. It was raining when we had finished so we walked round the the riverside and had a drink until the rain eased up. Whilst sat we heard a girl upset and a man shouting and everyone came out of their restaurants to see if everything was ok. A lady had her bag snatched as she walked along the row of places that line the riverfront and she was obviously very upset. The criminals were on a bike and she had tried to hold on so had been dragged into the road. It was a horrible but apparently all too common event and all the staff in our cafe looked wholly disappointed. Phnom Penh has some major problems, there is a lot of poverty, a lot of children sent out to beg and mothers and babies. There is also a LOT of sex tourism and protitutes line the streets and bars. Many of these bars are not subtle and one has the selling point of 'no loneliness only fun'. It's not all bad though, there are some budget local eateries, a lot of choice with regards to bars and cafes and all the tuk-tuks are motorbikes with cute wooden carriages on the back.

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We then set off to Central Market, politely declining twenty to thirty tuk-tuks drivers on the way. It started to rain about half way there but it did not take long to get there. It is definitely in walking distance to the riverside. The central market is a big domed building. The centre is mainly jewellery stalls and then branching off are stalls selling anything you could possibly want.

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Around the outside of the building stalls set up under umbrellas and sell everything from crockery, clothing, electrical goods and fresh produce. We walked around, browsing all the stalls and were very surprised to find that it was really pleasant. No one heckled for us to buy anything and we were left to look around at our own pace. Liam got some new headphones and Chelsea got a bracelet.

After our shopping we decided to walk to Boeng Kak lake. We had read that it was lined with cheap places to stay and quirky cafes over the water but we were not sure if it was still there as our guidebook talked about the possibility of it being bulldozed for redevelopment. It took us a while to walk and we walked through some poor intimidating areas as well as some very upmarket places with skyscrapers and posh hotels. When we got near the area we needed the streets were particularly bad. It was a very poor Muslim area which meant that not just men but also women stared at Chelsea as her legs were not covered. People literally stopped talking and stared and it is one of a handful of times in our many months in Southeast Asia where we have not felt safe (bear in mind we worked hands on with tigers, leopards and lions for five months). We decided to turn back and headed to a temple we had seen on the way.

Wat Phnom is a short walk from the riverside and it set in a shady public park. We climbed the old stone steps and there are a few stupas and the main temple. It is picturesque and costs $1 for foreigners if you want to go inside. After a look around we realised we had gone up the back steps and walked around to the front which were much grander steps framed either side with snake sculptures. Also in the park is a giant wicker king cobra sculpture. We had read that there were little monekys in the park but we didn't see any.... It didn't stop Liam worrying about monkey bites and rabies shots though.

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We headed to the riverside and walked down the river, calling in a place for a cheeky happy hour drink and we ended up coming back for 50 cent beers and frozen margaritas for dinner. The riverfront is not very picturesque. It is a row of eateries and bars on a wide, busy main road . The river is very polluted and lined with a lot of buildings still under construction. At night there is a night market which we browsed around and mainly sold the usual tourist fare, t-shirs, souvenirs, scarves and brick-a-brack. We are glad we have seen Phnom Penh but we are eager for clean air and open spaces. We have booked onto the local bus for the next leg of our journey. We are heading South in search for a beach paradise for a few days before we tackle Angkor Wat.

Posted by Chelsandliam 09:56 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia phnom_penh Comments (1)

An interesting journey to Cambodia

sunny 34 °C

Yesterday we left Saigon and Vietnam. It has gone so fast but we were eager to see our last country of the South East Asia area. We were up early; our bus was due to pick us up between 7.30am and 8.00, so by 7.00 we were checked out downstairs eating our breakfast. Unbelievably the breakfast area was full, we have no idea why people are up at this time if not for a bus, maybe we are just lazy.

For the first time ever the bus was on time, well a small mini bus that took us to the actual bus a few kilometres away. It was probably the worst bus we have had in Vietnam, it was old and not very comfortable. There was however clear space under every seat so you had ample leg room, or we would have if the area in front of our designated seats had not been taken up by some wooden box fitting. This set the mould for the trip, and we do not think it is possible to have a straightforward and comfortable journey anywhere within Asia.

We were the only non-Vietnamese on board out of around twenty people and right from the word go we knew it was going to be just one of them tips. The music started and the TV was on literally the second the bus started the roll forward, every song over here seems to sound the exact same. Thankfully it was not karaoke, but some kind of concert. On top of this we had a guy sat behind us who munched on sweets for more or less the entire trip and had a habit of clearing his throat every ten seconds. Every time he did this he made a noise like Scooby doo. Next to us was one guy who must have been some kind of business man, although you would not have guessed from his appearance, as his phone rang every five minutes. As if this was not bad enough he preceded to talk on his phone at about 200 decibels. It was ridiculous. Somehow, probably because we were just that tired, we managed to sleep for about two hours and this took us to the border.

The border was pretty straightforward apart from the bus company trying to rip us off twice. Firstly one of the staff aboard told us that he would do our Visa application at the border, we said no it is ok we have done it plenty of times. He then said that it can take up to 2 hours for foreigners and the bus will not wait as it has a strict timetable. Meaning we would have to pay him $5 each so it was done quicker. We were not standing for this, and as we thought we were through immigration both out of Vietnam and into Cambodia within about ten minutes. The second con was apparent when we cleared Cambodia immigration and Liam saw our bus drive off. The man was still with us at immigration and told us the bus had gone to park at a restaurant 2km away so the non-foreign guests could rest and wait for us. Meaning we had to pay for a taxi. Liam has never quite seen Chelsea so angry. She went all red faced and frothed at the mouth slightly. She told the man we had paid for the bus the whole way to Phnom Penh Cambodia and we were not paying for a taxi. The taxi would either have to be free or the bus would have to come back and get us. The man shrank to about six inch high. Needless to say the taxi was free.

Back aboard with Scooby doo and business man we continued. Next on TV was a Chinese 007-esque film which had English subtitles. Chelsea stared out of the window while Liam watched the film and was actually able to follow what was being said if not what was happening. The film was terrible but by the time it had finished we had more or less arrived.

After a tuk tuk to the riverside the main tourist accommodation seems to be we found a place that from the outside looked nice and was cheap. The rooms were a bit prison cell like but were clean and we thought saving money would do us no harm for the three nights we are here. We then went out for something to eat on the riverside. The streets are nowhere near as busy as the other cities we have visited and it is obvious that the poverty here is at a different level. We were asked by more beggars in the hour while we ate and drank than we have in the rest of trip combined. It is hard to ignore, especially the kids. The city does have a kind of charm though like all Asian cities and we plan to explore it as much we can while here.

Our final drama of the day happened when we returned to our guesthouse. We were settled down watching our laptop when Chelsea spotted a bug. This turned out to an ant but then out came the magnifying glass as Chelsea also freaks out when she sees insects. For good reason though as she soon spotted bed bugs. We were out of the room, fully packed with 2 minutes and downstairs. We initially asked to move rooms as we know it is not necessarily the whole hotel. Chelsea went to inspect another room this one was even worse, she was practically shacking them out of a pillow while the hotel staff looked on concerned. This was enough for us so we checked out and got our money back. A word of advise, do not stay at Happy 11 backpackers. It has a serious bed bug problem. Not only were the two room we saw infested but throughout the whole hotel mattresses and pillow are stacked in the halls and the staff obviously know about it. It was 9pm by this time, and we were not in the best of moods and tried the hotel next door that looked a lot nicer. Chelsea enquired at the desk and was told, or thought she did, that the room was $14 a night. The room was immense, really clean and comfortable; it even supplies gowns and a kettle. We of course said yes but was then told it was actually $40, Chelsea had mis- heard. We must have looked depressed, and the guy must have felt sorry for us, has as we were leaving the hotel he offered it us for $20. Chelsea bit the guys hand off. We were told on checking in, several times that we had to keep this price to ourselves as it was a special discount just for us and they did not want complaints. A change in fortune for us. It is over our budget but Chelsea was traumatised by the bed bug infested rank place next door and wanted to stay somewhere nice.

We had been in the room about an hour when Chelsea started throwing up and feeling terrible. This continued throughout the night and into today until about 2pm so we have not actually done anything today. Probably a good thing after the events of yesterday. When Chelsea started to feel better we went for a walk along the river and something to eat, and then after a couple of hours at our guesthouse, back out for dinner.

We are hoping to see a bit more of the city tomorrow and not just sit in our room drinking Yorkshire tea. See some more of the streets, maybe the market and visit a lake that sits in the centre of the city. After tomorrow we plan to head to south Cambodia to Sihanoukville, where the beaches and islands are, for a bit more relaxation on an island called Koh Rong. We like seeing the cities for the culture but after we went so long without a beach we are making the most of our opportunities.

Posted by Chelsandliam 09:02 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia phnom_penh Comments (3)

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