Friday, January 21, 2011

Phnom Penh, the capital city

I have finally convinced R to be a guest writer on this blog, so here is his first attempt


After the ancient Khmer capital city of Angkor, what's best than heading to the present capital city: Phnom Penh ? So after M decided it was time to go back to S'pore and work, we opted for the waterways (the alternative options are the air and the road): it happens that Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are almost connected through a huge lake and a river, both called Tonlé Sap (for further information about it you can have look at your old encyclopedia, or our friend Wikipedia).
Basically the journey takes about 6h on a speed boat that looks like a sardine can.

Fortunately, the can isn't packed and the sardines have room to lay on seats or on the roof (non secured area for sun burning). But don't mistake me, it is a lovely trip on a lake that looks like a sea and further on the river, trying to avoid the fishermen boats.

So 6 h later we arrive in a small city where the Tonlé Sap meet the mighty Mekong: it is Phnom Penh. We don't take much time visiting the area around the boat dock, as our primary objective is to reach our hotel. It should be fairly simple as the streets are numbered in a sequential order: odd numbers in the N-S direction and even numbers in the E-W direction. Unfortunately it looks like our Tuk-Tuk driver has not been told it was this simple and we have to navigate a bit before we can find our street and the hotel.
Then the next one and a half days are spent visiting the city, eating local food and relaxing in fancy cafés. I have to admit that you don't need that much time to visit Phnom Penh, but it is quite good to relax after the extensive visits in Angkor. Furthermore it is much cheaper.
But sometimes it is not easy to find what you are looking for: though streets are numbered sequentially, houses are not in the same street and we had to spend some time to find a restaurant that was finally closed… on a Sunday evening (something I am not used to anymore in S'pore).
Amongst the highlights of Phnom Penh, I can cite the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda,

some monkeys in a park in the centre of the city,

the covered market

and the tragic Tuol Sleng Museum (Security Prison 21 during the Khmer Rouge period).


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