Friday, May 7, 2010

Cambodia 2.2

After enduring a rather cramped coach ride from Siem Reap, we arrived in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh around midnight. Waiting for Dumb and Dumber (our driver and his assistant) to change the massive bus tyre had put us a full hour behind schedule. I am pleased to say I played a vital role in the changing of the tyre: 'official flashlight shiner'. Without my help, we could have had loose nuts on the road and a tyre may have come off en route! Disaster averted!

Gerd and I, sleepy but excited to finally reach, enjoyed our tuk-tuk ride from the coach stand to our hotel. The balmy midnight air and a very quite and calm Phnom Penh were a surreal experience- our driver, "Mr. Happy" pointed out the regal French colonial uplit city buildings and the occasional 'lady of the night' that marked the landscape. The short ride was soon over and another luxury hotel experience awaited us at the Raffles Hotel Le Royal.

The hotel played its part in the torrid history of the city- it was in fact a short term safe haven for citizens looking to escape the wrath of the Khmer Rouge during the forced evacuation of the city in 1975. Troops eventually forced their way in and removed people. No doubt there was gunfire involved too.

Now the scene couldn't be any more different- this was a relaxing place to be and the perfect reward for our hard day's travel.

The next day was spent learning the about the city's disturbing past during the troubled years of Pol Pot's rule. Mr. Happy picked us up and after a nice riverside breakfast, we visited Tuol Sleng, or S-21, the high school that was converted into a torture prison and then The Killing Fields, the mass graves where thousands of innocent souls met their end.

The afternoon needed a change of pace and we finished up at the National Museum in the city, which houses plenty of amazing artefacts from the height of the Khmer Empire.

The day ended with an amazing dinner at Romdeng, a Khmer restaurant run by a children's charity- Friends International. They invest the profits into helping homeless children and the food is not half bad! Gerd tried one of the specialties; Crispy Fried Tarantula! I tried one of the legs but Gerd was seemingly on a mission to finish the plate! I was more keen on getting some coconut water down my throat and starting on the Amok Curry.

Our evening ended with a trip to a Cambodian Karaoke bar and it was more entertaining than I thought it would be- there's a uniquely mesmerising dance style that is slow and rythmic and the ladies (I'm pretty sure they were real ladies) were very pretty!

Our one day in Phnom Penh was soon over and the next morning called for Mr. Happy to pick me up at an ungodly hour for my morning flight to Bangkok, and on to Hong Kong. I was really looking forward to my Hong Kong, but sad to leave Cambodia, a country and people I had fallen in love with and hoped to return to soon.

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