( 4.8 )
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Oct 28, 2003 05:08
place, beautiful wats
Well, here we are in Cambodia. Phnom Penh. It's be a long, sobering
To catch everyone up, after heading out from Bangkok to Siem Reap
(translated: Siam destroyed) to see Angkor Wat, we found our way
to Battambang to get our Vietnam Visas and then on to Phnom Penh.
Our stay in Bangkok was enjoyable, even braving the massive "weekend
markets" turned out well. The highlight was still the Royal
Barges, chanting and silently rowing by. It was the whole experience
of it that made it fun. Sarah and I headed for the river that evening
to see if we could find a spot to watch. Since you never know if
an alley is an alley or someone's back yard in Bangkok, we took
a chance and headed off a street through what seemed to be the kitchen
to some restaraunt (they were still cooking as we walked through)
towards the river. Luckily we stumbled on what I think were riverside
shops and restaurants (closed for the evening) where shop owners
were selling seats for the barge viewing. We got riverfront seats
for only a few dollars and I can't stress enough how impressive
the show was. We really felt like we were viewing it was many Thai
would, I suppose that's because we didn't see any other westerners
in those shop and restaurant seats.
The barges were rehearsing for an APEC summit later that week. We
were there when the summit occurred and although we were not in
Bangkok long, seeing those streets completely shut down was indeed
eerie. From Bangkok we headed to Cambdia, Seam Reap, and Angkor
Wat. After what was going to be the first of a string of long travel
days we made it to Seam Reap and the next morning headed out to
I probably can't say anything about Angkor that hasn't been said
before, it is indeed incredible. Sarah and I decided to hike around
a 17 km loop that first day to get a look at Angkor Wat and may
other Wats in the area. I don't know what it is about ruins but
they always capture my imagination. My favorite over the two days
we visited was Bantea Kdei, a smaller ruin that I probably liked
partly because there was hardly anyone there.
Our "big scare" in Siem Reap was, in fact, a spider in
our room. "Spiderzilla" I like to call it. After being
in SE Asia for two months now I have yet to see one of this size
outside of our room - it was a little smaller than your average
computer mouse. Me, being the hunter gatherer that I am, took care
of the situation by making a b-line for the front desk where one
of the small Cambodian women working at our hotel sprayed it with
some Raid and then grabbed it bare handed even though it still looked
alive. I don't think they looked at me with much respect after that!
From Siem Riep we headed to Batambang to get our Vietnam Visa. We
took a boat, and when the boat arrived we were assaulted by the
most persistent hawkers yet. They started yelling from the dock
as the boat approached and then, before the boat even docked they
were jumping aboard like something out of "Pirates of the Carribean."
Still, we managed to get out "unhawked".
There's really not much to do in Battambang other than get a visa
to Vietnam so that's pretty much all we did. Deciding not to brave
the Cambodian roads out of battambang, we opted for the train, which
we knew ahead of time was unbelievably slow. I think I calculated
it having an average speed of 20kph. Battambang is the end or start
of the line, so as we stopped along the way, Sarah and I go more
and more "fans" as we went. I can remember looking up
from my book and seeing faces (mostly of children) all the way around
us staring - exactly like out of the movies. We ended up stopping
only a few hours bus ride out of Phnom Penh (at a point we knew
the roads were good) because we didn't want to arrive in Phnom Penh
at nighttime - we left at 6:30 in the morning and would've arrived
at 8 or 9 at night!
So after being in Phnom Penh for a few days this morning we visited
Tuol Sleng Museaum, formerly Security Prison 21 of the Khmer Rouge.
Here was the one of the prison and interrogation camps the Khmer
Rouge used before sending those kept there on to the infamous killing
fields. Pictures of how the camp looked after the Khmer Rouge fled
as well as pictures of hundreds of prisoners documented by the Khmer
Rouge were on display in the various prison cells. The feel of that
place was enough to make one sick. From there, Sarah and I were
unsure if wanted to continue on to the killing fields outside of
Phnom Pehn but for whatever reason we did. Walking though the fields
there would occasionally be a small pile of bones next to a tree
or mass grave marker. Many of the mass graves had been excavated
but many had still been left untouched. A central pagoda was made
there as a memorial and held the sculls of hundreds. I guess this
is the kind of place you visit to remind yourself of where you are,
kind of like like any landmark. The bizarre thing was, if you didn't
know where you were, it would've just been a pretty field in the
country. Still, this was a hard place to visit.
Not to totally change the subject (that last paragraph leaves a
hard transition) but after one more night in Phnom Penh we should
be off to Vietnam. We'll keep you posted whoever "you"
happens to be).