As there are no passenger trains in Cambodia, we took a public bus out of Ho Chi Mihn City across the Vietnamese/Cambodian border to Phnom Penh.Strangely enough Kasser & Johanna were also on our bus too.The border was interesting, lengthy un organised ques, if you were prepared and brave enough to bung the officials some cash you get through first, if not wait your turn or in real time about an hour and a half!
We arrived in Phnom Penh late afternoon, the hotel was in a bit of a dodgy area about a two minute walk to the banks of the Tonle Sap and all the back packers' bars.Long, our Cambodian guide had warned us to be careful in the area and proceeded to tell us how corrupt Cambodia is.Corruption is so blatantthat you can work out who is 'important' by the number plates on their car!Now I'm not talking about plates that read 'MONTY K', if you are a pleb you get a white plate, a high ranking military man you get a blue and red plate, if you are high ranking retired military you get a green plate, policemen get a red plate with 'POLICE' written on the bottom, if you are more important that the afore mention classes i.e. you have money you don't need a plate!Anyway I digress…
We took a short walk from the hotel past the national museum and absolutely beautiful building, through a small market to the river bank.Long purchased some local delicacies in the market, so when we got to the river we sat and had a feast on Fried Tarantula, Cockroach and Water Cockroach much to the amusement of the locals.We walked on five minutes further to the public gardens outside the Royal Palace where the independence monument stands.The gardens were huge and in every available space there were people having fun, playing hacky sack, badminton, dancing, watching the fountain show or just sitting chatting.I love the way public spaces come to life at night in Asia.In the UK we let the minority ruin it, so that our parks are no go areas rather than great spaces we can all use (I'll get off my soap box).We hung out looking cool for an hour or so, played a bit of hacky sack and then went for dinner.Cambodian food is fantastic, I was spoilt in China with good food and great portions, Vietnam was nice but the portions aren't enough for a growing lad, Cambodians have it sorted, great food and lots of it.
The following morning I got up early and headed back to the Khmer museum, it was set in a square with gardens in the middle, it was so tranquil.The artifacts were mainly Buddhas and Angkorian statues, it was all very impressive, upsetting to see the damage the war had caused to them.Worse still the lack of protection the artifacts are now getting.The building was fairly open so bird were getting in and nesting.Some of the timber had termites and the paintings were completely exposed.The Cambodians lost so much of their history to the Khmer Rouge, it's frustrating that the Government is doing little to preserve what is left.
I grabbed a quick lunch from the bakery en route back to the hotel before we headed out of Phnom Pehn to a homestay at Chambok.We're coming back to Phnom Pehn in a few days as a stopover during our journey north to Siem Reap.