Off I got to Phnom Penh. It was feeling a bit weird as not only was I travelling to Phnom Penh alone, I didn’t already know people who were going to be there when I arrived, strange after over 5 months on the road to be completely alone. The bus journey was a standard day trip and once I arrived, luckily the bus stopped in the city and about a 10 minute hot and sweaty walk from my hostel, Lovely Jubbly Place. Bit of a result, I had booked a 12 bed room but they ‘upgraded’ me into a 6 bed room. Although the room looked and felt a bit like a prison cell, all grey plastered walls, the hostel was pretty decent. That evening, feeling at a bit of a loss, I went for a walk around the city and along the river and treated myself an ‘expensive’ meal, certainly by backpacker’s standards at the Friends Restaurant. This is worth spending the cash on, not only because the food is good but its workers are former street youths who are provided with a chance to become skilled and make a living. I’d heard there was a night market too, but when I got there it was closed so I resorted to chilling in bed watching a film. I hope Phnom Penh has a bit more to offer in the morning.
As Cambodia has a dark history (and fairly recent) I went to theS-21 prison which is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. It is a real eye opener as to the extent of the genocide in this small country. Firstly, the building is an old high school that became an awful prison during the Khmer Rouge era and where most of the prisoners did not make it out alive. And in four years, 17,000 people were imprisoned here of all ages and both sex. The ‘class rooms’ were used as torture rooms and many rooms had tiny cells built within them to tie up the prisoners. I don’t think there was even enough room to lie down in these cells. The extent of torture and death that went on in this prison is unimaginable, where the guards had no choice but to do these things if they did not want to be on the receiving end. Feeling a bit drained from the prison trip, I found myself in the Daughters of Cambodia shop and café for a drink and a relax. This is another worthy place to spend a bit of money as they help the victims of sex-trafficking and sex-exploitation in Cambodia and it’s a cute place to kill some time. Then I went to Costa coffee for the second time that day to get my English coffee shop fill before enjoying a few cold beers with Lise and Andrew on a rooftop bar, as they had just arrived in town.
Next on the agenda for the history lesson of Cambodia was to visit the Killing Fields. I joined Lise and Andrew for the trip and by the end of the visit all of us were in a sombre mood, to say the killing fields is a sad place, whilst being informative is an understatement. You are provided with a headset to listen to the story as you walk around and hear just how brutally Cambodians were treated and killed, for what seemed like any reason the Khmer Rouge could invent. The most heart breaking of all of this is not just seeing the mass grave sites, but the fact that bones and the clothes people were killed in are coming up through the ground and are visible. You’d have to be heartless to be unaffected by this place. Some of the accounts bring tears to the eyes. But this is Cambodia’s past and history. I left the others to visit s-21 and started walking back to the hostel when really randomly Ole went past me in a tuk tuk. So we arranged a KFC lunch before heading for drinks with Lise and Andrew for their last evening in Phnom Penh.
I befriend Nayam in my dorm and after a farewell breakfast with Ole, Lise and Andrew, we went to the National Museum which wasn’t the most informative of national museums but it killed some time. Bizarrely for a capital city, Phnom Penh is rather uninteresting once the Killing Fields has been ticked off. So we spend a bit of time eating, drinking and chatting in Daughters of Cambodia before going for a stroll along the river to a bar. Where, whilst we were sat chatting, a huge bed bug crawled up my arm…gross. So back the hostel we stripped both our beds to try see if the hostel was the cause of the bug, but we couldn’t find any evidence. That evening, Ole joined Nayam and I exploring and eating cheap amazing food in the night market, where there was so much choice of freshly cooked food. Nayam and I went to explore Phnom Penh’s nightlife which seemed to get a bit quiet around the hostel once 1am came around, so we called it a night.
That night I slept in my bikini in case there were bed bugs and sure enough I woke up to a cluster of bites on my arm. That’s it, I packed my bag and moved to Lovely Jubbly Villa for my last night in Phnom Penh, with a day visiting my old faithful Costa Coffee, chilling at the hostel where I ran into someone I’d met in Koh Rong but a nice evening with a big random group of people for an awesome Indian meal. I suppose in hindsight, Phnom Penh isn’t too bad but so far my least favourite place. But I’m excited now as next stop is VIETNAM.