So I finally arrived in the Big Smoke that is Phnom Penh. I'm not a huge fan of cities and this was as big and polluted as they come. not wishing to be ripped off by a tuktuk driver I decided to walk to some of the sights. Big mistake - Too hot, too far and almost impossible to cross the road. I mean there are no rules. They all just go! Bicycles, tuktuks, motorbikes, jeeps, trucks all weaving in and out of each other and hooting into the bargain. There are pedestrian crossings but I think they are just there to amuse the tourists. The green man is animated you see and when it is your turn to cross he starts walking. Alongside this there is a countdown - exactly a minute so you know how long you have got to get across the 8 lines of traffic. But as your minute gets close to being up the man speeds up to a powerwalk, then a jog then when you have only seconds reach the other side he is positively sprinting. While all this is going on the traffic continues to move forward so you have no chance.
I reached the Royal palace at 10 to 11 only to find out it shuts for 3 hours at 11. So I allowed a fairly friendly english speaking tuktuk driver to take me on an excursion to the Killing fields of Choeng Ek whicha are little way out of town. This is where Pol Pot had his opposers and their families killed and more brutally than I would like to describe. Walking around there now it feels like a peaceful memorial park with notices asking for quiet You can see the dips that were the mass graves and there were loads of them.and in the centre there is a pagoda filled with the cracked skulls and bones of many of the victims. Very thought provoking. You are invited to buy flowers and insense sticks if you want to pay your respects further. There is a small information centre and a short video to watch should you wish to find out more - i watched the film with the tuktuk driver which made it all the more poignant. I would like to say "And now for cheerier things" but next stop was the S-21 prison! This was once a school but was usedt by the Khymer rouge to interrogate and torture people whio were against the regime before they were taken to the Killing Fields. It is now a museum housing enlarged photographs of the captives including a lot of children and babies (whole families were murdered to prevent revenge attacks later). And you can see crude and hastily built cells, some brick, others made from wood and most only a metre wide. And amother film show. After this I'd had enough and went to sit in a lovely bar opposite my hotel and watched Home Alone. Very relaxing, and I was surrounded by tacky Christmas decorations!
I managed to get to the Royal Palace the next day and it was very beautiful. And golden. And I walked along the riverfront which wasn't much to speak of - a lot of western style bars in the main and people selling bus tickets. I got hot and sticky and decided just to go back to that bar but I was disappointed as someone was sitting in my seat and the barmaid gave me lemon soda instead of lime and it was incredibly sour. And it cost more. I am going to have to sign off now as there is a mosquito in here having a meal of my legs. if I think of anything else to say about Phnom Penh I shall write it in the next blog!