We left Saigon bleary eyed after a short nights sleep, booked on the sinh cafe bus at 6.30 meant a very early start after being late to bed following the bag snatching the night before.
The bus journey was good though, we slept for the first couple of hours and arrived at the Cambodian border at around 10PM. The guide on the bus had leveraged our border fees out of us already so that was all sorted and we were in Cambodia! Another couple of hours on the bus untill Phnonm Penh, it was clear we were back in a much poorer country. Very potholed roads, many very dangerous looking trucks, rice paddy fields and lots of shanty town like villages.
We were dumped in Phnom Penh by the Sinh cafe hotel which suprise suprise was in the middle of nowhere. Not impressed and being mercylessly hounded by Tuk Tuk drivers we headed for a bank to get some currency. Finding that Cambodias first currency was actually the us dollar we flagged down a passing Tuk Tuk and pointed him in the direction of a hotel we'd seen online. It soon turned out he had no idea where it was and he dropped us at a nice looking place. We went in to look at the rooms and it was clear that it wasn't at all what it said on the tin, very grubby looking on the inside! Unable to find another place close by we hiked up to the part of town where we though we would find the hotel we researched. It was hot work with the sun beating down on us but we finally found the "Europe" guesthouse that had such glowing reviews on tripadvisor. No idea how it got the reviews for having such clean rooms the one we were shown was grim! We were ready to give up when we wondered across the road to the oddly named "Nordic House". The rooms here while small are perfectly formed with clean sheets and bathroom, for $15 a night we were pretty happy! (This place also has the nicest sheets and softest pillows we've come across in asia!)
Following a shower and a change we were ready to explore our surroundings, first impressions were that our guesthouse was on hooker street with every bar having scantily clad woman sitting outside them. The Tuk Tuk drivers are also RELENTLESS here, they will not leave you alone and don't take no for an answer and will even follow you along the road. It's sooooo annoying. We went to the end of the road and had a late lunch of sandwiches and had our first Angkor beers in sight of the Mekong.
We think we managed to get a bit dehydrated becuase after a short walk around Tom started to feel a bit dodgey so we headed back to the room for some AC. We chilled out with a few films watching "The In Laws" which was very strange and silly. After this Tom was feeling better and it was time for some tea! We wondered down the water front and discovered a wide variety of restaurants. After walking up and back down the strip we settled on a spot called "Karma". Tom ordered a Kymer Noodle dish while Charlie ordered the Cambodian national dish of Amok (Similar to Korma but spicier) with chicken served in a banana leaf. Both were fantastic and badly needed change from the Vietnamese palette, we were so happy to have something new to try and both were soo tasty!
Next day Tom got sent out to bring back pastrys for breakfast. from one of the numerous bakeries we'd seen while wondering round. After blundering around side streets he eventually found place on the waterfront called "the blue pumpkin" and selected a cinamon swirl, raisin danish and a coconut swirl for breakfast. These were incredible they were easily some of the best pastries we've ever had being so tasty and crisp but still managing to be moist in the centre. Following this we set out to explore the city. First stop was Wat Phnom, this is a wat on a hill, the highest point of the city (which at 27m was not exactly impressive). However the wat and it's surrounding grounds were beautiful, but we didn't see any monkeys (as lonely planet had said), just LOTS of caged birds that you pay to set free and one very sad looking elephant available for rides.
The rest of the city's sites are closed for lunch, so we spent the next few hours looking for a replacement handbag and wallet for Charlie. We beelined for the central market, which was huge but very tidy and "restrained" compared to others we have seen. There were so many to choose from, unfortunately most of these were designer fakes (which I'm not sure I feel right buying) and there were some lovely vintage looking (most probably stolen and been sitting there since the 80s) bags, but everyting was either too big, too "slashable" or in most cases too expensive - $55 for a tiny little bag... I think not! Ended up settling for a slightly too big, unbranded, (potentially?) leather bag for $8, better! We then headed back to the hotel to drop the rucksack we had, however we dropped into this crafty silk shop as they had ok looking wallets, and unfortunately they had some lovely little bags too... so now if another one gets nicked I have a spare! :)
It was VERY hot so we were quite keen to find a nice (nice usually means AC) spot for lunch. We got sidetrcked looking at the cakes in blue pumpkin,and realised they had an upstairs cafe! It was amazing! So modern, it was like they were sponsored by apple or something. Menu wasn't the cheapest, but everything looked so good so we decided to treat ourselves. I got the house special of Amok Fish Ravioli (Cambodian fusion! love it!) and Tom got a massive sab of quiche and chips. Well, both were just amazing! Best lunch so far, and very surprisingly the best quiche either of us have ever had; these Cambodians really can do pastry!
Went straight off to the Royal Palace, but after queuing in the heat, we were told that I wasn't allowed in as I was inappropritaely dressed. (I've never had a problem using a silk scarf for covering my shoulders before...but maybe they are stricter here.) So a bit gutted we headed back to the waterfront. This was when we saw the sky suddenly blacken, and now we were quite happy to have been turned away and bolted for refuge in the hotel.
We chilled out untill the rain stopped and then had an epic battle with ATMs, Charlies cash cards have all been screwed up since one got robbed and at the moment she doesn't have any way to get cash out. Fortunately we have a bit of cash in reserve still so hopefully there will be time to get it sorted.
We had dinner back at "Karma" this time Thai green curry for Tom and Charlie had a beef with chili and lemon grass dish. Washed down by a few Anchor beers presumably named since Angkor was taken :-p Off to Kep tomorrow we hear its meant to be fairly secluded so we're looking forward to a chill, let you know how it goes...