Back in Cambodia.

Saigon to Phnom Penh

Misunderstanding… 19th October 2012

We wake up early… packed and checked out of the hotel, went down the lobby and waited the 8:30 a.m bus at the street right in front of the hotel, how convenient can it get.

Then the bus came, and to our surprise, it wasn’t the sleeper coach that we wanted even though we have specifically requested for it. So there was some disputes with the tour clerk.

There’s nothing we can do about it, the clerk insisted that this is our bus, and the seat can be inclined for sleeping. However, the coach is a little bit spacious because instead of 4 seat in a row, this bus has 3. The seat can still be inclined and they have leg rest which comes out when the back rest is pulled backwards, so I could still sleep quite nice.

Anyway, their definition of a sleeper coach, maybe different from us, but that’s the way here and we just have to accept it. It’s a good thing that we only have to pay an extra dollar for this from the normal USD10. We could have misunderstood them and they may not have explained well but for the price difference, I could accept that.

I remembered the guide yesterday, talking about taxi’s here in Vietnam, there are the true operators and there are also the scammers taxi. The true ones like Vinasun have a Phone number 38 27 27 27, and the knock-off with exactly same insignia but number 58 27 27 27. I have no experience and only read some of the reviews online after back from my trip and some of the reviews quite scary. Black mail, locking doors with electronic lock, metal bars from under the seat…?!? you get the idea.

Back to the journey… we took the bus back to Phnom Penh, same route as we came before, crossed the ferry and reached Phnom Penh at about  1:00 p.m.. The bus dropped us at somewhere that seems nowhere again (really hate this), and as usual, tuk-tuk drivers waiting by the streets, touting for passengers. We bargained with the tuk-tuk drive to take us to Preah Sisowath Quay. Where we planned for Velkomen guest house, lots of positive reviews.

Took a tuk-tuk from where the bus dropped us and negotiated for the fee, the driver initially requested for USD7 but we bargained to USD4. reluctantly he agreed. The driver dropped us at the pier somewhere along Preah Sisowath Quay. Head south from there by foot searching for the guest house, and along the way, in between the streets along the main road, there are many guesthouse that can be seen. Food outlets, cafe bars, almost similar to that at Vietnam’s Pham Ngu Lao street.

Finally arrived at the guesthouse at 2:00 pm, and we went to the reception counter. As we hadn’t any reservations, we had the option to choose and pick the rooms that we want. So after a little bargaining and negotiating…. we had the double queen for USD20 /night.

Shortly after dropping our bags, we intended to visit the killing fields, museum and market. The guesthouse called for a tuk-tuk driver and because not enough time, we agreed for the museum then the Russian market only and back for a fee of USD10.

Museum

We are at Tuol Sleng genocide museum after a 20 minute ride from the guest house. The entrance fee USD2 and there is an additional fee of getting a tour guide ticket office but we skipped as we only planned the visit to be a short one.

At the ticket booth, we turn left to begin the 4 block tour at the compound area, each block having 3 floors but not every floor open to visitors. The former high school compound was turned into a prison, August 1975, four months after the Khmer Rouge won the civil war. Entering the area I felt a grim atmosphere that is indescribable. Probably it’s the colors of the building or the surroundings or maybe just me. The word genocide alone, made me feeling uneasy since the beginning.

“In 1979 Ho Van Tay, a Vietnamese combat photographer, was the first media person to document Tuol Sleng to the world. Van Tay and his colleagues followed the stench of rotting corpses to the gates of Tuol Sleng. The photos of Ho Van Tay documenting what he saw when he entered the site are exhibited in Tuol Sleng today.”-wikipedia
detention rooms

The first block, I saw the metal beds and at the walls are pictures of the victims found executed just before the s-21 flee the prison, mostly burnt beyond recognition. There were quite a number of these rooms for display and I did not want to count them.

view from block A

Another room had photograph of the prisoners, I can’t bear to watch all of the photograph, as each face made me wonder what fate they had encountered.

“…..most of the photographs remain anonymous today..”

one floor had crude divided cells, made of wood and some was made of  bricks. Small and cramp basically walls and floors.

individual cells.

Tools and equipments used for torture, techniques with descriptive drawings as described by the prisoners, are also on display. Shocking and brutal, but the harsh reality that sadly happened at the same spot where I was standing.

Bou Meng, an artist, spared for his skills. Known to be one of the 7 survivors.

There’s a section of the museum that displays few of the photocopies of the autobiography and the last page, “confessions” made by the prisoners. Reading some of the hand-written pages can really get onto you as it does get kind of personal.

documents and records.

I wish not to write about this too lengthy, just made it brief as possible, but to ignore my visit and just act as if it was just some history would be too disrespectful and inappropriate for the people of Cambodia that have gone through too much. It was an unexpected experience and sad reminder that how cruel and terrible the world can be. We left the museum with little words.

Market

Our tuk-tuk driver,waiting outside the gate faithfully and took us to the Russian market as planned, it was 5:10 pm that time, as scheduled. 20 minutes later we arrived and he waited outside the entrance. There are lots of items for sale, souvenirs, crafts, clothes, shoes but mostly souvenirs.

Russian market.

The place was not that small to walk about and walkway was alright. Bargaining for everything is a tradition here, never agree on the initial price offered as they are expecting you to bid for everything and try to negotiate for lower. Most of the shop owners are good in conversing in English, so communication is not much of a problem here.

Outside the market nearby, there’s the wet market as well, selling vegetables, meat, poultry. I was looking for some exotic food or items but couldn’t find any. I concluded probably I was at the wrong section or place.

market outside

The public was quite friendly and wasn’t perturbed by our presence. Made the walking quite comfortably relaxed. The only downside is that they don’t speak English much so asking for questions was quite not that easy.

posed for the picture.

Aside from that, the seafood looks fresh, vegetables bright green and looking bright green.

minding their own business.

Middle Eastern Dinner

It was getting late and we head back to the guest house at 5:30 pm, and went for some food at Beirut Resto-Café, noticed a great place that sells Lebanese cuisine along the streets earlier. So we went there and ordered some Mediterranean food. I ordered the platter, Shawarma. Pita bread and lamb meat for USD9 and two glass of iced coffee because the coffee is really good. The kitchen is helm by a chef from Lebanon. Had a great satisfying meal that evening. The staff is friendly and so ever helpful and restaurant got wi-fi.

Beside this cafe, there are also many other outlets along the road that looks and seems very enticing. Nice atmosphere and clean-looking setup, sadly I can’t say much about them as we were didn’t visit all of them. What’s for sure, eating place is abundant and not going to be much of a problem to find in this area.

Phsa Reatrey. Night market

After the dinner, went back to the guesthouse and, passed by the night market Phsa Reatrey. Nothing close to the Russian Market or Ben Thanh market in terms of size, however the open air and space just makes the place interesting. Again we were quite surprised by the placid scenario. Nobody touting and pulling or all that stuff. Here, mostly they sell food and drinks.

local foods.

Again take note that they don’t speak English that well so most of the transaction are by sign language.

The death of the former king, still mourned by the countrymen here.

respects for the late king, Norodom Sihanouk, died October 15th, aged 89.

At the center, there’s an open space, no table or chairs but just nylon woven carpets where they use it as a sitting area where we can sit and relax. Although I already had a big meal, I just can’t resist to buy another cup of sugar cane for VND20000 (approx 25cents), Yes 25 cents. We chilled out and sat down enjoying the surrounding that night.

nice concept, no table or chairs to keep when closing time.

Loitered around for an hour or so, head back to the guest house for a night sleep.

farewell Cambodia
20th Oct 2012

Next morning, we met with the tuk-tuk driver, same as yesterday for we already booked him and he’s going to take us to the airport for about USD7. He’s already waiting for us as promised. In fact we were the one being late and all. So after checking out and all, we left the hotel and head for the airport.

notes and records

Overall experience here has been challenging and interesting. Map, compass, some preparation before travelling and simple notes and address takes you a long way. Interesting place to be and walk about. The only downside is when scammers and those who will take advantage of you will make the experience unpleasant, thus some knowledge and tips on hindering them will save a lot of money, time and maybe life.

Coming back and doing it again, definitely but not in the near future. There’s still quite a lot to see and feel in Cambodia and Vietnam. I recalled my travels the past few days.

8th-11th Oct; KL-East Java, Indonesia- KL.

12th-16th Oct ;KL-JB- Singapore.

17th -18th Oct ;KL-Cambodia-Saigon

19th -20th Oct: Saigon- Phnom Penh-KL.

After that, planned for next trip.

view the flickr album for this trip

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