Sunday, 20 April 2008

Life In Phnom Penh

Chance in a life time... Had an opportunity to visit Phnom Penh, Cambodia after managed to achieved target in UT sales... This is my first trip to IndoChina and haunted by a little sceptical. After all, heard a lot of Khmer Rouge history and its brutality when in power. Anyway, that was in 70's time frame. Cambodia has changed from poor country and now progressing to race with its ASEAN neighbour particularly Vietnam.
We flown in 11 April touched down after about 2 hours flight, its airport remind me to Senai Airport.. good enough to cater a couple of domestic and international flights in and out. China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore were those country who had a carrier services in and out from Phnom Penh.

We choosed a taxi services to Phnom Penh down town. It took about 20 minutes to city center. My scpeticism about Phnom Penh diminished when I saw how it progressed nowadays. Even a taxi that I opted was a posh brand new Camry. But still, the disparity between poor and rich was still huge.. Along the way from airport to the hotel, we saw plenty of beggars (especially when the taxi stopped due to heavy traffic). Many people moved by motorcycle (motor cub to be precised). People not really obey to the traffic law. No helmets and no limitation of how many passengers should ride on it. I saw 6 people max in a single motor cub.. hahaha.. amazing.. Owh, the transaction in Cambodia was in USDollar. And they used their own money which was called Riel for a samll change. 2000 Riel for about USD0.5 Luckily dollar was at it lowest point when we made a trip there. USD1=RM3.2
Well, first night at the serviced apartment in Norodom Street.. Nothing much, just watched Khmer peoples getting busy with their preparation for Khmer New Year.. Same festival as Songkran in Thailand, where people get attacked by the water cannon.. (I am not the victim, thank God..) Owh, we had an opportunity to attend the new year party at roof top of the hotel with invitation of its owner.. What a nice thing... But the sad thing was none of the food I could sample though. There was a roasted pork, stewed pork internal parts, cockle in chilies (This one was nice) and plenty plenty wines with ice.. (They drink wine with loads of ice.. Weird stuff!!)
First day, we went to Russian market, also known as Phsar Toul Tompong. We opted to went there by tuk tuk.. A honda cub motocycle which pull a 4 seater cabin. Vehicle known elsewhere as an auto rickshaw or cabin cycle, yeah I can say motor cycle rickshaw as well.. Easily can accomodate 4 adults on it. Similar to those tuk tuk in Bangkok but quite comfort compared to bajaj at Jakarta. It cost us USD2 for 20 mins ride.
Back to Russian market, kind of all in one market, one stop center. You can find wet stuff, fish, meats, vegetables, crafts, souvenirs, shirts, silk items even you can find spare parts for vehicles here.. Very messy but very very cheap indeed. I bought couples of t shirts, silk items and postcards. Great deals.
Then we walked around and watched Khmer people doing a last day preparation for New Year. Second spot, Toul Sleng Museum.. This time we opted for moto.. Very cheap option, only 1 dollar.
In english, the word tuol sleng is recognized as the location where khmer rouge regime, set up a prison to detain individuals accused of opposing Angkar. They will tortured and finally murdered.. Thousands of dead faces are at its wall. And photos of tortured prisoners made us thinking how bless we are in Malaysia for not being in the same faith as them, cambodian peoples.
After spend almost hour and half, we went to National Musuem. I am not really fancied by the displayed, because loads of buddha statues, but what made me amazed was how passion khmer people to their culture and religious.
Then we had a chicken pho' dish at the restaurant nearby to Mekong riverbank. I knew it was not halal, but no choice.. Chicken pho' basically likes a soto. With flat rice mee, kueytiaw and chicken soup, nice with couple of chili cut and light soy sauce. Accompanied with kopi beng, ice milk coffee.
In the afternoon, another place to visit was Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. The Royal Palace of Phnom Penh, Cambodia is a complex of buildings which are the royal abode of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Its full name in the Khmer language is Preah Barom Reachea Vaeng Chaktomuk. The Kings of Cambodia have occupied it since it was built in 1866, with a period of absence when the country came into turmoil during and after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.

The palace was started after King Norodom relocated the royal capital from Oudong to Phnom Penh after the mid-1800s. It was gradually built atop an old citadel called Banteay Kev. It faces towards the East and is situated at the Western bank of four divisions at the Mekong River called Chaktomuk (an allusion to Brahma).
Many division of its palace. First, The Throne Hall is where the king's confidants, generals and royal officials once carried out their duties. It is still in use today as a place for religious and royal ceremonies
Second, Silver Pagoda. It is a compound located on the North side of the palace complex. It features a a royal temple officially called Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot but is commonly referred to as Wat Preah Keo. Third, The Preah Thineang Chan Chhaya ("Moonlight Pavilion"). It is an open-air pavilion that serves as stage for Khmer classical dance in the past and present. It is one of the most notable buildings of the palace as it easily seen from the outside as it was built alongside a section of the palace walls.
At night we had a luxurious dinner at Topaz, French restaurant at Norodom Street. I had a nice bake snapper with salt sauce and mango milk shake. Second day, we will fly to Siem Reap for a visit to the famous Angkor Watt.
At Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, 40 mins fly from Phnom Penh, 6 hours by bus. Angkor Wat is a temple at Angkor, Cambodia, built for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation—first Hindu, dedicated to Vishnu, then Buddhist. The temple is the epitome of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country's prime attraction for visitors.
Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the later galleried temple. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the gods in Hindu mythology: within a moat and an outer wall 3.6 km (2.2 miles) long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west; scholars are divided as to the significance of this. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs and for the numerous devatas (guardian spirits) adorning its walls.

We flown back to Phnom Penh in the afternoon for a Mekong River cruise..
Mekong River, famously known around the globe for its famous agriculture contribution - irrigation. Rate per person for an hour + cruise was just USD5. Very cheap. We started at river front, Sisowath Quay. We cruised along Tonle Sap River until at end of it. Enjoyed Phnom Penh setting under sunset with gleaming Royal palace and high rise building. We cruised at the starting point of Bassac River and turned to Mekong Up and Down River. At Mekong Up, we passed by poor Cambodian settlement. Villagers stayed nonhygienically at river bank. Worst casing, we saw couple of families who stayed on the small boat.. It's kind of made us think how they could survived, cooking, fishing, sleeping under small boats.

I took couple of nice pictures as well. We stayed at Sisowath Quay for a while, had a dinner at FCC then had a drinks and played pool at Love's Pub and Cafe.
Tomorrow, time to relax before pack and fly back.. Amazing experiences in Cambodia..

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