Cambodia Trip – Phnom Penh


Wow, it is really hot and humid here! We got picked up in the hotel owner’s personal Jaguar oldtimer. Brilliant, except for the limited trunkspace and missing airco. And then we arrive at the hotel…

A Little Oasis

At those moments I think by myself “damn… I am good at finding those little gems of hotels. Yep, did it again.” I know, it sounds arrogant… The Pavillion has that atmosphere from the colonial time (I think, was not there at that time…). The lush garden has been created in a way that provides enough cozy sitting areas and privacy for the pool. Love it love it love it. Staff is friendly, room is great… and the 90 minute massage was divine.

Our first night was not as smooth as we hoped for though… Nothing to do with the hotel itself, but at 1 am we hear my friend’s phone ringing. My friend, still half asleep “urghmhffeu… loo?” “honey, honey, I can’t see you!!!! what’s going on? I can’t see you!! Honey, is everything OK? I can’t see you!” By that time she was able to reach the bathroom and put some light on. He saw her now. My friend and her homefront are puzzled about the 6 hours time difference. My friend had been trying to reach her husband several times during our day, but was not able to reach him. When he got home he saw a lot of missed calls and was sure something bad had happened. So he video-called through What’s App not being aware he woke up his wife in the middle of the night. Hihi.

Royal Palace

We were ready to go tour the city, starting with the Royal Palace. The receptionist looks at us and says that we “might want to consider changing as my knees had to be fully covered and not partially and our shoulders were way too visible”. O help… we are already overheated, my head is turning red and ready to explode… we are ladies in our forties… and now I need to put MORE clothes on… Yes. That’s what we need to do. Ten minutes later we are back… long pants, long shirt, long sleeves… I am going to die from heatstroke soon.

There was one thing we absolutely needed to check: “Is the Royal Palace really as yellow as on the pictures?” My friend was convinced the pictures we found on the net were fake… Mmmm… what do you guys think? Looks pretty yellow to me.

Shopping

The Russian market is advertised as “the place with the bargains”. Haha. Only if you know the prices and know how to bargain heavily. In retrospect we did well, but we found other markets nicer. Anyway, I didn’t bring scarfs with me as I knew – being a scarf-addict – I would buy a full collection here… which I did. And I NEED them to cover up my shoulders. I am also looking for a sort of cloth or scarf to use as long skirt. That was a bit more difficult apparently.

We are also introduced to the fact that the younger kids join mum to work. Incredible actually how peaceful they can sleep about anywhere. Even if they were not asleep I found them cute and relax. What a huge contrast with the scenes on our flight…

Hattha handicraft – nice collection and superfriendly owner

Phnom Penh was actually quite effective in terms of getting everything we wanted to buy, especially 178 street: nice silver bracelet, authentic bowls Cambodian style, old looking brass little statues (to go with my Bengal collection)… And then we enter the store of a stonemason. OK, the huge statues are a bit big for us to take with us, but they are cool. I find nice round tower like statues in soap stone. Eventually we each want two of them and here we go again with the bargaining. Meanwhile we have ended up in the “living room”. This seems quite a usual layout where the front shop smoothly transitions into a living room, bedroom, bathroom, toilet… Anyhow, so we want a good price for our statues. We look at the stonemason for the price. Mmm, we do a counterproposal and look at the guy again. He looks at his wife and they have a discussion. He does a counteroffer. Mmm, a bit less? The man looks at his wife again and another debate. Another counterproposal which is the final. OK. That is OK for us, so stuff is being wrapped and while he is taking the money “OK, we do for a bit less”. Is this guy negotiating with himself? I understand now why he has to ask his wife for permission, this guy gives away stuff! We explain we agreed on that higher price and we were fine with it. Guess we have saved his night… from an angry wife.

Wats

We stroll through 178 street, when we see a nice gate to a type of community. Little do we know what this is. When I look it up, it seemed to have been Wat Sarawan, which in my understanding is some sort of fenced neighbourhood around a temple. Sure enough, a few steps further we see a little temple with a shrine and a monk. We are curious and are invited in. This was a real relaxed place and we have a nice talk with the monk and his family. The monk knows where Belgium is and appears to be a soccerfan… “o yes, Lukaku”. Incredible. We will find out through our trip that the monks here are quite modern with their smart phones, camera’s, eating out in restaurants, riding bikes and taking cruises. Interesting.

We make our way through 172 Street – a very touristy one. It almost feels like a complete different city here, with half naked, drunk English men. We don’t like the touristy places and make our way to Wat Ounalum. Yep, another of those fenced communities. O jeezz, so many stairs. It is hot today, very hot… 36° feeling like 38° (for your reference it is freezing at home…).

Sculptures with a cool coat of paint at Wat Phnom

We are getting really tired by now, the heat and 7,5 km of walking has gotten the best of us. We couldn’t get fast enough out of the Phsar Kandal market. It started out fine with interesting finds like pink eggs and black eggs, skinny long chicken. But then we go to the meat section… the smell was too much.Those type of markets remind me of my trips to Dhaka, except I never felt the smell was getting too much there, and it never seemed so hot as it is here.

We arrive at Wat Phnom and see the many stairs towards the top… arghh… the last efforts. We are even too tired to take off our shoes to go inside any temple. By this time my face is really red, ready to explode. Maybe go back to the hotel?

Independence Monument aka crazy roundabout

I wanted to play a bit with shutterspeed and thought the Independence Monument would be perfect for it. It was! My friend was intrigued by the fact that there were no accidents while we were watching. It just looked like a river arriving at the roundabout and working its way around it.

Killing Fields

And then comes the shock. I knew it would.

Bracelets for the kids who died at the Killing Tree

I don’t think I can ever grasp what has happened here under the Khmer Rouge. I don’t understand how people can be so cruel. How come it took so long before it was ended. A tree where babies and kids were beaten to death against… really???

Still now remains are found spread over the grounds. Everything is investigated and marked: female/ male, approximate age, cause of death and wounds…

S21 prison

I found this place even worse in terms of horror… if it is even possible to have a gradation in horror. Probably because you still see the blood stains on the floor, blooded handprints on the wall and I was able to listen to the nephew of a survivor providing details of the physical and mental tortures. And the fact that this used to be a school…

No way out