So to explain the title… as you know when walking around Asia you get hassled a lot by Tuk Tuks, street vendors or ‘tour guides’. During our stay in Phnom Penh we decided to take a walk around the city. A Tuk Tuk driver tried to sell us the Killing Fields. I explained to him that we went yesterday, he asked where we wanted to go, I said I want to do what the locals do – at this point he asked if I would like to throw a hand grenade?! It was a hard choice, but we thought best to say no! Welcome to Asia!
After our long stay in Sihanoukville we met back up with the Stray bus and travelled to Kampot, a small but unique tourist destination. For lunch we went to ‘Epic Art Cafe’ which has been recommended to us by a friend. Not only was the food amazing, the place was dedicated to supporting those with additional needs (of course my kind of place!) All the staff had additional needs and the menu even came with Cambodian Sign Language to try with the staff.
As we only had a day we booked an afternoon tour of the Bokor National Park, unfortunately as its high up in the mountains and rainy seasons it was pretty foggy – though it did bring a sense of ‘spook’ to the air.
That evening we spent the night at a local restaurant called ‘The Magic Sponge’ run by an American gentleman who had spent his life as a diving instructor throughout Asia. The restaurant/hostel was his retirement home and dream, it came with cheap food, drinks and amazing accommodation. It even had a crazy golf course, the only one in Cambodia. We know where will we stay if we ever come back!
The next day we went to Rabbit Island. Apparently the island was renamed to attract tourists – there aren’t actually any rabbits on the island. On our way we popped into the local floating market – it was pouring down so we didn’t stay long but the amount of fish was unbelievable.
Until we hit the pier we were not sure we would even make it across due to the rain, however as the wind was calm the boats were running. The island was beautiful and exotic. A true island experience with no electricity apart from between 6 – 10 pm, cooking on fire, and bucket showers etc. Lucky for us the family we were staying with had a 4 week old puppy to keep us entertained for hours. Oh and of course the local massage parlour where I got a coconut oil massage for $7 (£5.30) per hour (heaven!)
* we even had a chicken sleeping in our hut rain cover
Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia – and this is very noticeable with how western it is! On our was to the capital we stopped of at S21 and the Killing Fields of Cambodia.
For those who don’t know too much (I knew nothing about it till we arrived in Cambodia)… During the period of 1975-1979 a man named ‘Pol Pot’ ran Cambodia. He had a distaste for anyone who could be considered ‘smart’ and believed in a communist society. Therefore, anyone considered smart (this included; wearing glasses, having soft hands, living in the city) was tortured in a number of prisons named ‘Security Centres’ and then killed and placed into mass graves (similar to the Holocaust). This also included any members of their family, including young children and babies who could ‘seek revenge’.
S21 and the Killing Fields were an experience to say the least, learning about the history was fascinating but after about 3 hours the whole group was pretty depressed and we decided to leave. I think the worst bit for me was walking around the cells and seeing the blood stains still on the floor. For obvious reasons we don’t have any photos of the visit.
After a hard-hitting day, we decided, as a group, to have a stroll around the market and relax on a rooftop bar. While Duncan and I have had plenty of street food this was the first time we risked ‘meat on a stick’ – it was some of the best food we’ve had!
Our final day in Phnom Penh and Cambodia was a pretty relaxing day. We didn’t end up getting up and out till almost 11 am and were on the hunt for food. Something I really do miss is having the ability to wake up and have a slice of toast and a cuppa tea before you leave the house. Walking around the city was really nice, we visited the Central Market and just explored to see what we could find. On our walk we found the ‘pharmacy district’, the place had over 20 pharmacies within 100 meters of each other. People must get sick here often, or maybe they just need medication for all the hand grenade injuries!
We then spent the afternoon walking around the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace was gorgeous, but the weather was so hot. We even got lucky – King Norodom Sihamoni was in! Though this did mean half the buildings were closed.
By the end of the day we were craving civilisation and a western atmosphere – we had lasted 36 days after all – so visited the giant shopping centre. Unfortunately we couldn’t find the recommended street food so ended up in (don’t kill us Mum) KFC. Not gonna lie, it’s not the same. Phnom Penh was a nice end to our Cambodian stay.
Cambodia has been my favourite place by far – and its going to be pretty hard to beat. The atmosphere was wonderful, the people were very friendly, even the ones trying to sell to you. It was western enough you feel comfortable, but Asian enough you are getting a true experience. Despite the rumours that the people will try to con you and you are likely to get robbed I felt very safe, as I’ve said the people were so friendly. And of course as a pretty big plus side was I brought 3 tops, denim shorts, elephant pants and a scarf for $16 (£12!) If you ever get the chance, you have to visit Cambodia.