Bukarest 10 years ago

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

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The silver pagoda, the silver is inside and you'll be walking on it

We were awaited by a cheery Cambodian who would take us in his bus to Phnom Penh but his bus was actually a Hyundai minivan for 7 people. With heroic effort we managed to squeeze in 6 people with all their backpacks and daypacks into the little Hyundai. Proud of ourselves we gave the cheery Cambodian driver a smug look of victory and expected him to be impressed. He looked swiftly into the Hyundai and dryly said: FOUR.Four? Puzzled we looked at each other what four meant. The cheery driver pointed at the backseat and repeated: FOUR. OMG it hit us, he meant four people on each seat!!! There was no way a fourth person could be fitted on seat let alone on the smaller backseat.

Phom Penh train station
After 10 minutes of shifting and more reshifting we did the impossible and slowly the Hyundai came to life with its cargo of 9 tourists canned like sardines.

As we were cruising down on national route 9 and we were passing by Toyota Camrys with 10 people in it, little Hyundai's or Toyota minivans so full that there were people on sitting on the roof. Being squeezed with 8 other tourists in a Hyundai minivan looked more and more comfortable and soon I learned a valuable lesson in Cambodian transport: There is always room for one more.

After comtemplating where to go for new year's eve in the little Hyundai I still hadn t made up my mind where to go; Phnommers, Shoukers or Riepers. According to two Australian girls the word was out on the street that every backpacker went to Shoukers.

So I decided to join the three Brits in a shared taxi to Shoukers and see if it is worth staying there for new year's eve. We still had to kill some time as the evening was still young and we took a tuk tuk tour with John our Cambodian tuk tuk driver. John was to take us on a one hour tour through Phnommes and the first stop John had to take us was a beer stop.

The tour was not really what we expected as Phnommes is lit in the night like Bukarest 10 years ago, which means that you'll have to bring your own light to see anything. Even the big sites were poorly or not at all lit during the night. So after 20 minutes of sightseeing in total darkness, we did hear the occasional horn of the cars and motors to remind us that we were still in South East Asia, but other than that we could have been anywhere, John was getting a bit restless as we were not getting out of the tuk-tuk to see anything and his monster tuk-tuk was sipping away the gallons.

To be honest Phnommes in the dark is just as inviting as Bukarest 10 years ago.

We saw the desperation on John's face as he spoke little or no English but his face told us all; he was out of sights and didn't know anymore where to go other than doing the round again. So we saw the whole tour again in the dark. 5 minutes later we ended his suffering by directing him to the bar area, that he did understand so he took us from one seedy bar to the other. All of the bars he took us to were not really inviting and the night scene did remind of us Bukarest 10 years ago. John again was getting anxious and brought us in a total act of dispair to a Vietnamese massage establishment where the ladies obviously didn't know anything about massaging the body but were very proficent in massaging certain parts of it.

To John's relief we went to the Walkabout bar which is listed in the "bible" but what the bible forgot to mention that it is a pickup hotspot. The audience were solely middle aged single men with teenage or even younger local girls. Yep this bar was attracting LBH'ers (Looser Back Home) more than a honey pot would attract bees. It all looked a bit surreal to me, almost like Bukarest 10 years ago.

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photo by: terminalfunk