Struggling capital

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

 › entry 23 of 41 › view all entries
crossing the tonle river
Despite of all the crowds, noise, uncountable number of motorbikes, the dark streets, the mud and the heavy rain, there is something different about this SE Asian capital; It is struggling against a horrific past of political madness, wars and atrocities. It may not be the only capital bearing such a history, but it is quite obvious that the wounds of the past are yet to heal. but more about this in my next entry..

On our bus journey we see smiling people, beautiful countryside, countless kilometres of rice fields and palm trees. We also get the typical in-bus cambodian entertainment, consisting of the same 5 songs (which all sound the same) over and over again. The videos are always of a young couple being in love while dancing in the countryside and include scrolling lyrics for the fans.
The tv will be playing Cambodian music videos for the whole journey!
All that's missing is a microphone for a 4-hour cambodian karakoke session. To be fair, the western version of a pop tart may not be that better, but I'd still like to be able to listen to my own music instead. Reminds me a bit of greek buses, where loud music according to the driver's taste is part of the deal.

We also get a good feel of the Cambodian monsoon. The pouring rain gives Phnom Penh a gloomy look. Before the bus comes to a stop, we are greated by a group of men who smile at us as if we're childhood friends. The tuk tuk drivers have spotted the tourists and by the time we hop off the bus they have almost blocked our way screaming offers. After a lot of bargaining under the rain we find our way to the guesthouse.
The Palace
We chose some basic accommodation southwest of the central market, a bit far from the more upmarket riverfront. We ate at a restaurant frequented by the locals and walked aimlesly in the dark streets at night. Although there was absolutely nothing to do in the area, I think we got a better feeling of the city that way. The riverfront is packed with bars, western cafes and hotels.

At the same time, the riverfront is the site of classical buildings built by the French, and also the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. The area of the Royal Palace is a replica of the one in Bangkok, but not as impressive. It is worth a visit since it is part of the "other" Phom Penh, that of glamorous Asian and European architecture, but the intricacy of the palace, the temples and the murals does not match that of Bangkok's equivalent.
Russian Market


Phnom Penh is also the home of the best Asian market I have seen up to now. The Russian Market to the south of the city centre has it all and in great quality. I bought two beautiful painitings made of eggshell, enjoyed piping hot noodles with skewers on the side and kept gawking at the intricacy of the handicrafts. Nothing looks cheap, yet the prices are that of a flea market. You can even find spare parts for a tuk tuk!

But most of our time in Phnom Penh was spent visiting the sites of the Khmer Rouge atrocities.

For the darker side of Phom Penh's history, see my next entry.

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crossing the tonle river
crossing the tonle river
The tv will be playing Cambodian m…
The tv will be playing Cambodian …
The Palace
The Palace
Russian Market
Russian Market
Cambodian countryside on our way t…
Cambodian countryside on our way …
The floods have arrived
The floods have arrived
Sampling local cuisine (with a bit…
Sampling local cuisine (with a bi…
Joe would stick to his coke
Joe would stick to his coke
seeing off relatives that took our…
seeing off relatives that took ou…
Arriving to rainy Phnom Penh
Arriving to rainy Phnom Penh
our local restaurant
our local restaurant
Tuk Tuk got a flat tyre!
Tuk Tuk got a flat tyre!
Fishing on the Tonle Sap river
Fishing on the Tonle Sap river
The riverfront
The riverfront
Royal Palace
Royal Palace
Delicious noodles at the Russian M…
Delicious noodles at the Russian …
The silver Pagoda
The silver Pagoda
Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk