World Peace and Mardy Bums

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

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Okay so after finally getting in touch with Mummy bear, Daddy bear and Gran I flitted back to a nearby cafe for a nice hot drink while Lindsay was back on the beer, we sat there for what seemed like ages watching the world go by on Saigon's "Khao San Road" before finally calling it a night just before curfew (11pm around these parts). I totally felt like a child again, trying to make it back to the house before my parents noticed I was late. We snuck upstairs and fell into our beds and wearily staring at the tv watching a programme on tattoos and people who get their parents' mugshots painted on them. Some guy had his mum on him as a midget wrestler!! No offence, parents, but I wouldn't get you tattooed on me but may use you as an excuse if I ever got a tattoo and I'd blatantly tell you that the symbols meant your names!! ;)

After about an hour of cringing at the tv, we slipped into slumber and went to sleep but about an hour later I heard a bang... clatter... a "bugger"... a moan and then a beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep and then silence. Lindsay had turned the air con off as she was too hot but I was burning up like a pig in a dress on hot coals doing a jig-not pretty!! I managed to splutter out some words to the effect of, why did you do that?? But she muttered that she was cold and that was that. So for the rest of the night I lay staring at the ceiling shifting around in my bed trying to find a cool spot but the cool spot never came.

Next morning I was awoken by a beep... then a beeeeeeeep.... then BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!! Don't know why I snooze my alarm cos it still has the same noise and outcome-I have to get up! I fell out of bed and into the cold shower squealing as the water tickled my bones, then I stomped out of the room and into my clothes before sitting down and staring at the tv lying in wait for Lindsay so we could start our tour of Saigon. We went for breakfast at Stellas where I had the best cappuccino ever and melted into its blissful tones was "you're pretty" on top with chocolate syrup and heart biscuits dancing around the rim of the cup, just the kind of pick me up to start my day. We dug into fresh baguette sandwiches before tottering off to a chemist to find some painkillers for my knackered body. Too many nights sleeping rough, a heavy bag and sitting awkwardly on buses have all but shredded me and so I spent the day looking wired and occasionally watching the world spin as I dosed myself up to stop the pain. We almost had a heart attack in the morning though, as we plodded downstairs we heard a creepy, "hello girls"and from out of nowhere popped irish boy, Patrick. We later found out that he wasn't actually staying in our hotel-he was just using our net-how bizarre!! You'd think that Asia was a big place but we have seen so many people we know in the past few days-crazy stuff!!

After booking our ticket at lovely tours for our journey to Cambodia, we went to haggle with some motorbike guys for a lift but no dice... So we shot them in the foot by getting a taxi to what we thought was the war crimes museum but no... the guy had dropped us off at the remunification palace and so we slipped inside and wandered around but it carried nothing but an american helicopter, a couple of cars, a few planes and a tank. The building was just full of rooms with benches in and no explanation, it is apparently where parliament hold all of their meetings-that would explain why it's so bare and boring.

Then we haggled with a couple of motorcyclists and they took us to the war crimes museum where the atrocities were there in black and white for all to see. There were in depth explanations, pictures of bodies, people being burnt, shot and hounded. In short, NASTY. It was horrific but it shows us what we're capable of and that's what made us sad. The place was so graphic but good in a way so we can learn from our mistakes, or at least I hope we can. Strangely you were compelled to look at the pictures but in some cases, I had to look away. It had a piece of writing about every picture and the worst thing is that the US at the time were quoted as saying that they were going to blast these people back to the Stone Age-it hits you when you see something like that. This is only about 40 years ago and yet the effects of Agent Orange (a form of dioxin that can kill or deform) still live on as people have been born since and have been deformed or burnt or covered in tumours due to the contamination from the chemical dropped all over vietnam like a food package but deadly. It doesn't bear thinking about, the horror that these people went through-it was pure torture and no means to an end. No one fought back, it is only known of one US soldier dying and that was due to him shooting himself through the foot so he didn't have to take part in the mass slaughter! At the end of the museum there are pictures drawn by local children commerorating the dead and preaching peace and it ends a solemn place with a lighter note plus it's clear that this part in history will never be forgotten.

Then we sped off to the cathedral of Notre Dame and I lit a candle for my mum for safe passage to Africa, I do think she's mad going but I wish her all the best and send my love. The candle wouldn't light at first-it really was for my mum-awkward, like her! ;) Then away to the local market where we got lindsay a vietnamese hat which i personally feel could be used to better effect as a lampshade but then she lost it on the bus the next day and even I was sad for her!!! Then we got a taxi back and had some food before hiring a DVD player and settling down for the night watching Vantage Point, Quantum of Solace (worst bond film EVER) and 27 Dresses. We nipped out for munchies and sat on the bed crunching away until we fell asleep.

We tried to take the DVD player back next morning but the woman didn't have the deposit to give us so we had to keep nipping back inbetween mouthfuls of breakfast to try and get our pennies back. We were not happy to say the least. So after coiffing our hash browns and toast we made a mad dash back to the dvd place and finally she came up with the goods and lined our pockets with silver so we could pay our hotel bill and leave to get our bus from lovely tours. While sat there I realised something was missing... Gareth used to criticise me for my OCD but alas it helped us on this occasion-I give numbers to all the stuff in my handbag (alright... weird) then I count before a trip, during and after and suddenly realised we had no passports and so ran back to the hotel to claim them just in time for our bus-phew!!

On the bus we met an overzealous tour guide that all but forced us to hand over our passports so he could fill in our departure slips but when we got them back he'd put my name down as Claire and Lindsay was spelt "LINDASAEY". Not being funny but how difficult is it to copy from a passport!? After that we were told that when we got to the border we had to clamber off with our bags so they could be scanned and we could officially leave Vietnam. Us being the only British or English speaking tourists on the bus (we were all segregated but everyone else was cambodian, vietnamese or norwegian) questioned everything and the guy was getting annoyed at us but we didn't care.

Finalyy we got to the border and lugged our bags off the bus but the guy wouldn't let us through as we didn't have a proper departure card so we cursed the bus guy until 10 minutes later he actually came to help us out and we passed through ok but no need to take our bags off as they didn't scan our stuff anyway so that was a pointless and heavy exercise. Eventually they called our names to leave Vietnam and I was the first Westerner-thank god!! Had enough of the country by the end of it but then I had to stand around like a lemon waiting for Lindsay. Then our bags went underneath before getting back on the bus for five and then being shoved off at the border to smile sweetly at the police, hand over our passports and then run to the bus before speeding off.

We didn't see our passports again for another few hours but got them back and happily clambered of the bus in Phnom Penh to the sound of TUKTUK or MOTOTAXI or WHERE ARE YOU GOING? We eventually decided on a midget who first drove us to an ATM then a hotel but it was fully booked, so was the next, then the next, then the next, then the next :( GUTTED!!! After about 12 hotel checks and taking it in turns to watch the bags and hop out and check the rooms, we finally found one liveable and so pitched our bags there, haggled the price and eventually bed down. We wandered down by the river for tea through a dirty market that flecked mud all over my pants and smelt like india on a bad day but eventually we found a cheap and cheerful restaurant that we could pay in dollars for (for some reason, you only get cambodian riel in change, they tend to use dollars for currency and all banks dispense that) but one of the waiters was creepy and spent the whole hour we were there staring at lindsay's back like a serial killer-nice..!!

We got back to the hotel about 10ish and went for hot chocolate before delving into bed and whiling away our night with Z's. Next day we anticipated a big tour but made our own up as it was cheaper. We had breakfast in the hotel and I trifled with some french toast not fully understanding what it was as I had never tasted it before but had bad memories of it from the film, "Road Trip". Eggy bread with honey-what a cop out-I expected more!! Then we haggled a mototaxi for a cheap price to take us sightseeing for the whole day. First was the Killing Fields. We spent about 30 minutes on the back of the taxi before we arrived at the killing fields where a skull monument greeted you and the descriptions of what happened through the Pol Pot Regime made you shudder or cry. The deep ditches had once contained bodies (bones) and told a story about the 60's and 70's that we weren't taught in school in England!! We looked on mystified by the death and destruction before being dragged back into town and to the Tuol Sleng Museum.

The Tuol Sleng Museum is where they tortured prisoners (most of Cambodia's innocents including women and Children) and it has the torture rooms and photos and the gallows still in tact as if they were in use. The most interesting part, is the tale of a Swedish guy who came to Cambodia in the 70's and believed that the Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge regime was for the good of the country but now he feels he was taken to certain areas as to shy away from the harsh reality of what was going on. He deeply regrets being a part of Cambodia at that time but feels he can't take it back but alas he has learnt from it and is happy to tell his tale even if it does make him look bad now and for that he continually apologises for his part.

Later we got to the Palace. A place which is surely the be all and end all of Phnom Penh. Hmmmmm... WHAT A RIP OFF!! $6.25 to see round the site and yet 65% of it is prohibited and the rest is probably being emptied into the pockets of the guards. The emerald buddha was a teeny tiny buddha on top of a throne and the silver pagoda was just a floor. Booooooo...! Could've bought 8 beers for that money or 6 ice creams or 8 packets of M&M's!!!! Then it was onto the National Museum that was basically a building site and you weren't allowed to take photos (but I did) and then a guide gave me some jasmine to lay at the God's feet which you should in trn leave an offering. I didn't but the French guy behind me did-the guide then walked over (less than subtle) and pocketed the money and took the jasmine out giving it to yet another tourist. Lindsay and I glared at the guide but he just smirked as if he hadn't done anything wrong. We stomped out of the museum shortly after and got back to our hotel where we munched our tea and set off in search of a supermarket.

Lindsay loves chocolate and ice cream. If she does not get either she gets grumpy or silent. It's almost worth taunting her with them. She knows I love her dearly and have a laugh a minute travelling but addiction to chocolate is just funny. She honestly has it every day but is stick thin. GIT!!! After finding a supermarket and using the net (that crashed mid blog) we hit the hotel for bed and tv but I spent the night tossing and turning and having strange dreams so am presently shattered!!

This morning we got up for the bus and had a full brekky in town to numb the pain of another bus journey before sitting down behind some rather sweaty Africans and bubbling away to Siem Reap with a new friend, German girl, Paula. The Africans were so bad that we kept a bottle of deodorant out and took it in turns to spray a mist of it so we didn't choke on the smell of sweat!! Everyone around us stared at what we were doing, yes... we must've looked like lunatics but least we didn't vomit from "au de toi-sweat!!!" After Lindsay having a war with the bus boy who kept chutting our window and me staring aimlessly at the dead ducks pressed nearby my seat, we finally made Siem Reap and shared a mototaxi with Paula and got into the centre where we looked around for a bed before deciding on cheap and cheerful but clean and with cable, Angkor Guesthouse.

After me making Linz sit through the gayest film ever, we strutted into town-me looking like a breakdancer from the clothes arrangement I'd picked out from my bag. We finally decided upon World something bar-it was the 2 for 1 cocktails that sold it to us!! From Gin Fizz-White Russian-Long Island Iced Tea we fumbled and along the way we had some food-traditional Cambodian, Chicken Amok (clearly wasn't chicken) so I picked around the ming and ate it as if it was thai green curry and swallowed hard. The waiter told me I was pretty with my hat on and also without-I flushed red and looked away but on the way out he narrowly missed a slap when he offered to buy me cos I was sober-cheek of it!! So we ran away and into the arms of a supermarket so the Lindmeister could get ice cream and chocolate to soothe her urges!! ;)

And here's where I come to the end of our story... Cambodia is cool but random. Siem Reap is definitely cheaper than Phnom Penh though. The whole North/South divide again!!!

So... after all that... to coin a phrase from an American Beauty Queen...


and to coin a phrase from mardy bum, Lindsay (semi-normal travel buddy)...

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Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk