Saturday, August 6, 2011

Backpack in Cambodia (Day 1) - Phnom Penh

I couldn't confirm my trip to Cambodia until 6 days before it, although I bought the tix like 9 months back. My friend CP had to withdraw from the trip due to work commitment.

If it wasn't for my "kind" lecturer who postponed my Advanced Maths test a week back, I'd missed backpacking such a wonderful yet extraordinary country.

My sprained left ankle is in it's 5th week now, no where near full fitness, but it ain't stopping me anyway.

On 20.7.11 (Wednesday), I woke up around 4.30am, and reached LCCT around 5.40am. I checked-in and met up with 4 other friends of mine - Ting Ting, Wei Kong, Hao, and Qun.

They were people I initially met on an online travel forum (Cari), and turned out to be friends from my hometown!

The flight took around 1.5 hours.

Anyway, I had (quite a nice) breakfast of AirAsia chicken rice, slept for the rest of the flight.

We reached Phnom Penh airport and I had a shock of my life talking to the taxi/tuk-tuk agents hovering for customers.

A man practically spoke perfect Malay and that convinced us to take his tuk-tuk driver.

5 of us on a tuk-tuk to our guesthouse - Nawin Guesthouse, which is located near the river. I think it cost around $6.

My 4 friends had booked their (double) rooms. No doubt, I was the odd one. A single room cost $20, a double room cost $20, while a triple room $30. It's an acid test on my new travel mates.

TT and WK were understanding and courteous enough. Being a "valentine couple", they didn't hesitate to share a triple room with me. Quite gratefully, from that moment onwards, I knew I traveled with the right people.

Without wasting much time, the first stop was Tuol Sleng, or S21.

$2 per entry, along with this guide

A little bit of rules during the darkest days of Cambodian history (Click to enlarge)

Not so VIP rooms I guess


WK our pro-photographer

The gallows -It still looks scary today

In case you don't know what is going on, please Google "Khmer Rouge" and "Pol Pot".

In summary, there was a bad civil war in Cambodia in 1975-1979, where 2,000,000 people were killed by:

Pol Pot - The communist

Somehow, they had lots of pictures at S21

Womens with babies are not spared too

It was a genocide, by your own people

Nazi Hitler somehow had a twin brother in South East Asia.

And it's hard to imagine that this took place only 20 years ago!

This skull was drilled in from the top

Some were drowned

Or had their nipples removed

Or basically hanged and dried-up

If that wasn't enough of horror, we head to the Killing Field, which is located around 18km from the town.

Our tuk-tuk driver - $15 to rent his service that day, with additional lessons of simple Khmer (Cambodian language)

It took like 30 minutes and very very dusty road to reach
(Remember to bring your face masks)

The monument for the dead

I think it's the first time I've been to such a place

The number of skulls proofs how cruel Pol Pot was

Mass graves

Victim's rags

Victim's bones

The magic tree - Where they hung a loud speaker to cover-up the terrible cries

I think the very point of visiting the 2 places is to remind the world not to take peace for granted.

The distress was eminent, and that I hope this will not happen in my beloved Malaysia.

We headed back to town for lunch and explore downtown Phnom Penh.

The food were conventional, like what we have in Malaysia

The famous "Amok" - Taste just like Rendang Ayam

Our restaurant by the river

Later, we went to Wat Phnom.

Which I thought was quite majestic


A poor elephant

Strong Chinese culture in Phnom Penh

A clock for the sky?

We did some additional sight-seeing around Phnom Penh, and I went to get my bus tix to Kratie the next morning. The Sim cards here are expensive though ($7 for one, without any credit, so we ditched it). Then we were back to our guesthouse at around 3pm.

My mates, visibly tired after spending the whole night at LCCT after transiting from JB, took some much needed afternoon sleep.

Without disturbing my mates, and telling TT not to wait for me for dinner if I came back late, I left the guesthouse into Phnom Penh town, at around 4.30pm with a map and my trusted Sony camera, off to explore this new place.

I started walking along the Tonle Sap/Bassac river, where I passed by the royal palace and various places of interest.

Palace guards (Snapping their pics from afar)

Mobile food stall

While resting on a bench, these 2 couples started showing their affection to each other

Then I walk towards downtown, and walked thru this long square.

Similar to Saigon and Hanoi Vietnam, I find a sense of simplicity and content-ness in the people's life. Evenings are spent outside doing healthy activities.

You don't see this often in KL

Group dancing

Seeing your child grow up

Your favourite music

And when I thought back about the horrible scenes I visited in the morning, I realize, that the people here are just happy to live their daily life. Peace eluded them in the near past, and being able to spend their evening out freely, makes their day.

I believe the kids know the past too

Lok-lok by the road

Time's changed quite a lot from those cruel days

China-Cambodia monument

Somehow found some Hong Kong influence here~

People of all walks of life walk towards - Independent Monument

It's a symbol of prosperity, peace and freedom for all

Life's simple.

Life's precious.

Life's wonderful.

I walked the entire evening, non-stop for around 2 hours. My sprained left ankle seems to be holding well.

Public Bank Cambodia, not bad...

Confusing phone lines, again

Along the way, when I was a little moved to get a motodop (motor-taxi) to get me back to the guesthouse, a tuk-tuk approached me and stroke up a conversation. After some intense price war, I got up the tuk-tuk, who would bring me to a shopping center called Sorya, to the other side of the Mekong river, and Nagaworld Casino. This 1 hour ride cost $3.00.

The first 2 places were nothing much. I wanted to see Nagaworld Casino, but quite miracle-ly, we only passed thru it, and the driver was heading back to my guesthouse. I sensed something wasn't right, and kept on reminding him. He made "don't no".

After like 1-2km from the casino, I made my point to him strongly. I didn't buy his reason of no parking of tuk-tuk at Nagaworld, and insisted to tour Nagaworld, for a mere 15 minutes. Of course I made my point very clear that we've agreed before hand, and that what he's doing is going against what we've agreed.

I've done some research of Cambodia, and know that the people are generally god-fearing, believing in Karma, and respected their promises. After some hesitation, he made a U-turn and dropped me off at Nagaworld Casino.

Knowing and fighting for my rights as a tourist and consumer would help me a lot in my following days in Cambodia.

Genting like Casino? That's why I want to find out

Entrance deco

Quite awful performance, to be honest

No photos were allowed in the casino. I managed to watch few either Singaporean or Penangite guys "on top form" playing their Russian Roullete.

It's the same story at Genting's casino. I am working in a subsidiary of Genting Group, and I've no doubt, that you'll never beat the house.

I left after walking a few rounds, seeing people tireless hoping to earn money thru gambling. But one thing to be glad, is that there're not many locals inside the casino.

Had a simple dinner (maggi goreng) for $2.90, and called it a day

The next-day, it'll be adventurous. I'll take a separate journey to unknown Kratie, by taking the east-coast way, while my 4 other friends will travel west to Battambang.

My first time backpacking alone in a foreign land.


little lulu said...

quite an adventure for 1 day :)

weeser said...

Thanks a lot~

More to come!