Cambodia. – Little in vacation. Big in knowledge.
…and South East Asia’s mapping continues.
The Swamp. Phnom Penh.
For a second, I thought Phnom Penh is sinking.
Too lazy to do my research, then I came to know that May – October is the month where Cambodia gets the rain dosage more than they needed. Apparently there is nothing abnormal with the swampy view when one country back boned by a (Mekong) river.
Landed in Phnom Penh early in the morning, but it felt like afternoon. The sun was so bright like it was 12 o’clock. Small decent airport – there is no way for you to get lost in it. I kept reassuring myself – this is Cambodia, not Thailand. It’s very hard to tell between the two if you were here by private plane – blind folded. Everything is so similar. People’s smile, the sound, the way they talk, the roof of every building as well as letters on the signboards. Except, I kept seeing “sortie” which means “Exit” in French. Then it kicked me back to my consciousness – understand that Cambodian is one of the South East Asians seriously colonized by them Frenchmen.
Suddenly the urge to tweet. check ins, Instagram, facebooking rushes in. Especially when you are alone and had another 4 hours waiting time for my travel (life) partner landed from the land of Far Far Away..
Forget expensive roaming. Starts with USD 1, you can choose your prepaid mobile data plan for daily, weekly or monthly. I got myself 2.50GB for USD5 and yes, I don’t know what the hell was I thinking.
Made myself into a conversation or two with the locals. They had no problem with English at all. Except they talked to me in Khmer for a start. Mistakenly took me as a Cambodian who just made to homeland after 15 years vacation.
Took a taxi to the hotel. Costs us USD 9. We wanted to experience Cambodian Tuk Tuk for a start (USD 7), however they advised us to take taxi since we have big luggage & backpack plus my BF has laptop with him. So it is good to take taxi instead of the open air tuk tuk in case if the tuk tuk make a surprise drift and wheelie. Well, it was sunny and we need a little help with the bulky backpack, so we decided to pay extra USD 2 and got ourselves into taxi. Tuk Tuk can wait.
Phnom Penh isn’t the city you can expect skyscrapers and fancy shopping malls. The view along the streets and city are just ordinary view of a 3rd world country. And yet, never underestimate what’s waiting for you in this shabby capital city, past and present. So shake that ratchet and crazy shit off your shoulder and be humble.
Arrive at our hotel situated by the Mekong River. The place called ‘Riverside’ – a stretch of street along Mekong River that makes you feel like no stranger. Lively by day and vibrant by night, you can find bars and fancy restaurant – al fresco.
The hotel – every nook and corner is adorn with ‘Apsaras’, warriors and God statues and carvings. To ensure that both business and customers are blessed every minutes. Or maybe merely for decorations.
From my observations: Once you reach at ANY hotels, you will be greeted by Tuk Tuk drivers FIRST, instead of hotel staffs. These tuk tuk drivers are the street hustler in Phnom Penh. Once you made an eye contact with them, they will make you their customers. They parked their tuk tuk just in front of any hotel and wait for tourist like you and me to take them as your private tour guide for a day or forever. Once you talked to them – even for a city tour’s price check – they remember you and haunt you, every time you stepped out from the hotel. I tried to talk to other tuk tuk drivers, he (the guy who I made an eye contact with, yesterday) came to me and said “miss, remember you talked with me yesterday, about the tour?” and the other drivers started to back off.
After you done with a Tuk tuk for a day, still, the question of “want tuk tuk?” continues haunting you in every step you make along the streets of Phnom Penh city. Almost like a chant. Or if you are lucky, you will get a question like “sir, you wanna get high?”. Non repeat. But meaningful.
Riel serves almost no purpose in Cambodia. USD rules. They used Riel for small change like 75 cents and below. Bring small notes. Since Tuk Tuk ride and food ranging from USD 2 – 5. Prepare lots of USD 1 for tips. If you feel happy with their service, few dollars of tips wont hurt you much. Seeing their wide eyes and smile on their face after some tips is priceless. God lends a helping hand to the man who tries hard.
Our hotel, Bougainville, is located few meters from the Royal Palace and Trafalgar’s like pigeon square. Walking distance from Grand Market and crawl-able distance from bars and fine dining restaurants. Basically, it’s a superb location.
Getting ready for some serious walk.
Tours in Phnom Penh ranging from USD 20 – 35 / 4 – 5 hours. Depending on how far is the site from your hotel. My boyfriend keep mentioning about killing fields and the prison. I had no idea about that but since he’s paying so I just give it a go. It’s a man thing, I guess. I just want to visit the Wat. That is Cambodia is well known for. Never for the Zoo and Museum. Those two gives me skin rashes and crazy itchy. If he want an Elephant ride, I swear I’ll take my own taxi and return to the room and sleep.
We paid USD 20 for 3 site-seeings. The Royal Palace, Toul Sleng (S-21 Prison) and Cheoung Ek (killing field). The Tuk Tuk driver suggested us to go to the S-21 Prison in order for us to understand the chronology of Khmer genocide.
In four years time 1975 – 1979, when Cambodian was under Khmer Rouge reign, 2 million were killed. Not by mass bomb or guns, but in the most tormented process that you could never had imagined. Pol Pot created hell on earth, killing his own nation for his program called “Year Zero” – to “FREE” the Cambodians from religion beliefs, education, western culture, capitalism and all foreign influences. I guess he loves agriculture too much, too. So he execute this ruthless program – Cambodian souls for a stalk of paddy. That’s why he needed to kill so many in order to get sea of paddy fields. I wish he was exposed to the knowledge of bioponics / hydroponics earlier during his study, not in radio electronics.
Once a school turned into torturing prison
It’s kind of shocking that, this is happening in other part of the country while Malaysia (in year 1975) celebrate its independency for 18 years.
The Victims’ clothes.
For more, find about Toul Sleng (S-21 Prison) and Cheoung Ek (killing field) on here and here
While I was already unable to stomach the thoughts of these images and new knowledge of past, we moved to another site that brought all those pain to the end. – Cheoung Ek (The Killing Field)
Upon entrance, they gave you this audio player (depending on language you prefer. “Angli” is for English. This audio player provide you detail information for your better understanding what exactly happened during the Khmer Rouge holocaust.
Every stop/ site is numbered from 1 – 18. By pressing the number on the audio player, you will get to know the details of the site, what, why, how.
For example, this sign board is marked as #1. When you press #1 on the audio player, it started to give out detail information more than what’s written on this board.
My heart sunk at the end of my journey in this vast graveyard, my whole body shivers just by imagining that myself going through this green mile. No body could ever bring himself to speak after knowing what exactly happen here and know that there is nothing you can do if you were at this place before, during and after.
This tour isn’t like visiting a museum or UNESCO site. This tour left a mark deep in my mind, washes away all the conceited thoughts sitting in my nerves.
After knowing about this evil Pol Pot, I think he is the worst world leader in the world’s history – He made Osama bin Laden’s (with the most fake terror story) and Muammar Ghadaffi looks like an angel now. He turned Kim Il Sung into a sweetheart too – if to compare number of people killed over the short period of time. For sure his soul rot in hell with his other friends
Enlighten your small box minded with some world history before you busy fighting among your own kind for PRU-13.
It was afternoon when we finished with Toul Sleng and Cheoung Ek tour. We had 1 hour left until the Royal Palace gate open for the visitors at 2pm. I asked our Tuk Tuk driver to drive us back to the hotel. I need to change my outfit to decent one. Apparently you are not allowed to enter The Royal Palace with tank tops or whatever outfit that bare your armpit and legs 😐
To be continued.