Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cambodia (2011): Phnom Penh


We leave Siem Reap and head for Phnom Penh on Sunday, November 20. A bus (ticket: $8) takes us at 8.30 from the office located in front of the Old Bazaar. Distance of about 310 km is expected to take three and a half hours. It takes five. In addition, there's no air-condition in the vehicle, only air vent, but it's alright. Shortly after noon we get off in the center of Phnom Penh, on 108 Street, opposite the night market, on the boulveard.

Thecapital of Cambodia has 2 million inhabitants but it doesn't seem like that. The city is nothing like Thai or Malaysian metropolis. There are no skyscrapers nor large shopping malls here. The most insteresting monuments are: beautiful and well-maintained Royal Palace, National Museum and several temple. Dozens of restaurants and cafes offer a rest from the hot sun, a wide boulveard along the river Tonle Sap encourage you to take an evening walk. We spend two days here.

Boulevard on the river Tonle Sap

Good to know

*The best way to move around Phnom Penh is so-called cyclo or tuk-tuk (which means moto-rickshaw) – the cost, depending on the route, is $1-2. Drivers who are waiting in front of the hotels and restaurants usually know English. More expensive option is a taxi but it's better to set the price in advance.

Cyclo is a good way to move around the city
*Buses and pick-ups from other towns usually arrive near Psar Thmei (New Bazaar) in the center from where motos and cyclos take tourists to the hotels and guesthouses; some companies' vehicles arrive to the night bazaar.

The center of Phnom Penh doesn't looke like the metropolis of Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur
*Majority of banks have ATMs from which you can withdraw money with a credit card. Don't expect however that many hotels and restaurants will accept this form of payment.
It's not that difficult to learn
to eat with chopsticks
*Decent double room in a hotel/hostel in the center, with a bathroom, air-condition and fridge costs $15-20. Yes, yes, times of low prices are gone forever as more and more tourists come here every year. In more distant areas of the city a room costs $10-15.
Wechoose a hotel in the strict center, near the boulevard. We pay $20 for a double room with air-con, breakfast and wi-fi, in a cozy, clean hotel.
*Khmer cuisine is simple but very tasty. Depending on a place, a lunch costs $3-6, exluding good, mores expensive restaurants. At a bazaar you should eat somewhat cheaper.


Amazing Royal Palace
*Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda (Wat Preah Keo) – at Sisowath Quay; it's the most popular tourist attraction, with lots of people; both the palace and pagoda are impressive, well-maintained, gold buildings blind the eyes in full sunlight; open 7.30-11.30 and 14.30-17; admission $6.25.
Note:appropriate dress is required, no shorts and tank tops, it applies both to men and women. In some parts of the palace and pagoda taking pictures is prohibited. You can try but the staff is extremely vigilant, so be careful.
Similaryas in the palace complex in Bangkok, you can find here also miniature models of the most importants buildings of the region, among them Angkor Wat and traditional Khmer house.

Models of the typical buildings of the region
*Wat Phnom – charming temple situated atop 27-meter mound, near the Old Bazaar; 6.00-19.00; $1

*National Museum of Arts (Musée des Beaux Arts) – Ph 13, between Ph 178 and Ph 184; 8.00-11.30 and 14-17.30; $3

National Museum of Arts
Wat Ounalom
*Wat Ounalom – temple on Sandech Sothearos Blvd., near the waterfront, on the corner of Ph 154; it's actually a conjunct of 44 buildings; 6.00-18.00, admission free; it's a seat of the Buddhist church authorities in Cambodiato and also a center of Buddhist education.

*Museum Toul Sleng (Muzeum of Genocide) – Ph 103; 7.00-11.30 and 14-17.30, $2; it's hard to call this place a tourist attraction but it shows the scale of the extermination of its own people by the Khmer Rouge.

*Cruise on the Mekong – it begins on the Tonle Sap river, the boat goes to the so-called islands on the Mekong where you can admire floating villages and a sunset; prices vary depending on the length of the trip and a number of places visited.

After one day of sightseeing we spend next day resting and shopping. Cambodia is one of those countries where clothes can be bought for pennies – however a cut and style doesn't always suit one's modern taste. In Phnom Penh's largest department store half of the stands seem to be selling mobiles and smartphones. You can even buy here an „iphone” for $46! – of course not original but a copy. I'd rather not risk; what would I do if something's got broken after I've returned home...
Itseems we won't buy here much and and our suitcases have to wait to be filled up in Bangkok.

Psar Thmei, the Main Bazaar, its shape resembles the Tower of Babel
We end our stay in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, November 22, in the afternoon. Phnom Penh International Airport is located approx. 7 km from the city center. Tuk-tuk costs $7, taxi – 9. We heard that the cheapest option are taxis of the Bailey's company, but we're not in the mood to try.
Atthe airport an unpleasant surprise is waiting for us: to leave we have to pay an airport fee: $25 per person! This is what I call making business on tourists: first visa for $20 and now $25 for leaving. It's no consolation that the Cambodians pay too, $18. When we bought our tickets, there was probably a small print with the info about this fee but usually it's included in the ticket price... Here everything seems to be the other way round.
Ourflight with Air Asia to Bangkok is scheduled for 17.05. We land in the capital of Thailand at 18.15. The time has come for a relax after a busy sightseeing. We choose a small island of Koh Samet, popular rather among locals than tourists from abroad...

Fitness on the boulevard

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