30 September 2008

The beginning in Phnom Penh

So our trip to the land of Cambodia began after a night stay at Concorde Inn, KL. My very first impression of Phnom Penh was through the cabin windows up in the skies. The outskirts of Phnom Penh is a bed of paddy fields, divided by the Mekong River that runs through the horizon and houses parked mostly by the river side. As we flew nearer inland, more developments were visible. Lands are almost completely flat throughout and we could see puddles of flood, here and there. It must have been raining the past few days. Darn…!

Guess what we found tucked in front of our seats in this month’s Travel 360’ issue. How appropriate :D

We made a mistake of not taking pictures of the Phnom Penh airport, for being such a poor country, it was physically much more appealing to the eyes than Brunei’s =\

Our home for a night in Phnom Penh was built in the 1930s for King Sihanouk’s mother Queen Kossamak who wanted to be near Wat Botum. Through a small gate, we were led past a lap pool to a beautiful villa surrounded by cushioned wooden lounge chairs. Nassiba was there to receive us, her French accent made us curious and to our disbelief she’s from Tajistan. She’s now working on a new eco-resort project in Koh Rong, south of Cambodia, building solar panels and all, "making compulsory the use of renewable energy sources, the waste management, the used-water treatment and the offset of greenhouse gases emissions) and forbidding polluting equipments (diesel power generation, cars, motorcycles)". Whilst I was busy checking us in, and sorting out our transport to Siem Reap the next day, the boys found it most vital to find internet access. The need to change their player formation for the Fantasy Football game is far more important than anything else. I tried to understand. . .Huuhuuhuu.

Pavilion lives up to its past lodgers’ description, it is unique and homey. You can really picture this place as your own house.
I’ve always liked to believe, a balcony with a nice view is the perfect ending to a room no matter how big/small.

Our plan was to get Russian Market out of the way today and focus on visiting palaces and monuments tomorrow, but it’s just our luck that tomorrow is the beginning of a very important public holiday and a number of shops are closed as people are busy preparing for it. It is the Ancestor Worship day, the Cambodian P'chum Ben Festival (what i'd like to believe is similar to the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival), where people pay respects to and remember the people who are roots of their existence. So we took a couple of tuk-tuks down to the river front and explored on foot. By 6pm, the sun has completed its shift.

.Makeshift tuk-tuk drivers.

We stumbled upon Happy Herb Pizza! This place supposedly drizzle happy herbs, or better known as marijuana, on your pizza. They are said to come in dosages of ‘happy’, ‘very happy’ or ‘ecstatic. Sounds interesting but ya, we gave it a miss.

Our first stop: Riverside Bistro
This is a fine establishment dazzled with neon lights shaped in palm trees, seafood, martini glasses and importantly decked with comfortable looking rattan chairs. We gotto eat and this is it! We tried the famous Cambodian Fish Amok and it tasted like otak-otak cooked in green curry. Yums.In the midst of feeding our stomachs and enjoying our 1st taste of Angkor Beer, we were repeatedly approached by whiny begs from a tiny lil’girl. We tried hard to ignore her presence but she was so persistent that we eventually caved in, and handed her a dollar (USD). Her eyes instantly lit up with a grin so wide. She quickly folded the dollar, clasped tightly amid her tiny fingers, said thank you, posed for me and skipped happily round the corner of the restaurant. We suspected that must have been her day’s worth, and now to report back to her guardian. But whoever her guardian was obviously didn’t think it was enough, for she reappeared to the scene just as fast as she scurried off. Only when I review the picture I took of her that I really had a good look at her. She’s such a pretty lil’ girl but like all street kids she had dirty patches on her skin, pasty face and look at those worn-out eyes.
It is at this time, I wish there were more people like Savong out there.

Did I mention it rained again!? We weathered the rain and explored the rest of the restaurants and bars down the road, just when I caught sight of a cowboy hat. It’s the same hat Boon saw and wore for a picture in India and Kuching! He did say if he chanced upon the same hat again in Cambodia, he’s gonna buy it! The highlight for him today is ‘finding’ that hat.

Phnom Penh’s night market. Nothing interesting really, except maybe for children – paying to burst a balloon in return for a soft toy.

Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC). Nice 3-storey restaurant/bar/hotel with a beautiful view of the rainbow-lit cruise boats in the Tonle Sap river. The patriotic Americans had a discussion cum debate scheduled on the 3rd floor following the McCain-Obama debate. By 9.30pm, people started to amass and the band took charge. I highly recommend this place if you just want to enjoy live band, enjoy the river breeze, a good pizza and your beer.

.Street adjacent to FCC.

Our next hop was to Love Orange club, just because it’s round the block from our villa. The security was tight, and everyone was body checked. The moment the music resonated to my ears, I cried dear lord… This place is like a Miri feng-tao joint, stuffy and jam packed with local youngsters borne in the 90s’ (according to Timmy’s observation). We left almost immediately and headed to the Heart of Darkness, the most popular bar/club in Phnom Penh. This bar suited us better; it was tastefully decorated, less rowdy and DJs spun to the likes of Shakira. You’ll find a good mix of Europeans, Japanese, Cambodians, and towering Boyz II Men lookalikes here.
Our final hop was in search for Zeppelin Bar that was said to have the largest collection of classic rock. No one in town seemed to have heard of it let alone know its where abouts, hence we tried out luck at the Memphis Bar. This bar has a small dais to a band that got us singing along to the Summer of 69, Dire Straits, U2's One, Eric hailing to Pink Floyd. Good joint if you don’t like the heavy shuffling and if you have a voice to share with everyone. You can literally take over the mic if they hit your favourite number.
.Midnight rendezvous.

It was a pretty good start in Phnom Penh. As i publish this post, I'm at my 4th night in Siem Reap and i am loving it so much. I have met up with Savong and Loven on our 1st night here. All i can tell you right now is, Savong is not much of what i expected when i saw him for the 1st time, but he far exceeded my initial perception of him. Just simply through a short night of conversation with him, i can feel his passion, his kindness, the bigger dreams he has. My heart ached for him, for i can see he is a very smart man that can probably save the world from poverty and ignorance, had he afford education and have the money to do so.

I will keep posting when i find the time to do so. =)
Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all my muslim friends and colleagues!


Senor Pablo on October 7, 2008 at 3:17 PM said...

Lee. How exciting. Thank u for sharing your trip. I was in Phnom Pehn two years ago and had my share of experience. I have compiled my ten list to do in Cambodia here :


Lee on October 7, 2008 at 3:28 PM said...

Hi Senor Pablo, interesting list! I should come up with a list too, except i think it will be alot more than 10. Haha.. more post on Cambodia to come.

the spool artist on October 8, 2008 at 2:10 AM said...

wow, you really made a whole lot of your trip to phnom penh even if it was only for a day!

I'm glad you guys had a blast!

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