06 October 2008

A day in Phnom Penh

I'm back home now after a fruitful but tiring trip... my body feels like pounded meat. There's too many pictures, moments and stories i'd like to pen before it drains from my memory. This one is on the one and only half a day we have in Phnom Penh, quick on our feet to cover as much as we can.

.Roadside Steamboat!.
This is rather interesting to watch. A few people were parked by the roadside pavement, seemingly plonked their unsuspecting boxes that opened up to little woks powered by gas and starts frying garlic and meat. I have no idea whether if it was for sale or for their own enjoyment while having a good view of the park. The box looks handy to me and i reasoned if they were chased by police, it would be damn easy to pack-and-run.
The smell was ..ooO.. heavenly~
.A lil' bit of dirt fun.
One will soon realise it's a common sight in Cambodia to see children flocking about naked or without underwears. This, however, was one of the first few we saw and judgmentally we gasped at her mother's ignorance to her playing with dirt and sweeping her bum on dirty pavements.

Our first destination was the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, which was a few minutes walk from our villa... which also led to our 1st disappointment of the day. The Royal Palace was closed for the king and his household was busy preparing for P'chum Ben Festival?

.A glimpse of the Royal Palace.

.Preparations for the festival.
The Royal Temple, aka Wat Preah Keo Morokat that translates to 'The Temple of the Emerald Buddha'.
This temple was later known as the Silver Pagoda for the 5,329 silver tiles that cover the floor. This is where the King meets with monks to listen to their sermons. The pagoda is surrounded by other interesting stupas and shrines but we dare not risk admiring each and every one of them under the flaming hot sun. Even the mini fan i had brought me little comfort.
.One of the late Kings' stupa.
Becareful not to wear tank tops and shorts when you visit this place, Chee Ting was refused entry and had to go back to change.

.A sweet face.

Not long after i strolled away from the murals, we were reunited with Chee Ting and Eric. And suddenly, a loud drilling sound tailed me, buzzing like a crazy shaver... WTH? I turned around to find Eric swaying his super-duper mini fan that works like an industrial machine. Huuhuuhuu.

Unbeknown to us what this shrine represents, we simply follow suit what others were doing. Some washed their face with the water trickling down from the buddha, some washed their hand whilst Boon2 dapped his head, for higher wisdom maybe? =P Right beside this shrine stood a tree, where hundreds and hundreds of hopes, dreams and wishes were penned on its leaves.



.This is one hilarious moment - Chee Ting's hair got all tangled up in her mini-fan, only made worst by Eric's attempt to 'rescue' her. I laughed like a nut only to have karma befall me.


Can you tell from the looks of it that my dear friend on the left is stupefied with hunger? He turned pale and cried "I neeeeed to eat man...!". Hahaha..

Down the street and left of the Royal Palace, you will find Phnom Penh's National Museum that houses the world's largest collection of Khmer art during the Khmer and Angkor era. To me, their paintings have immaculate resemblance to those i saw in India.

The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
Although we had our reservations in visiting the killing fields, we braced ourselves for it. True to the words of many that has been there, it's not a pleasant sight.


Upon entering, you will be greeted by a stupa layered with 8000 human skulls exhumed from mass graves, and arranged according to gender and age groups. It's a chilling sight and you will really feel it in your bones when you read the history of it.

.Click to enlarge if you want to read about the sadistic genocidal regime.
The gist of Pol Pot's regime was to create an agricultural utopia - an extreme form of peasant Communism. There would be no money, no televisions, no bicycles, no foreigners, no education, no healthcare... shutting off Cambodia from the rest of the world. People are to slave in his "killing fields" living on only the fruits and rice they harvested. He declared 17 April 1975 the "Day 1 - Year Zero" telling the people that 2,000 years of Cambodian history is now meaningless. If you were educated, wore glasses, spoke a different language, or even appeared intimidating, you will be shot, tortured in unimaginable ways and left to die. It is so grim that Vietnam called Cambodia the "Hell on Earth".

It was impossible to comprehend. Impossible to ever imagine living in that period. And it is possible to bump into one of the survivors ever willing to share stories of the worst days of their lives. .An unknowing child bearing a genuine smile in the midst of remnants of mass graves.

Thinking there might not be time for another site, we were surprised to find that all these places were comfortably 10-15 mins away by car. The maps were pretty misleading but considering how small this place is, we should have known better.

The Russian Market, reportedly famous for brandnames made in Cambodia for cheap cheap prices. It's like the Bangkok Chatuchak market, except nowhere near that size. More than half of the shops were closed, so we did some price-checking and practice haggling before we go full-steam in Siem Reap. Huu huu huu. You will practically find everything here, local designer tshirts, shoes, watches, dvds (Simpsons box set is the cheapest here! Do buy it here if you're a Simpsons fan, unlike Eric who thought he could get a better deal in Siem Reap but no.. prices were double or triple that), handbags, beautiful paintings of Angkor temples, and you can even get a HAIRCUT! (see right below)


.Mucking around on the rooftop of a restaurant.

And that is about all we covered in Phnom Penh in half a day. 13km for the good ol' feet and we're off on our road trip to Siem Reap.
.Crossing the Mekong River.

My trainers died on me even before Angkor Wat!!

2 comments:

the spool artist on October 8, 2008 at 2:18 AM said...

phnom penh was such a whirlwind trip that i am still catching my breath right after reading your post! can't wait to see your siem reap adventures posted here!

Lee on October 10, 2008 at 6:28 PM said...

Loven, it'll take me an entire month to post! I looooove Cambodia!

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