03.11.2010 - 05.11.2010 26 °C
The bus ride was smooth (as smooth as it can get in South East Asia) and we are now in Cambodian territory. We arrive in an area just west of the river, a bit chaotic and messy, yet not too far from the hotel area. We try a couple and finally set for one. Our palettes (at least city boy’s) crave for something western, a bit of meat, cheese and fries. We quickly learn that although accommodation is cheap, everything else is not; we’re talking relatively in comparison with neighbouring countries of course! This we think is because the US dollar has taken over as the de-facto currency perhaps driving prices up. We pay a visit to the last remaining vinyl rock bar in the region for a beer and the sounds of anything between Judas Priest, Rush, Pearl Jam and Motorhead, great! It is not until we leave that we discover that this is the real sin city. A series of very happening hostess bars where foreign men flock to for some entertainment are dispersed throughout the city. There is not an abundance of sights here, and some of these can make one can feel a little morbid; they are all about the Khmer Rouge genocide and the infamous S-21 prison is our first stop. Brick cells and some images on the walls display the history that surrounds what used to be a school and was later transformed into a death camp. We are saddened by what we see and then we set out to see a little bit of the city. Unfortunately things are not much brighter, the contrasts are miles apart, shining SUV’s in larger amounts than we’ve seen anywhere else, juxtaposed with images of real misery and some street begging, this is the first country in which we have encountered this type of poverty and it’s hard to ignore. There are cleaner areas and very fancy embassies but it’s a matter of blocks and mostly around the National Museum and the Royal Palace. The National Museum is a great building, not just in the displays which are a bit of a teaser of what there is to see in Angkor, but also because the building itself is wonderful, rich earthy colours that shine with the sun and an airy and green courtyard. Right by the gate as we exit we are surrounded by kids asking for money, while their parents patiently wait across the road for them. The walk along the river promenade is interesting, it is the place where the locals gather for outdoor activities, some join in what seems like aerobic/dance lessons, others simply playing football and when lacking a ball the playing keep ups with a badminton look alike gizmo. Dinner, this time at a local eatery for some Khmer cuisine. Next day a tour to the Killing Fields for some more on dark Cambodian history. These fields in an area just outside the city became the last stop for those considered traitors of the revolution (basically everyone) before being executed and buried into mass graves. There is a monument in memory of those who perished during this murderous regime, and it is observed with the uttermost respect by locals and foreigners alike. It is time take the tuk-tuk back, buy some snacks and board our bus en-route to Siem Reap, the Angkor Capital.