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Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh (Again!) And a short stay at the same same but different hostel (Again!) I am actually writing this in Saigon because it has all been a bit crazy for the past few days!

But here i want to tell you how Cambodia ended;

Well Phnom Penh is a strange city, to be honest i don't know where to start explaining it. This old man like so many pedals the streets with the hope he is going to entice someone to part with a small amount of cash. When he isn't asleep that is! Shortly after i took this picture and while finishing my 'special' pizza a pick up arrived and the personal security firm for the pizza joint arrived. In this city security seems to be an obligatory extra for the many small businesses. The police do exist but they just don't really act they way they should! Reporting crime is a joke unless murder or rape and corruption is prevalent everywhere! The leader of the nation lost the elections, but he is still in power, the senior generals of the army and government officials drive $80,000 cars on a mere $100 a month or so wages! Work that one out. But this is Cambodia and this is the normal.

Anyway apart from the old man sleeping there are lots of children. For those not so up to date on Cambodian history, there was a mass genocide by the Khmer Rouge in relatively recent history. The result is that the population is mainly under the age of 20 and mostly at the younger end of that. The other consequences include lots of orphans and many limbless people from the mines left everywhere. It is still dangerous to walk on large areas of country land and people are still being injured today!

Most of my time in the city has been spent chilling out here at the guesthouse with the lake, sunsets and good company of the passing folk. The rest of the capital is mainly visible by day, night isn't really a recomended time to explore. Kim did take me to a club one night and it was good, although playing dodge the hooker(s) for most of the night did get a bit much. Still we danced loads and it was a good laugh! If you want to read a good book about Phnom Penh and can take a bit of graphic and sometimes surreal reality of former times here then try; Off The Rails In Phnom Penh. Although it was written a few years ago shortly after another power struggle its theme still reflects the brutality and often immoral (to a westerner) living standards experienced by the majority of people here today!

Another harsh encounter with Cambodian history can be experienced here at S21. A former school it was converted by the Khmer Rouge into an interogation and camp of the lowest standard. The practices used were horrifying and the brutality to fellow patriots was incredible. If you had any intelect or were even suspected then this is an example of where you were likely to end. After here it was a short journey out of the city and the killing fields. The same story repeated across the country, so many poeple killed and the evidence to this day can be seen with a short walk through the remaining fields and mass graves. Some have not been excavated, there are shoe laces and bones still protruding from the ground, it is a moving experience.

Sadly and the worst example of the otherwise bearable tide of children begging in Cambodia, there were infants demanding money on top of the graves. I struggle to comprehend the reality of this occurence. A common discussion with fellow travellers revolves around this begging issue. It is also known that the money does not obviously fund the individual alone, it is the remaining question of who it is supporting and what their role is that requires more thought.

I left the city for a few days and went to Kampot. A small place with a ghostly feel, the economy is based around agriculture and small amounts of tourism. This was nice because the previous places had more exposure to toursim. I travelled to Kep one day which was ok but nothing great, then i went inland though and had probably the best day in Cambodia. I rode through the countryside with chants of 'hello!' beckoning everytime i passed another child, bike or hut!

The roads of Cambodia although dangerous are simply an invitation to look into the daily lives and living rooms of the happiest people with the biggest nicest smiles i have seen! These are truly remarkable people with an ability to disregard the political mess they are in and concentrate on living well together! There is a friendliness unparallel to anywhere i have been before and the innovative ways they live, work and play together is inspiring!

And that is how i feel upon leaving such a greeat and developing country.

One last note is about a trip i made for 2 hours along a road built over 60 years ago and destroyed every year since either by the weather, vehicles or war. This is the only way to the top of Bokor Hill, when there you arrive above the clouds and in the midst of a deserted complex of buildings spread widely over the area. A hotel and former casino, a former secret meeting place in war times, a church, a temple, this monk above at the temple and a few other buildings. There is no running water, no electricity and the buildings are long abandoned and in disrepair. But it makes one very weird place to be, sneak a look at the pictures and you will see that in one point near the temple you can look directly out over a vertical drop onto the clouds (as if in a plane! but not!)

In cambodia they also fit as many people into as many types of vehicle as possible.Unfortunately i couldn't capture a photo of the 4 adults and 2 children i saw sharing a moped!!!

A crazy place with fantastic (if a little crazy) people!


You're Cool
permalink written by  50watts on February 19, 2006 from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
from the travel blog: Ending 2005 and Starting 2006
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I'm half-maltese, half-english, living in France, having met my girlfriend while on my first Blogabond adventure [way back].

I am trying to pass the rest of my life continuing to travel and to make things happen as someone once said.

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