Cam' Jan 2005
After many years studying the country, I finally made it to Cambodia for my 50th birthday this year, 2005, as I share my birthday with Cambodian liberation from genocide day 7th jan. I felt more so special.
It was everything I hoped it would be, and more. The people are the friendliest and most honest I have ever met in my life. If you beleive in life changing experiences you will believe that this trip changed me.
I am in love with Cambodia and am preparing to return again in December for a further five weeks of happiness. I spent my time backpacking between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, making the 5 hour boat journey up the Ton Le Sap, I of course took in the main temples, Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prom (which has to be seen for the giant trees cutting through the temples alone).
Along my travels I came across other backpackers and spent a couple of weeks in the company of an Irish guy, Adrian. We intend to meet up again in December and take up where we left off.
Sihanoukville must be on our list for this year. Anyone thinking of travelling need not worry about transport because you will be offered lifts every ten paces from moto or tuc tuc drivers. Refusal causes no offence, indeed I never saw anger in the three weeks I was there. Road rage is obvious by it's absence which is just as well as the traffic system is governed by the one rule - don't hit anyone.
In Phnom Penh pedestrians cross the road by merely closing one's eyes and stepping out. The traffic automatically drives around you and rejoins on the other side. I took a photo of a monument outside the train station and to get a good shot I needed to stand in the middle of the road on a busy roundabout. Not one person tooted a horn or shouted. It seemed so natural to them. In the UK I would have been assaulted, ran over and arrested.
Accommodation is cheap, I went middle of the road at $15.00 a night. You can get a bed for much less and indeed if you have money to burn the Grand Hotel D'Angkor at Siem Reap does a nice room for $320.00 a night, (you get a mozzie net thrown in for that).
Tuol Sleng "reeducation centre" and the killing fields at Choeung Ek are saddening but essential places to see on a visit to the capital, as are the many markets. The biggest being Phzar Thmei (central market) which happened to be near my first hotel. It's massive and if that doesn't have what you want you're in the wrong country. Phzar Kandal was another, positioned near the waterfront, (not too far from the FCC, Foreign Correspondents Club) it was like you'd expect a traditional market to be with narrow isles and bustling crowds. UK visitors looking for a bit of home will even find english and irish bars, I failed to find a Scottish one but it may be I didn't look hard enough.
I didn't come here for tartan. I more than once took time to walk from the Japanese friendship bridge to the independance monument on Norodom Blvd, pausing to have my picture taken outside the French embassy. Anyone having seen the film "The Killing Fields" will know why. It is a charming walk as is Monivong blvd. Back to the FCC which has an upstairs balcony overlooking the Ton Le Sap, a must for expats or pretend interlects, like myself. I met many people there and spent early evenings on the balcony watching the elephants return home (from the office i think?)
I shall leave it at that. I hope you read this and are inspired to visit Cam'. perhaps we may meet, anyone wanting advice need only email me and I shall help as much as i can.
If your in doubt about visiting the most gorgeous country in the world, go back to the top and read this again.
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Published on 2/5/05