Hanoi to Bangkok - my 2008 adventure! travel blog

Going through emmigration and immigration on the Mekong River

Going from Vietnam to Cambodia on the Mekong River

Phenom Pehn waterfront

Royal Palace

One should be a monk for at least three months of your...

Letting around leaving a minimal carbon footprint - but using lots of...

School turned into prison

Torture room

Cells - roughly built and very small

Monument at the Killing Fields

Skulls on display

Clothes and human bones weathering out over time

Getting your stuff back home!

The Mekong River is about half a mile wide, brown, fast flowing and goes on forever! Three hours upriver it was customs and immigration. Got out of the boat on the Vietnam side to be processed to exit, which took about 30 minutes (time to buy drinks, and fruit, and coconut cakes, pastry around coconut and good tasting). Upriver another 15 minutes it was the Cambodia equivalent, and here we were fortunate in that the boat before us was being asked to have every passenger bring out the bags for inspection. I guess the thought of a second lot of searching was too much for the customs agents in all that heat! A couple of hours later and it was Phenom Penh, a big, spacious, royal residence city with less traffic than Hanoi or Saigon but with surprisingly more cars. They also have tuc tucs (motorbikes with a two bench carriage attached), the usual cyclos, bikes, and motorbikes.

The afternoon enabled us to get oriented, taking a cyclo tour to get to the waterfront. One sits in the front of a bicycle and does some serious praying as one weaves through the traffic. It looked pretty funny - more than a dozen cyclos in a long line, occasionally jockeying for position, cyclists all with a green T-shirt saying no to smoking on the back. The waterfront gives a view of the new casinos on the far bank where the Vietnamese come to gamble. A bit like the drive from L.A to Las Vegas when it is illegal at home. Another group dinner at a restaurant with a cause - Friends"" also trains street children to get a job and lead a different life. The menu was good, prices fairly steep and the ambience great. The coconut milk and lime shake went down very quickly!

Today started out with Melissa taking a miss-step into the foyer and dislocating one ankle and spraining the other with a few torn tendons. She is at the hospital, casts on both legs and she and her husband (who only joined us in Saigon, poor fellow) will fly back to the States tomorrow. The rest of us went to see the two horror sights of Cambodia. The former high school turned into Security Prison No. 21 (Toul Sleng Museum) from where many of the 1.7 million Cambodians killed by Pol Pot were initially tortured for information and then sent to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, 17 km into the countryside. More unsettling for me than the tower of 8,000 skulls were the paths between the former mass graves - as the soil is wearing away, teeth, bones, and clothing are working their way to the surface. These we walk on to get from place to place, helping to erode them a little further. I think it is the fact that all this killing and torture in both Vietnam and Cambodia occurred while I was able to read about it in the newspapers in a far off and distant land is what makes it create such an impression.

On the way back from the Killing Fields the bus left some of us off at the Russian market, and once again it is too tempting to purchase items that one really does not need! In the afternoon the Royal Palace was the main attraction. Wonderful architecture and incredible treasures. The King was left a prisoner in these grounds (not a bad place to have to stay, I must say) so the treasures were left intact. The 90kg gold Buddha with more than 2,000 diamonds was pretty impressive! Enjoyed the elephant "saddles" in one of the halls too. Another look at the art galleries and the waterfront, where every man and his dog were enjoying the sunset, and a last ride back to the hotel in a tuc-tuc finish Phnom Penh. Off to be an archeologist tomorrow at Siem Reap.

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