Arriving in Phnom Penh at 5.30pm on the last day of my Vietnam visa, 17th January, my first priority was to find some accommodation. Unfortunately, Phnom Penh seemed very busy and it was at about the sixth place that I finally got a room. It was a bit pricey at $20 per night, but it would have to do.
One of the first thing that I had noticed on my journey into Cambodia was how much poorer the country seemed when compared with Vietnam. There were not nearly so many cars (although Cambodia’s population is only sixth of Vietnam’s) and the houses seem to be mainly wooden shacks along the roadside (except, of course, in Phnom Penh). Strangely, though, I was to find out that the prices were generally greater in Cambodia, although I think that has more to do with the use of the US dollar alongside the Riel as everyday currency (the ATMs actually only dispense US dollars!).
My first full day in Phnom Penh was spent, initially, trying to find some cheaper accommodation but without success. I wandered around Phnom Penh for the remainder of the day, unless I was inside and trying to avoid the stifling heat! I then decided that I would head on south to Kampot to see what it’s like on the Cambodian coast.
My bus was due to leave Phnom Penh at 1.00pm on Sunday 19th January, so in the morning I visited the Royal Palace (superb architecture) and then the genocide museum, also known as S-21, which was somewhat of a contrast to the Royal Palace.
S-21 served as an “interrogation” centre for the Khmer Rouge during the ill-fated three years of their rule. It was originally a school and has been pretty much kept as it was during the dark days of the Khmer Rouge rule and the most poignant aspect is the display of hundreds of photographs of the detainees; apparently only around 140 people of the over 20,000 who were detained actually survived. It’s one of those places that makes you wonder if the human race is really worth saving. However, you only need to see how friendly and fantastic the Cambodian people are now and realise it is; it’s still bizarre how these fantastic people could have done this to each other.
Anyway, that’s enough of the sad stuff. After the thought provoking morning, I was ready to depart for the sunny climes of Kampot, some 4 hours by bus.