An indepth look at Phnom Penh

I throughly enjoyed my day tour of Phnom Penh today.  It was free and I was the only participant!  Monton (I remembered his name by thinking of Montana without the "a"!!) was an excellent guide.  We started off on cyclos which are bikes with a seat at the front to sit.  They are not as popular as they once were due to remorks (tuk tuks) which are a motorcycle with a carriage attached that can hold up to four or five people.  Much faster!  Apparently there are still about 500 in the city that mostly cater to tourists.   It was fun but the poor fellow hauling me had a tooth ache so we switched cyclos as I was too heavy.  I was a bit embarassed but oh well - I am sure there are heavier tourists than me.  I know there are!!! 

First of all we drove by the Royal Palace which of course I've seen a few times however I didn't go this side of the park and what can I say...pigeons!!! 

From there we drove further south to the Friendship Monument that was put up by Vietnam (it was trashed and rebuilt) and the Independence monument built in 1954 after they became "free" of France.

On to Wat Phomn through interesting traffic.  It was a little scary at times being so far down and vulnerable.  Hard to believe in such a poor country but tons of Lexus and other SUV types - I've even seen a hummer.  Driven by government types and rich businessmen of course.  And let's not forget the motorbikes.  Phnom Penh has 2 million residents and 1 million motorbikes so that will give you an idea.  There is no public transit if you can believe it so people have to buy a motorbike (about 1800 US for a new one but the majority buy a used one through the bank) or take a remork.   Wat Phomn was interesting - many people come here to pray for luck and bring offerings so it was quite the busy place. 

The cyclo guys - the poor one on the left drove me. 

We then said goodbye to the cyclo drivers and off we went in a van out to a fishing village.  It was quite a way out so Monton stopped and got us fresh coconuts to drink.  We arrived at the fishing village and I was speechless.  I've seen extreme poverty but this was overwhelming.  The people here fish and then gut and scale/skin the fish and then dry it and sell it to the market.  The stench was overpowering and the place was absolutely filthy.  People lived in horrible shacks and worked like dogs and that was their life.  I said hello to a little girl and her pretty little face lit up and I nearly lost it thinking of how dim her future is.  If the children do go to school it is only to about age 8 and then they help the parents.  I've seen poverty in India from the windows of the van but I have never walked through a poor village like this one avoiding all the crap that is around and seeing their homes.  I had to be respectful and not take too many photos and no close ups but here is a taste of how they live.

Gutting and cleaning the fish - she does this from 3 a.m. until sunset.  So no one should complain about THEIR job!

Drying the fish. 

Homes on the river

Then on to the Central market which was housed in a beautiful building.  I did buy myself ANOTHER t-shirt for two dollars as well as a couple of little things but it was too busy and too hot and I did not really enjoy myself.  I think I am "marketed" and "shopped" out and I really did not buy that much. 

Then it was time for lunch and we went to a NGO sponsored cafe.  Former street children are trained to be servers and/or cooks.  I got a free lunch up to $7 so I ordered my last fish amok with a fresh pineapple juice.  Very good.  It was nice to visit someplace like this - we visited a similar place in Sinnoukville.  It cost a bit more but I would rather spend more money and know I am helping to make a better life for someone. 

We then went to the Russian market - named that only because it used to have Russian goods. Now like everywhere it's all made in China!!  I had half an hour to walk around and was done in less than half that with no purchase.  It was very dark and dingy and I did not enjoy it at all but it's on the "tourist list".

We then went to see a place that teaches kids classical dance.  Due to crazy traffic we arrived half way through the performance.  It was interesting.  These children are learning for free but of course have to be good and also show interest in it.  The Khmer Rouge destroyed the culture - like everything else they destroyed so slowly it is coming back.  There was a group that was obviously on a photo tour and were madly taking photos.  They kept checking their photos and weren't really watching the dancing nor in the moment to enjoy it.  Their lens were something else - this one woman was hauling two huge camera/lens combos.  Not envious at all - would not want to haul that stuff around.  Although I must admit when I am out with just my point and shoot and someone hauls out their DSLR I feel like saying "I have one of those too"  as I feel photographically inadequate!!!  Anyway it got a bit boring after a while as the performance was over and they were just practicing.  So we left.

We then drove to the river and walked along it.  Then I was taken back to my hotel.  All my drivers and excellent guide were tipped generously - you need nerves of steel to drive in this city and Monton was amazing.  As all guides he is university educated and his English is excellent.  He has an 8 month old baby son and they plan to have one more child in three or four years and that is it as he wants his children to be educated and have a great life. 

Off to Happy Herb's pizza for supper - a small cheese pizza and my last Angkor beer.  I didn't ask for the extra herbs in mine (yes they are available...if you get my drift..) as I needed my wits about me to pack tonight.

Singapore tomorrow!!! 



Anthony said…
Great blog post...Great photos!