The capical city of Cambodia, is an interesting and bustling city. As we were only there for two days, we thought we’d just do some of the main sights before we went down to the coast. We set-off for the Royal Palace in the morning, which was shut, apparently due to the impending visit of the Chinese president. So with nothing else to do, we went on to see a rather disappointing Wat and then forced Paula to visit an undesirable playground. Freda was very happy, even though most things were broken! Not the best start to Phnom Penh, we decided to go our separate ways, so Mitch and Paula could go to the Killing Fields. We’ve dragged Freda to most things but we felt this was definitely not appropriate. I managed to get Freda out of the worlds worst playground before she did herself an injury and we then spent the afternoon occupying ourselves. Mitch and Paula came back from their trip pretty somber, but glad they went, so they could learn some more about the atrocities that happened under the rule of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge.
Next day we tried our luck again with the Royal Palace, but this time we found ourselves in amongst an orderly group of school children and the military lining the route to the Royal Palace. As we reached the gates of the Palace, obviously we still wanted to check if it was open, we were briskly escorted away…….seems we had gate crashed a very organised welcome party lining the Chinese presidents route to the palace. Slightly unnerved by the armed military and balaclarved special forces, we retreated to the relative safety of the Cambodia National museum, where we fed the fish among statues from the Khmer empire. We found out later that a process of street-cleaning had occurrred in the days running up the visit, sweeping up all degenerates and the like (“Phnom Penh beautification”), we felt honoured to be included! We ended the day on a ridiculously massive boat, for just the four of us, for a sunset cruise on the Mighty Mekong again!
On the recommendation from my parents, we then had a quick drink at the Foreign Correspondents Club, a cool bar steeped in history, where Foreign journalists documented the war, from the safety of a beer (or cocktail).
We got on a bus and then a boat to the beautiful island of Koh Rong.
While waiting for the boat in Sihanoukville, I was hounded by sellers on the beach offering any beauty service you could want! I opted to have a pedicure, but got more than I bargained for with 3 women grabbing anything that could be preened, one even started to thread my legs. We made a hasty retreat to our boat!
The island of Koh Rong is a world away from the seedy tourist trap of Sihanoukville.
We relaxed on our beautiful beach and all shared a bungalow, which was cosy. All of this was under the careful watch of our amazing host Robbie, who provided us with a lantern ceremony spectacle…….it was a ‘have to be there’ moment as “You look wonderful tonight” was blasted out while the guests all took turns to send a lantern into the sky. This has been one of my favourite moments of travelling so far!
Freda had another first in the calm waters of Koh Rong and learnt to snorkel, after I thought there’s no way a 3 year old can snorkel, but they really surprise you, she was actually quite good! We had mixed feelings about leaving the island, its beauty and serenity was unusual in Cambodia, but we had had enough of the humidity and cold showers. So we made our way to the main land, which took 30 mins on the way there and 2 and a half hours on the way back! Not a nice journey at all.
As it was Paula’s last few days we booked a nice hotel, with a swimming pool on the beach…….we were all happy until they did our washing. Although lots of our clothes got ruined we did manage to make 150 quid out of them, lucky Mitch shopped at Reiss for his shorts (7 years ago)! Freda enjoyed riding the massive unicorn!
We took a boat out to do a bit of snorkelling, as Freda is now an avid snorkeller and thought we were going to hang at a nice secluded beach for lunch. Now, I’m not sure if I mentioned, but there are a few problems that have blighted our time in SE Asia. Those being the endless development and the Chinese, I think maybe these go hand in hand!! So, on this deserted beach was also a Chinese tour party, a sight that we are now used to seeing, but this time we saw a little too much of the Chinese! The male partipants of the party all changed into their swim suits on the top deck, while the Chinese ladies on the deck below couldn’t see, we had a full view from our boat of all the tackle, and there was a lot!! So, the beach was not so great……there was lots of rubbish, which is also a massive problem here. This has made us really think about our use of plastics, as that’s what’s mainly washed up on beaches everywhere in Asia and there they stay, it’s a real shame. Upside, our boat guy did us some nice BBQ fish and then we got on our way.
The ride back was a little choppy, I think Paula was a bit worried we were gonna sink, and Freda was nearly sick!
The next day we went to the National Park just up the road. A National Park is not quite the same as at home out here, as if you have enough money you can build whatever you want in it, if you don’t you aren’t allowed near it. So this was a bit of a mixed bag, although we did get to see some rare and amazing birds of prey, which was nice.
We said a sad goodbye to Paula, it has been amazing having her with us, and we carried on down the coast to Kampot and then to Kep.
Kampot and Kep
Kampot was a strange place, descended on by French expats, known as the French coffee house. It rained a lot, we did very little and Mitch drank some coffee! We did however downgrade to a hostel to try our hand at real backerpackering, but felt that two nights of that was enough! Freda, as always, was very happy though.
We set off to Kep, which is just down the road. We hired a tuk tuk to take us into the countryside on the way, so as to see a cave and the secret lake (that is known by everyone)! But, it was really beautiful and really nice to see a very different rural side to Cambodia.
We stopped at a Pepper Farm, anyone who doesn’t know Kampot Pepper is the best pepper in the world. It was interesting to see how it’s grown. We bought some and I have to say it’s very nice, tastes just like pepper!
On to Kep which was nice, lots of crabs, although apparently they are massively over-fished and you shouldn’t eat them here, but I only read that after we had tucked into a few on the beach, oops!
So, it’s time for us to leave Cambodia and spend our last week of South East Asia in Vietnam. Its been great, a real eye opener, not easy, or always enjoyable, but I feel we’ve got to experience a country, overcoming a difficult past and moving with hope into the future. Its been humbling to talk to people with very little and realise all round the world, no matter where we live, we all have the same issues and the desires, there are little differences in our makeup. Some of us are just lucky to be born in a country that has progressed further, but very slowly I hope they will too, one day managing to overthrow the corruption and then lessen their poverty, as they deserve it. Such lovely people with infectious smiles, that’s what I will take with me.