Trying to get a tan in the rainy season. Here is the story of my last few days in Cambodia.
Sunday 12.7.2009, Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville
I was picked up at my hotel early and fed into a large bus. It was an ice-cold 4-5 hours trip with the air conditioning on full speed.
Comfortable bus to Sihanoukville
We left the flat lands after a while and passed by a mountainous area but not with any high peaks. There were small towns of brick and chaos, and houses on pillars along the road. Some of the latter were for people with money. The pillars were built of concrete.
The staff on my Phnom Penh hotel had their colleagues in Sihanoukville, so I went there.
ORCHIDEE GUEST HOUSE situated on or right behind the largest beach. They had several rooms along “streets” and a pool. Nice and clean with breakfast for 23 USD.
The town is named after the last king, Norodom Sihanouk. It was cleared and built to give the country a port city. Beautiful beaches over many kilometres.
I strolled down to and on “my” beach, Serendipity. Great swells, wide and long beach, lukewarm water, several bars and restaurants. Few sunbathers, but cloudy and windy. Many local swimmers but few tourists to see. I had a beer on a beach bar, delicious. Afterwards I walked over a cliff to the next beach, and later had a swim in my guest house pool. I was overpowered by a huge rainfall that lasted and lasted…
I had a very tasty grilled fish for dinner, with Angkor beer – or was it the competitor Anchor?
Monday 13.97, Sihanoukville
Buffet breakfast with “Norwegian” bread, egg and bacon etc. My guest house has visiting families and adult tourists.
Partly cloudy but beach weather in the morning. I had a siesta with fried rice and a nap in my room. When I was ready to sunbathe again, the heavy rains came once more. Irritating. What should have lasted 1,5 days was reduced to half a day.
Tomorrow I’ll take a bus back to Phnom Penh (only 4 USD, skeptical…).
I had dinner on a tourist place, but on pillars and with a thatched roof. Local food as on just about the entire trip.
What was meant to be a couple of days under the sun in the southern Cambodian town of Sihanoukville proved otherwise.
I’m writing this on Monday night. I’ll rather add something if any deviations occur to my plan. Right. The plan is a morning bus to Phnom Penh, moto to airport. Then the afternoon plane to Vientiane, Laos. Evening plane to Bangkok after five hours of waiting. Nightplane to Copenhagen after a couple of hours waiting. Midday flight to Stavanger. Door to door makes about 36 hours. Whew!
Later: I overslept and had to take a taxi to the airport. Stress…
The entry and exit stamps to Cambodia in my passport
Impressions from Cambodia
Finances: In nine days in Cambodia I spent 675 USD. My total cost travelling to and around in Cambodia and Laos this past fortnight amounts to 3600 USD.
Reward: Cambodia was more developed in a way than Laos. Poverty was however more apparent due to all the beggars in the capital.
Angkor was fantastic, as was the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and the Killing Fields. The beaches in the south were fine, even if the weather failed me.
Both countries, Laos and Cambodia are easy to travel in, at least on the main stretches I chose to go. There were guest houses and eateries aplenty. And cordial people.
Extra – extra – extra
On Saturday I e-mailed a letter home to friends and family, summing up my first week. Here it goes:
07/11/2009 Hello again,
Now a few more days have passed and I can see the end of the holiday. Unfortunately. I have pressed my stay here in Phnom Penh a bit and will take a bus way down to the coast in tomorrow Sunday. There I will spend a day and half at one of the many sandy beaches, which according to my guide book will surpass those that Thailand has to offer. Indeed, it is Cambodia that has “undiscovered” islands left and beaches only a few from the West have discovered. We will see.
But anyway, I’m in Cambodia. The country with 6 million inhabitants which in our Viking era was a great power throughout Southeast Asia and erected the largest con-centration of religious monuments and buildings that ever is built on the planet. The country which for three brief years from 1975 cut its population by between 1 and 3 million people, all caused by the Khmer Rouge genocide.
I started my educational trip to experience Angkor, the temple north in the country. It is on the World Heritage List and covers a wide territory in which up to 1 million people lived. That was at a time when London had only 50,000 inhabitants, as my Lonely Planet Guide puts it. Or when in Norway we lived in huts and longhouses.
Khmer People’s homes were built of wood and have disappeared. The dwellings of the Gods were built of stone, and remain. Admittedly the empire vanished in the 1400s and the jungle took over. Still, the jungle is dense around all the temples, libraries and decorations, but they are cleared well. Some large trees remain and are tightly woven into the walls. The buildings are simply fantastic, and the reliefs in the walls and stone blocks tremendously exciting to wander among. Much has been torn down by the ravages of time and of the invading forces.
Angkor is one of the definite musts, along with Petra and Machu Picchu. Angkor is also becoming a major destination in the world right now.
The town in the area where everyone stay is Siem Reap; it is a cool place. Many hang outs, bars, restaurants, modern style, and fast food of simpler local quality. Markets, mopeds, tuk-tuks, dust, rain, eager sellers, colours, smells and all the wonderful photo opportunities just slide or bounce off depending on how fast it goes. And a swimming pool in the guest house where my afternoons were lovely…
In rural areas, simple wooden standard, often built on piles. Under the house locals hang in their hammocks all day; eating. Rice fields. Small and large villages with a hectic sales activity from booth to booth, from one small shop to the other.
After four nights in Siem Reap I took a bus south to the capital of Phnom Penh and accommodated me right on the riverbank of the Mekong. Okay place where air conditioning is the best. 33 degrees and very humid is not my thing. (Have I said it before?)
I came here yesterday, on Friday, and after having cooled down in my room an hour, I jumped on the back of a moped that for a dollar took me to the Royal palace. Never in any place could have been erected such a golden palace and temple area! It was absolutely extreme. A Buddha figure was inserted with over nine thousand diamonds. And we, the world’s richest nation, poked fun at our queen who wanted golden lion feet on the bathtub in the royal palace of rags we have in Oslo. It is a national stain of big dimensions when you see what these people sees their pride in preserving.
In the evening I met a lone Norwegian who also is travelling. It may well be he surpasses me in just that. He is only two months a year in Norway, working abroad and travelling freely four months in the year. Lucky him. We had some beers. Angkor Beer as it is called here.
Today, Saturday, was much devoted to the Holocaust of the Khmer regime. It was indeed a revolution. The people should be cleaned of all evil, all would get what they deserved by communist inspiration, there would be an end to corruption, etc. It started when the cities were emptied of people and all were sent to the countryside to work with the soil. It was the only pure thing. Furthermore, the schools closed down in favour of pure propaganda courses. Teachers, civil servants, businessmen, lawyers, doctors, in short, all educated people were killed. So were many children and all those who could be suspected to be against the revolution. After a time the revolution began to eat their own, as it’s called. Suspicion and paranoia sent even more tens of thousands into death camps, or the Killing Fields, as they say.
I visited today the most famous of them. 16,000 were killed here and thrown into mass graves. 8,000 skulls have been collected in a tower. Furthermore, I went to S-21, safety camp number 21 which was the largest torture chamber they had. The atrocities here were told in pictures and objects. And it all took place in a building that until 1975 had housed a primary school! After the purges the country was left with 70% women and a destitute population, barely any people with education or health, etc.
Now I have to let off steam.
Took me a cheeseburger in a cool bar, but it was not the in particular good meat to speak of. They’d better stick to the food they can. And they can. Siesta time is ending, but I will throw myself on bed and relax before walking out again.
I’m still just fine.
Tuesday afternoon I fly from Phnom Penh to Vientiane in Laos. I continue to Bangkok in the evening. Late at night the plane leaves for Copenhagen before I land in Stavanger on Wednesday at midday.
This trip to Laos and Cambodia is described in a series of articles. You have just read the last in the list.
Laos (1) – Vientiane: This year’s vacation is in the form of an egotrip to the Far East, more precisely Laos and Cambodia. I was in this part of the world in 1985, but these two countries were at the time practically sealed off to foreigners. The backpackers are now pouring in, groups are following suit – and I want to see the countries before they turn into another Thailand.
Laos (2) – Vang Vieng: What’s wrong? Entering a backpacker’s haven on my own, twenty years older then the rest and what more?
Laos (3) – Luang Prabang: Ahhh! This is more like me. A fascinating landscape and a beautiful city full of temples, high on the World Heritage List in my opinion.