Welcome to Cambodia

20 05 2010

We took a bus from Saigon at around 6am and arrived in Phnom Penh around 12.30pm. The border crossing was relatively easy since the tour company collected all our passports and organised the exit and entry while we waited and walked from point to point.

We took a tuk tuk to our chosen guesthouse then walked out to a vegetarian restaurant for lunch. The servings were small and every dish on the menu was noodles with mushroom – I think we may have received the foreigner treatment of getting a worse dish than the locals, but for 8000 riel it wasn’t worth contesting.

We were already half way to the Silver Pagoda so we continued on to the opulent palace with golden roofs and strict entry requirements (no hats, scarves or short shorts).

Bargained a tuk tuk down to $1 and returned to the guest house where Benno rested his sunburned skin under the air con.

Dinner was at a Chinese vegetarian restaurant that we had to walk many blocks down to number 699A. We ate franch fries, cauliflower with green beans and tofu with basil and ginger for a total of “ten five thousand” (15,000 r, about $4).

Took a motor back to the guesthouse, as it was now much too dark to want to walk back along the streets.

Day 2 we walked up to Paradise Hotel and met some HK Lutherans and drove out to Kg Chhnang where a mission is. The village has around 600 families which includes around 2000 or more children. The families all farm the land around the village during the 6 month wet season. There is only one planting a year. They must grow enough to store for the 6 month dry season when they cannot farm because they have no water or irrigation. When they are not farming, they weave baskets which they take to the Thai border and sell to the Thai people as they get a better price than selling them to other Cambodians.

The mission centre in the village runs a feeding program for children at 11.30am, after school finishes, then they have English lessons in the afternoon. They hold 3 services on Sundays and have Sunday school.There is only electricity in the night time so they must use a generator if they want electricity for fans, lights or computers during the day.

Families live on 30x30m blocks of land that cost about $3000. An oxen to help in the fields costs $300, and the monthly salary of a doctor is $200.

We had Indian for dinner once we arrived back in the capital around 7pm. The hostel almost lost our key and it took them ages to find it. They are not very helpful.

The next day we took a tuk tuk to S-21, the school converted into a prison during the Pol Pot regime. We watched a lame video for 1 hour that explained very little and just read out love letters written between a particular man and his wife who were separated for many years and ended up being killed. We saw some of the HK Lutherans from yesterday, bats, cells, gallows, interrogation rooms, read lots of stories and were perplexed by the quotes in English under Cambodians who worked in the S-21 prison who mostly said they had no regrets about working there.

Lunch was across the road at the Boddhi Tree where we had Cambodian tofu and coconut curry and stir-fry veg with ginger.

In the hot afternoon we went to the Killing Fields where we saw large mass graves, bleached bones and were annoyed by gangs of begging children.

We had dinner at Friends, an expensive restaurant that trains former street children in hospitality. We ate spring rolls, tofu stirfry and crispy noodle salad.

The next morning we caught a 6.15am bus to Siem Reap.