September 15 Day 4
We negotiated a cycle free day today. The original plan was to cycle the 18 km out to the boats again and take a fast boat for the 6 hour trip to Phnom Penh(PP). The boat trip was cancelled (sigh of relief) so we asked to go to the Angkor Wat Museum instead before driving to PP. Lea was up early for a 6km run along the river bank dodging the piles of rubbish and traffic. The German couple elected to do an early morning ride and skip the museum.
The museum was terrific, a beautiful building, centred on a water courtyard, great displays and lots of information about the construction and symbolism of the Temples. We spent 2 hours there trying to take it all in. Then we picked up the Germans to commence our 6 hour road trip. The road to PP is a busy major thoroughfare only one lane wide with a narrow verge on each lane for motorbikes. We stopped at an old original French Arched Bridge, one of 22 originally on this road. Only 11 remain now.
Lunch was about halfway there overlooking wet paddocks and rice fields. Our last stop was at an afternoon market with local “delicacies”. Tarantula spiders, giant cockroaches, crickets, silk worms and scorpions. The locals were buying up so it wasn’t just a tourist trap.
This local girl was very charming and spoke good English. She encouraged us to try these delicacies. She had a live Tarantula on her shoulder. Apparently the fangs had been removed and we were assured it didn’t jump or scurry. Lea was not convinced and kept her distance.
Our guide Heung and our driver Islam loved the crickets.
Not so sure about the silk worms though.
From there it was dual highway into PP. We arrived at our hotel and checked out the roof top bar and pool. We were in the central river district so we didn’t have to go far for a good meal and cheap beer. Our room was on the 10th floor of the Harmony Hotel.
We were picked up at 0730 and transferred out of town to the edge of the Mekong River. A very short bike ride followed by a ferry crossing onto Mekong Island. It was a very pleasant ride around the Island taking in the quiet lifestyle only a stones throw from the bustling city.
We stopped at a house where the women were weaving silk on large, complicated traditional looms. Lots of foot pedals and slides to work the patterns.
The fabrics that are produced are lovely.
Donkeys and motorbikes are the preferred transport.
Nice concrete roads
Unbelievably long dragon boats.
Back across on the ferry then off to the National Museum. Here we found some stunning artefacts from the Angkor Wat Temples but the displays and information boards were not up to the standard of Siem Reap. The building itself was lovely though.
45 minutes back at the hotel for shower., change and regroup for lunch before visiting the Tull Sleng Genocide Museum.
This former high school became known as the infamous S-21 Secret Prison during the time of the Khmer Rouge. Between 12000 and 20000 people were held her and only 12 survived. All forms of horrific torture were employed here. Detailed records of all prisoners were maintained although many were destroyed with the collapse of the movement.
The frame was where countless prisoners were hung up and tortured.
The cells contained iron beds with leg clamps attached to restrain the prisoners.
The audio tour presented a grim and somber story of the goings on here.
Next was the Royal Palace in the CBD of PP. Our tour guide was a excellent and well spoken. The King is in Thailand at the moment for health reasons although we suspect there is more to that story than meets the eye. Politics here has taken a more repressive turn toward dictatorship. Opposition leaders have been arrested and charged with treason. The people we spoke to are reluctant to speak out openly about their government. All you get is a shrug, a raised eyebrow or a roll of the eyes when asking questions. There is still an element of fear here.
Inside were great displays of royal regalia.
That evening we caught up with our friends Lloyd, Mandy and Heidi who we met on the 2015 Sail Indo Rally. They have settled in Cambodia. it has been a tough 18months for them but its all coming together now. Mandy is working at a new International School. Lloyd has got a foot in the door in the construction business and Heidi is thriving and still cute as ever. We had carried a large jar of Vegemite over for them and some story books centred on Australian wildlife. We had a great night catching up at a local Indian Restaurant. Lloyd gave me quick tour of the seedier side of town before we said our goodbyes.
The view from our PP hotel roof top bar and pool.