Phnom Penh

1aaee-img_2984 Finally! I just want to apologise for the lengthy delay of this entry. I guess life just kind of got in the way and the wifi connections haven’t been as good in Nepal and India as they were in South East Asia. Anyway, without further adieu, here are Jason’s thoughts on Phnom Penh.
From the sleepy town of Battambang, we went to Cambodia’s vibrant capital city of Phnom Penh. As explained in the last entry, we organised a bus from our guesthouse in Battambang (The Seung Hout Hotel) to Phnom Penh. We chose a mini-bus that promised wi-fi for $10 but, unfortunately, the wi-fi didn’t work, not a big deal though. We could have taken a cheaper bus for $7. It took about 4-5 hours to get there including a half hour break at a questionable roadside restaurant for lunch, complete with chickens wandering around. I (Jason) have come to not trust these kinds of establishments as I have gotten sick at every single one of them. Grainne did have some lunch there though.
As we arrived in P.P. we were greeted by the usual swarm of vultures (tuk-tuk/motorbike drivers) trying desperately to get us to hire them. I realise that they are just trying to earn a living but it gets frustrating when you get off the bus in a new city, disorientated, tired and immediately having 10 or more people get in your face trying to scam money out of you.
Anyway, once we got past all of this P.P. was great.
Once we arrived, we hired a tuk-tuk and checked in to the Lazy Gecko Guesthouse. Actually when we got there, we had to wait a while to check in so we decided to order some food. Our first impression of this guesthouse was good because they had amazing food and a cool dog wandering around greeting everyone. However, once we actually got to the room, our feelings changed a bit. We paid $10 for a double room with a private bathroom and a fan but the room was very stuffy and had poor circulation. It had a window and a door we could open (obvis\ously) but if we wanted any privacy, we had to keep the curtains closed and the door shut because right outside our room was a main hallway that people walked up and down all day. This is the reason why the room was so stuffy. Also, there was constuction going on at the building next door and they liked to start early, needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep. We checked out the next morning and moved to a different guesthouse on the same street that we liked a lot more, that was quieter and had air-condition (for $12)

That same day, we booked a wildlife tour for the following day that was located just outside of P.P. We spent the rest of the day just lazing around until we met my friend Brian, who’s doing the Peace Corp. in P.P. for dinner. Brian took us to a good/cheap Indonesian restaurant located near the palace. The whole meal costed us about $2 including drinks. It was really nice catching up with Brian because in my whole time living abroad, I haven’t had a chance to hang out with anyone from home.
The next day we went to the wildlife park. Overall, it was a good experience. Our guide seemed very knowledgeable and we got the chance to intetact with some very interesting animals including gibbons, elephants, otters, crocodiles, birds and pythons. Grainne even taught one of the birds to say hello in Korean (an-yong). The wildlife park rescues animals all around Cambodia, rehabilitates them and tries to place them back in safe places in the wild. The price of the tour was about $30 and lasted about 5 hours. Included in the price was a really good Khmer lunch made by the tour guides wife.
They just loved getting their backs scratched!
This is Lucky.
Even though the animals are in cages, this wildlife park does incredible work. Every single animal that is at the park has been rescued from people or bad situations (except for the Lions who they inherited from the zoo that was there before the park). Incredibly, about 80-90% of the animals are placed back in to the wild within their first 3 months at the park. The others are animals that wouldn’t survive in the wild. They also have successful breeding programs, only breeding animals that will be released back in to the wild.
A baby gibbon trying to chew on Jasons fingers,
 she had no teeth so it was all good!

After this we net Noel, Kate and Jayne briefly at the Toul Sleng prison and the Killing Fields. The Toul Sleng prison is where the Khmer Rouge housed “prisoners of the state”. People were imprisoned in this old school building for various reasons, but mostly they were educated or refused to comply with Pol Pot’s vision. Most prisoners were tortured here until they confessed to false charges. Many of them died in the process and if they didn’t die, they were sent to the killing fields and died there.

Pol Pot. The leader of the Khmer Rouge.
One of the “torture rooms” in Tuol Sleng

After visiting the grusome Toul Sleng prison, we went to the killing fields where we took an audio tour. The narrator was a Toul Sleng survivor who gave a chilling account of what happened there. It was truely heartbreaking. Over time, bits of bone and teeth resurfaced due to rain. At the end of the tour, you get a chance to visit the memorial stupa which contains many of the skulls of the victims that had died at the killing fields. However, there are still many graves there that have not been excavated. It really is a chilling sight to see.

The skulls of some of the people
that were killed at the killing fields


One of the many mass graves
at the killing fields
 

Later in the evening, we met up with Noel, Kate and Jayne for dinner and goodbyes. The following day we went to a large market that used to be the biggest in Southeast Asia where we got some t-shirts and other bits and pieces. This brought an end to our time in Phnom Penh.

Prices:

Bus from Battambang to Phnom Penh: $10

Accomodation: Lazy Gecko, $10 (fan room) Kha Vi Guesthouse (just down the road from the Lazy Gecko) $12 air-con room

Day trip to Phnom Tamao wildlife park: $35 (including transport and lunch.)

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