I left Banlung on a night bus which took forever to reach the Capital because of many unending stops. I arrived around 6 am on a rainy day and I was to look for my hostel. After refreshing, it was time to go wandering around the city.
|Main roundabout in Phnom Penh.|
|Outside Wat Pho temple|
First thing I visited was the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This site was a former high school transformed into a prison from 1975-1979 under the Khmer Rouge Regime. In 1975, 2 million people were evacuated from Phnom Penh to do agricultural work in the villages and were introduced to Maoist and Marxist-Leninist ideology. The desire was to transform the country into a rural, classless society in which there were no rich, no poor, and no exploitation amongst the population. To achieve this, money was abolished along with free markets, private property, foreign clothing styles and religious practices. Schools, churches, Pagodas, universities , shops were shut or turned into prisons. The former penitentiary turned museum was the most important in the country, with 14, 000 prisoners during operation with only 12 surviving at the end of the genocide.
I also visited the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields where a huge number of people were executed. There are 20, 000 mass graves in which over 1.7M people killed during a four year period. When you walk through the fields, you can see some remains of the dead. The rain washes corpses to the surface with some clothes being visible from the ground in torture sites. By the end of this horror, Cambodia’s population was trimmed from 8 to nearly 6 million.
|Tuol sleng genocide museum.|
|Killing tree where kids were executed in the killing field.|
After having such a heavy day with sad history, I decided to go find something lighter to raise my spirits. I went to the Russian main market which literally sells everything. I bought a couple of souvenirs and some clothes. Later on I met some friends where we enjoyed a nice and cozy Japanese bar.
|Chilling by the river.|
|Wat Pho Temple|
|Views of the city over Mekong river|
My last day in the city was spent sightseeing some of the renowned spots. I visited the Wat Pho temple, a peaceful and serene spot with breathtaking history. The Independence Monument is lotus-shaped and was built to commemorate Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953. It’s located in a round-about, so be careful about crossing to take photos as it’s extremely busy. I walked outside the Royal Palace but did not pay to enter as I had already seen the Grand Palace in Bangkok. When you travel on a budget, you have to be discerning with your expenses.
|Public work out near the Mekong River.|
|Duran roundabout at night.|
|A street in Kampot.|
|Famous bridge in Kampot from the old city to the new one.|
My final moments were spent strolling alongside the Mekong River. The vibe here is really nice because there is a lot going on. There’s cafes, restaurants, bars, as well as people exercising with music in a public space. I just sat in one of the benches by the river as I read a bit and people watched. It was a nice way to end my last day in the capital.
My last stop in Cambodia was Kampot. This is a very charming and quaint town with a touch of French colonial influence. It is very easy to walk around and the sunset by the river is so amazing. Its claim to fame is a high quality pepper and fish sauce which they export.
On my first day in Kampot, I arrived in the afternoon and checked into my hostel and proceeded with what I like to do most, walk around. There is a street food place which is very cheap. I had a quick lunch and then went on to sightsee. One side of the river has a great deal of colonial architecture surrounded by a number of delightful cafes and shops. After looking around I went by the river to chill and enjoy the sunset. Night time was for checking out the night market. Nearby was a big durian shaped round about which looks nice at night with light. I ate some food at the market and then walked around but most of the clothes sold here were more modern than the usual markets I was used to. Before I went to bed, I booked a day tour at the Bokor Mountain National Park for the following day.
|Outside one of the coffee shops.|
|Sunset in Kampot upon Mekong River|
|Sitting in one of the former french colonial buildings.|
|Former french ruins.|
|The abandoned former French Bokor hotel and Casino.|
|Above the clouds from the Pagoda.|
|The view of Vietnam over the lake.|
We wrapped up the day looking for fireflies on the river but I think my expectations were too high. Only saw a small number of them but it was still special. Don’t forget the mosquito repellent for the boat ride. That was a wrap up for me in this town but there is more to see like majestic caves, a day tour to Kep, beautiful beaches, salt fields and bike rides if you fancy a leisurely stroll on two wheels.