Phnom Penh

Date: 01/05/2007 | Author: Gabby

Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital city and a place I have only learnt to spell correctly now I have been there. We first spent time there en route to Sihanoukville. We had stopped briefly for lunch at the fantastic, Irish owned Green Vespa where Alan, the owner, had recommended a few hotels to us, including the Scandinavian Hotel. This was where we stayed, it's not on the popular river side location but not too far from it. Reasonably priced and well furnished, it had a small but good pool and we were given the poolside room, which meant the girls could dive in for a cooling dip first thing in the morning or last thing at night - perfect!
We had planned a 2 night stay there. We wanted to visit the Killing Fields (which we had been told wouldn't be too full on for the girls) as well as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (which we had been told would be too much for them). We learnt a lot of the history of the country by taking in both of these harrowing 'sights' and ended up staying for 4 nights. Phnom Penh is an amazing city and a great place to just be. It's small enough to get around easily, traditionally on a tuk tuk or motorbike. We saw lots of Cambodian families travelling 4 or 5 up on a motorbike, which the girls were desperate to do. After visiting Phnom Wat we took 2 motorbikes back to our hotel, a driver, Dave and Ella on one with Florence and I on another motorbike - this is now the only way they want to travel. It's not the safest way to get around as there seem to be no traffic rules, it's simply the smaller vehicles give way to the larger ones (and there are plenty of 4 wheel drives in the city!)
I can't really put my finger on what is so special about Phnom Penh. It has a charm that seems to have largely survived the violence of it's recent history. When the Khmer Rouge took the city in 1975, the entire population was forced to the countryside - they did not return until after the Vietnamese arrived and liberated the city in 1979. In the years since then the city has come an awfully long way. There is so much to see and it is the best place to learn about the Khmer people, their culture and history. If you visit Cambodia, don't make the mistake many people do and bypass Phnom Penh for Siem Reap!

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