Cambodia HEAD







7.4. 2010, travel book part I.


Why to go to Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and the residence of royal family. Sadly, it was badly affected by the rule of Red Khmers in the past. The evidence of this can be found in Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and in mass graves in Killing fields located twenty kilometres from the city.


How to get to Phnom Penh

I got to Phnom Penh on a speed boat from Vietnamese town Chau Doc.


Accomodation tip in Phnom Penh

Right before I arrived to Phnom Penh, I quickly went through my tour guide and chose guesthouse Last Home as my accommodation and I did the right thing. Last Home is located near the royal palace and National Museum, is clean and has an older intelligent lady in charge, who can speak English well. She helped me out with bus tickets, with planning my next route, they cook good meals and there's cheap internet connection across the street. The most expensive room with AC costs 15 USD.


My experience in Phnom Penh

I got on a speed boat in a border town Chau Doc and made myself comfortable in the back of the boat. I was curious about the visa process in Cambodia. As Cambodia doesn't have an embassy in my country, one of the options to get a visa before your trip is to send your passport to Berlin and pay 160 Eur. Obviously, it is completely unnecessary as you can get a visa on the airport in Phnom Penh or on main border road crossings. When we arrived, we got to a pontoon and there we were welcomed by Vietnamese officers who gave us a stamp in the passport to mark our departure from Vietnam. Then we sailed a bit further, got off the boat on the coast and went to Cambodian customs. Cambodians gave us our visas for 23 USD, all we got to do was to fill in a form.

Vietnam on Mekong towards Cambodia

On Mekong towards the Cambodia

After that I was just admiring the beauty of the river. At first, we sailed on a small narrow canal and watched passing villages with houses built on logs. After that we sailed into a space that reminded a lake more than a river. Nearby I could see little children herding buffalos and helping them get in the river to cool down. In this place, the water was nice and clear unlike in the canals we sailed on before. Another thing that I noticed was that the river traffic stopped being so dense on Cambodian side. Vietnamese had so many large shipping boats and small village boats on the river that it reminded crowded squares at times, however here it was nice and peaceful.

Vietnam On Mekong towards the Cambodia

On Mekong towards the Cambodia

We arrived to Phnom Penh after one o'clock in the afternoon. I could see the city in the distance with its high cobblestoned waterfront. The minute we got to the dock, there was a huge swamp of tuk tuk drivers and bikers. I declined their offers loudly as I said that I'm an organized tourist with my own tour guide and the moment I said that I stopped being interesting for them. I was surprised how easily I managed to shake them off. I went uphill to the main road and looked back to observe the rest of the tourists still surrounded by tuk tuk drivers. It was really warm and the city was empty. I made few first steps in Cambodia and called a young biker and asked him if he could give me a lift. It seemed to make him very happy. His first question was where I'm going and the one that followed right after that was if I want 'bum bum lady'. I didn't expect a question like that and was a bit puzzled. In my mind I was laughing, thinking about how exactly I got here. I told him I really don't want that, the only thing I want is for him to take me to my guesthouse. 'Very cheap, twenty dollars' he said. Cheeky man, I bet that if I agreed to 'bum bum lady', there would be a hundred percent mark-up. To ease his mind, I gave him a dollar and half as a reward.

Last Home was a great place and I stayed there for one night. The owner helped me to get a bus ticket for next day to Koh Kong near the border with Thailand. I was going to go to Cardamom mountains to Chi Phat village, where I wanted to stay for few days in nature. I asked her to help me and call the ranger's office which is located in Chi Phat and ask them if I can come for a visit [phone number 092 72 09 25]. I managed to do all this in twenty minutes after I arrived, so I could take it easy after and go across the street to get some internet connection. I sat down beside a monk in orange dress and sent few cheerful emails home.

Cambodia Street barbers in Phnom Penh - Wat Ounalom

Street barbers in Phnom Penh - Wat Ounalom

Later in the afternoon I decided to go and explore the Royal Palace. Firstly, I was walking past the oldest temple in the city Wat Ounalom, where alongside the wall was at least fifty barbers running their business on the street. In front of the Palace itself I was warned by tuk tuk drivers that it's closed today and that they can give me a ride somewhere else. I heard this story so many times on my travels, that I realized it's the same everywhere. But this time they were right, the palace was indeed closed.

So, I agreed and took an offer from one of the tuk tuk drivers, who took me to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum for 5 USD and then waited for me for two hours while I was inside There were people with different disabilities waiting outside of the museum, some without arms, legs, even faces and they were begging for money. The museum itself had a strange atmosphere. Red Khmers transformed former high school building into a prison – today also known as S21, where they interrogated, tortured and eventually sentenced to death up to 20 thousand people. These people were then sent in vans from the city, executed and thrown into mass graves. The place is now called Killing fields. On average, each prisoner lasted in Toul Sleng around half a year before their life was ended. There were only seven survivors, who were discovered by Vietnamese army when they took over Phnom Penh in 1979. Measurements of the bottom floor rooms were kept intact and these were used as interrogation rooms. Upper floors were split into cubicles of two square meters. Every prisoner was allocated two containers, one for water and one that was used as a toilet. Upper floors also had barbed wire around the edges to prevent prisoners from committing suicide by jumping down from the terrace. Some rooms had photos of the convicted people, other had present day civil pictures of Red Khmers, some of them were even officers from Toul Sleng, working on rice fields. There was another room full of human skulls on display. And on the stairs, there was a lot of bats...fitting.

Cambodia Prison S21

Prison Toul Sleng - S21

I was trying to imagine how Phnom Penh looked like under the rule of Red Khmers...probably like a city of ghosts. Red Khmers ordered the residents to leave the city and within one week the streets were completely empty. Residents were moved to the countryside and whole families were separated for years. People were loaded into vans and moved to different corners of the country depending on the street they lived in.



zeme 100



km 100

48 560


dny 100