Tagged in: phnom penh

Cambodia 2010 – Day 3, Route 5 to Battambang

Monday. We left the hotel at 8.00 for the 290km drive along national Route 5 to Battambang.

Our first stop was at Kampong Lung, a village of silversmiths, about 40 minutes drive from Phnom Phen. The kampong, which lies along the river bank,houses a number of family concerns each having up to three generations all involved.

From there we moved on to the Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Centre and the pagoda at Udong Mountain. According to our guide,Sam, there were 136 steps to the top but it certainly felt like double.
The Buddhist centre houses the mausoleum for one of the leaders who was shot in 2002 and also is the centre of learning for both monks and nuns of the faith. There was much climbing of steps and removing of hats and shoes along the way.

Next stop lunch at the Sovannphum hotel. The “restaurant” runs down one side and is inhabited by quite a number of sparrows or their ilk. The other rather basic omission is toilets, though they did open a bedroom for the ladies and there was an outside footplate loo for the gents.
The meal consisted of rice, mushrooms, a broccoli substitute and a couple of other vegetables I couldn’t pin down all in a very nice sauce of indeterminate composition, a fish and cabbage stew in a coconut sauce and sweet and sour chicken, (none of your battered balls here), what you saw was what you got, with green and red sweet peppers, onion etc. I washed mine down with a large Angkor beer whilst the others chose iced lemon tea.
Fresh pineapple, dragon fruit and lychees followed for dessert.
All things considered you couldn’t complain.

From here we moved on to the Pottery co-operative where clay pots are made in the traditional Cambodian way, not a wheel in sight all hand formed and fired in charcoal ovens.
Then back onto the road for the 2.5 hour drive to Battambang.
Our hotel here was the Stung Sangke. This is definitely not the standard of the Sunway. Had to send down to reception for a hair dryer and the bellboy appeared with an armful of Philips dryers still in their boxes. Having said this I find that there is free wi-fi.
We have a local resident in the form of a large chit chat who took up position on the en trance wall. At least this means there will be no mosquitoes!
Dinner was arranged for 7pm and our guide duly collected us and we were transported to “La Villa” about ten minutes from the hotel.
La Villa is a most unprepossessing looking place alongside the river, no apparent sign and a very dimly lit entrance through the garden. Nor does it give the impression of being anything special once one is inside. Although not noticeable at first there are also a number of tables on the patio to the rear.
The menu is fairly short having about five starters including French onion soup and spring rolls. We decided to split a salad and the spring rolls, following with a prawn soup (we didn’t know it was a soup until it arrived) and a beef fried rice. I know I complain about them putting carrots in Chinese menus at home; I had not realised that it is de rigueur in Asia!

See the next installment – The Bamboo train

Cambodia Overland 2010 – Day 2

The day started with a tour of Tuoi Sleng, the infamous S21 prison, where the Khymer Rouge interred around 17,000  men women and children, between 1975 & ’79, before shipping them off to the killing fields at Choeung Ek. The prison was originally a secondary school and the 4 classroom blocks were used, Block A was for VIP prisoners. In the other blocks the rooms were divided into cells 2 metres by 1. There were no doors on the ground floor cells as the inmates were too terrified to move. The outside of the buildings were covered in wire mesh after one prisoner managed to commit suicide by jumping from the balcony. We were introduced to a 78 year old who was one of the few people to escape execution and now spends some of his time in his old cell explaining what it was like to visitors.

We folllowed this somewhat harrowing experience with a vist to another of Phnom Penh’s temples before moving on to the Bopha Restaurant,

which is located on the riverbank and opposite the night market, for lunch. It is quite a plush venue with big comfortable chairs and plenty of room. As is standard on these tours a set meal is organised and one pays for ones own drinks. The starters were “riverfish” skewers, a kebab of freshwater fish, onions and peppers with lemongrass glaze. The main course consisted of Khmer Chicken curry with potatoes and carrots accompanied by fried mixed vegetables with cashew nuts and the inevitable boiled rice. All extremely tasty when washed down with a bottle of Angkor beer. The sweets, which were billed as Bhopa pastries, turned out to be a sort of varicoloured solidified custard served with cane sugar syrup.  Disappointing compared with the rest of the meal.

Following on we visited the National Museum, which, if one does not have at least a passing interest in Hindu and Buddhist cultures, would be quite hard going to say the least.  Luckily they are subjects with which I have become quite enamoured during our travels and the museum guide was a fount of knowledge on these and Khmer history.

Officially this ended our day, however, I felt that having come this far it would be remiss not to go out to Choeung Ek.

This is now the national memorial centre for all those slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge in the various killing fields. There are over 120 mass graves there of which so far they have excavated only 89. The horror of people butchering their own countrymen, women and children en masse and by hand is something that one is unlikely to forget. It is estimated that 20,000 were killed in Choeung Ek alone.

Having paid our respects we returned to the hotel for a much needed beer.  It actually turned into two beers as they run a BOGOF from 4 – 8!

We engaged a tuk-tuk to take us back to the Bhopa for dinner. I had assumed that not only did the driver know the name of the restaurant but he knew where it was, having shown him the menu card with the name on it for good measure.  I became a little perturbed when we reached one of the boulevards which I knew was on the far side of town! He then stopped at a restaurant I had never heard of.  There was a tourist policeman outside to whom I showed the directions and he redirected our driver.  Finally reaching our destination he was most put out when I paid him for the direct route!!

Dinner was fine and there was a floor show with a traditional trio and Khmer dancer.

After that we wandered around the night market.  The only troublesome thing here was the flies which , seeing as they are no trouble at all anywhere else, was realy surprising.

We picked up a tuk tuk and headed back to the hotel and awared ourselves a wee whiskey!

Click here for day 3

Cambodia Overland 2010 – Day 1

After an uneventful journey to Phnom Penh, via Belfast City, Heathrow Terminals 1 and 3 and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, we finally arrived in Phnom Penh at 9.30 on Saturday morning, local time and approximately 24 hours after leaving home.

There was our courier and a minibus waiting to whisk us off to the
Sunway Hotel which lived up to its 4* rating for getting us booked in and up to our room and a much needed shower.  As we were not expected to do anything until 2.30 we grabbed a couple of hours sleep as well.

Our “group” turned out to be a couple from London, the other 7 apparently having foregone their deposits at some time long before departure.

We started out at Wat Phnom, a Buddhist temple built on a manmade hill adjacent to the hotel .  There is park around the base which caters for all the locals, including the monkeys, and a year old elephant called Mr Sammy.

Following this we moved on to the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, so named because the floor consists of 5000 solid silver tiles each weighing 1kilo. Another interesting exhibit was that of women wearing the colours of the days.  Dressing in the correct colour is extremely important as bad luck can follow if one gets it wrong!

We retired to our hotel for a welcome beer and to recover from jet lag and a fairly exhausting days touring.

The speciality of the evening in the hotel was a “European Buffet” which couldn’t be faulted on any count although some of the eastern interpretations of western food were interesting.

Click here for the next installment