Sunday, 15 July 2007

Heart or darkness

No I'm not in deepest Africa with Pat or anything, rather a fairly notorious nightclub in Phnom Pehn. The Book is particularly wary of the place but it turned out to be a pretty good laugh - and I was there with a bunch of Cambodians so I was safe enough. I'm liking the Cambodian capital - it's a bit more hectic than the rest of the country, and the sellers and beggars are more persistent (and the moto drivers more rip-off-ish) but I imagine it's pretty mellow compared with Saigon, my next destination. And some of the architecture is lovely - the royal palace and a couple of the wats are visually stunning, and the riverfront area is more Paris than SE Asia.

It also helps that I've met a couple of locals including Pich who are really nice and helpful in showing me around. She even took me to some Khmer dancing, which is vaguely reminiscent of Irish ballroom dancing - lots of silly moves that I don't know and don't look too cool, and lots of camp hand flapping, but a good laugh nonetheless.

As well as showing me around, she was able to keep me safe from the hordes to beer girls/taxi girls that frequent the bars here. Most of them are fairly impoverished girls trying to earn a semi decent living to help out their families. Wages in Cambodia are ridiculously low with many people earning $100 a month or (a lot) less.

We also dined at the Foreign Correspondence Club, the height of poshness in Phnom Pehn. To be honest though, the food was only OK, though nicely presented, and the setting was suitable grand and colonial.

Less fun but a must do was the Tuol Sleng (s21) museum where Pol Pot's regime tortured some 20,000 of their own people before sending them to the Killing Fields - which seems pretty peaceful now and not as harrowing as the prison.

Well, apart from the 80,000 skulls on display. And the clothes and bones peeping out from the odd spot. But walking around the cells of S21 and looking at the documented photos of the doomed victims was certainly enough to drive me to drink, and the bars along the riverfront for the evening.

En route from Battambang, I stopped off in the town of Kompong Chhnang, a pretty place with beautiful countryside.

Its a fair sized town - about 40,000, but I was pretty much the only tourist in the place, apart from a couple of Americans travelling with their dad and his new Cambodian wife.

There were some lovely small villages around, and also a pretty large community of Vietnamese boast dwellers, not to well liked by the locals by all accounts. All very pretty to see though. And a nice pause before hitting the capital.


pat said...

Hi sean,looks suspect there hope you are keeping an eye on the meat&two veg as it would not be nice to be sold a dummy.Hello also from H&H

michael said...

HI Sean

You're getting more and more like Larry every day.

M and M going to Spain for 10 days next Thursday....sounds very tame compared to what you are at! Whatever it is that you are at.....

Take care

Triple D said...

Looks like you are enjoying the Ting Tong's. Any port in a storm Mr Sean...