welcome to this second (and last) post about my adventures in Cambodia.
In the previous post, I left you at the North Pier in Battambang, where my boat from Siem Reap just arrived.
The first meters of my walk to my hotel are a bit difficult as I have to fight my way through many Tuk Tuk drivers. Some of them are even getting angry that I refuse their services.
A few minutes later, I arrive at the hotel, and after a quick check in, I get to know Touro, a nice japanese grandpa, who is hanging around at the reception.
After I dropped my bags in my room, I decide to go out for dinner in the city center. Touro is joining me. While we walk, he tells me that he retired recently and is now travelling a bit in Asia.
As he loves Battambang so much and spent the last 20 days there, he kindly gives me a kind of city tour, explaining me the different sightseeing spots. The French influence can still be seen in the streets with a lot of colonial style buildings.
As we walk along the river, we see a street with military trucks blocked by the police. Touro explains me that a big part of the city is blocked at the moment due to the filming of movie.
This movie will be a film/documentary about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime and is attracting a lot of people on the filming spots because it is directed by the famous US actress Angelina Jolie.
On the way back to the hotel, I make a short stop at the night market to buy sticky rice and a grilled chicken leg for dinner.
After I woke up after a good night, I spend some time writing for the blog and around noon, I decide to go out to explore the city a bit further.
However, the walk will be quite short as most of the streets with touristic points of interest are blocked for the movie filming.
As I walk back to the hotel along the river, I see a bridge with a lot of soliders and a lot of people watching.
I am very lucky: a scene of the Pol Pot movie is being filmed there. I come a bit closer and starts taking pictures till a policeman sees me and tells me to stop immediately 🙂
In the evening, I go to a circus show at a circus center called Circus Phare Ponleu Selpak. This center was founded by a frenh woman theater fan with the aim of helping disadvanted children. It developped to a big art school hosting today more than 1000 students and offering courses in many fields (circus school, drawing, paiting, sculpture,…).
The show is performed by experienced students and is a very entertaining combination of clowns, juggling and acrobatics.
On the next day, I share a tuk tuk from the hotel with 2 nice swiss guys, Thibault and Henry, to go on a tour to Phnom Sampeau hill a few kilometers outside from Battambang.
The first part of the visit is the temple on top of the hill, where a lot of macaques are living.
The second part is the Killing caves. Those caves where used by the Khmers Rouges to kill the enemies of the party, actually any intellectuals who could rebel against them.
They are very impressive and very hard to visit, especially knowing how people were killed: to spare expensive gun bullets, the Khmers Rouges were taking prisoners to the top of the hill where they pushed them down the caves.
Finally the visit ends by a stop at the bat cave. The particularity of the cave is the show offered by the hundreds of thousands bats all coming out at the same time at sunset. The number of bats and the trail are very impressive to watch.
On the next morning, it is time for me to leave Battamband and take the bus to Kampong Chnnang, in the South of the Tonlé Sap lake.
Again the organisation is south east asia style. The guy from the company bus who was supposed to pick us (with another guest travelling to Phnom Penh) up decided that he didn’t want to come, and so the hotel has to drive us last minute to the bus station.
The other guest is a man from the Netherlands, who has been working for many years in a travel agency in Indonesia. During the journey to Kampong Chnnang, we have a very interesting exchange with about life&travel philosophy.
During the day I stay in Kampong Chnnang, I rent a bike to explore the country side around the village.
A few old installations of the red khmer regime are still to be seen. On my bike I will only find an old water station and an old airport. The old airport is guarded by a policeman. He seems quite bored when I arrive and is happy to see me. After having tried to discuss with me with the few lao/thai words he knew, he lets me pass with my bike on the aiport field.
After another bus trip, I reach my last station in Cambodia: Phnom Penh.
I think this is the city I enjoyed the least till now during my trip.
It starts with the guesthouse where I am staying. Actually, the guesthouse is quite new and I have a good first impression when I arrive. The dorms are organised a bit like the capsule hotels in Japan and thus offers pretty much privacy.
However I will soon find out why it was so cheap. On the first evening, as I unpacked my stuff in my “capsule”, I hear some noise in the living room. My neighbour goes there to check what’s going on and find a japanese guy with a towel around the foot fool of blood. We call the guy at the reception and when he sees the blood, he becomes suddently white and call the owner of the guesthouse.
While we wait for the owner, I fetch my first aid kit in my backpack and we put some compress and bandage on the japanese guy’s foot. After the guy leaves to the hospital with the owner, I asked my neighbour what happened.
Actually, the japanese guy was brushing his teeth in the small bathroom, when the sink fell off the wall and exploded on the ground into several pieces that cut quite deeply his right foot. The bathroom was quite a strange scene afterwards, a mix of concrete from the wall,dust and blood.
Luckily the japanese guy came back a few hours later, he just had a deep cut and was fixed with a few stitches.
On the next days, we are woken up every morning at 06:45am by hammers smashing on the wall just next to our heads. The guesthouse staff forgot to tell us that the building next to us was being renovated.
However, not everything was negative in the guesthouse. I also met some interesting people. Most of them were staying several weeks at the guesthouse and were waiting to get a visa for Vietnam to start a new life or a new business there.
From my point of view, Phnom Penh is not a city that has a lot to offer to tourists. Streets are very narrow for the mass of scooters and 4WD vehicles driving in the city, and have no place for pedestrians.
In only 2 days, it is possible to see all the main points of interest:
The royal palast and the silver pagoda with the giant emerald buddha 🙂 (same size as the one in Bangkok)
The national museum of cambodia presenting a nice sculpture collection
And the 2 museum about the Cambodian genocide under Pol Pot, the Tuol Sleng Museum and the Memorial of Choeung Ek.
Tuol Sleng, also called S-21 is very hard but a must to visit. It is a former school that was transformed into a torture prison during the Pol Pot Regime
Choeung Ek, also called killing fields is the place where prisoners coming from S-21 where executed and buried.
After 4 nights in Phnom Penh, I am taking a loooong (4 different flights on 2 days) trip to leave South East Asia and reach my next destination: New Zealand.
It will be quite different there as I won’t travel with busses or boats like usual, but make a roadtrip in a camper van.
First report will follow soon. Stay tuned! 🙂