Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cambodia - Part II - All about Phnom Penh!

I'm hoping you have read this before you read this post. After 4 days of pure fun, lots of knowledge on the Angkor Wat temples and some amazing memories, the hubby and I were all set to leave SR to head to the capital city of Phnom Penh(Read: Nom Pen). We took a bus from SR to PP - roughly takes about 6 hours with an hour break in between for lunch. We travelled in the Giant Ibis bus service, supposed to be the best of the lot. Well I had no complaints. Was very comfy. We finally reached PP in the evening around 7pm.
First impressions? 
While SR was more tourist friendly, PP was commercial and very business like. Its fast, its dirty, its congested like most other capital cities. 
Where we stayed? 
We stayed at the Hotel Blue Lime, which is again situated in the heart of the city although probably not the nicest part of the town. I was very apprehensive about the place as we were nearing it in our tuk tuk. But once we stepped in, I realized my fears were unnecessary. The hotel was super clean and the staff were very polite. The rooms were again not too big, just right for 2 of us. Breakfast every morning was by the pool side, was very very relaxing! 
What we did? 
1. Killing Fields : Couple of must see's at PP are the Killing fields of the Pol Pot regime - the journey through the killing fields is sort of eerie - each spot is explained in detail in the audio guide, it is absolutely terrifying to think of what those guys went through during this genocide.  Read here to understand more about what exactly happened -

The memorial at Cheung Ek Killing Fields
2. The Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda: The other place to visit is the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. We visited in the morning when the sun was out and it was a clear blue sky.. The result? A lovely picture with a beautiful backdrop! 

The Silver Pagoda is located in the same complex as the Royal Palace. The main attraction  is the famous "Emerald Buddha" of Cambodia which is housed here. Unfortunately we are not allowed to click pictures inside the Silver Pagoda :-( However, it is simply stunning! There are various other golden Buddha statues that were equally beautiful and the tiles inside the Pagoda are all made of silver. 

3. Tuong Sleng Genocide Museum: Umm this isn't a real fun place to be... it is full of painful memories of their genocide, with some pretty horrific pictures and sights. However, it is worth a visit to understand the kind of pain they went through in the Pol Pot regime. Will skip posting the pictures, kinda gory!! 

Where we ate? 
Just like SR, PP is full of road side, cheap and fun restaurants. The one thing K & I enjoyed at Cambodia was their food. We were so so apprehensive, considering we are vegetarians. However, I must admit we were so wrong! We loved eating at this small restaurant called , The Vegetarian. Small portions but so satisfying! We alternated between eating at the Shisha place where we had yummy hummus, pita breads and hookah to having Khmer food which is noodles, egg and veggies steamed or tossed together in a sauce and yup we couldn't resist eating at an Indian joint one night as well! Hahaha. 

1. You will need to use US dollars everywhere - carry lots of small change. Reason being their local currency is not used that much. If I am not wrong, 1 USD = 4000 Riels!! Whoa! I know :) 
2. Try and experiment food as much as possible - we had a wild time trying out different things every day - great fun! 
3. The Angkor temple complex is hugeee and has so much information. I would strongly recommend a good guide to take you around and show you the lovely temples. And yes at least 2 days is required! 
4. The weather plays a very vital role, hence plan your trip during the nicer times of the year - October is a good time, so is January to March. It tends to get super hot during the day, so beware. I am from Chennai so I felt at home :) 
Will post soon about my second half of the trip, to Hong Kong!!