Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In Phnom Penh for the Day

The last few days in Sihanoukville almost proved to be a bit
overwhelming as the town is entirely based on tourism and when we got
away from the beach it was a bit depressing. I am not sure of the
entire history of the town, but it seems like about 30 years ago
(maybe just before the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot) but maybe subsequent
to the regime that a lot of building was done for tourism purposes but
nothing ever really came of it. There are a lot of 74% complete
buildings and abondoned hotels, empty lots surrounded by walls and
ornate fences and such and it is somewhat creepy.

On Sunday we took a tour of some local islands and did some
snorkelling. Andrew and Cam are both competent snorkellers although I
definitely suck at breathing through a straw and Jessica is a
fraidy-cat of all things under the waves. We stopped at one island
for a lunch of BBQ-ed barracuda and saw some heavy artillery that the
Soviets put on the island in 1989 for some reason or another.
Regardless, the guns were really big and we were not allowed to go
near them or to take photos; although to my keen eyes they appeared to
be in working order.

On Tuesday during our walkabout we went to the Snakehouse, which
although interesting I would definitely NOT recommend to anyone who
visits this town. It truly was a pathetic showing of inhospitable
treatment of animals. I feel horrible for supporting this place with
the $1US I paid for admission.

We enjoyed some great Indian food after our walk at a place called the
Indian Curry Pot by Victory Beach and it is definitely a worthwhile
place to eat. The four of us ate for $21US, and as seems to be the
norm here, the service was stellar. It certainly would put the vast
majority of servers in Canada to shame.

Other days were spent doing a whole lot of nothing on the beach, which
was excellent. I managed to finish the book "Shake Hands with the
Devil" which is an account of the Rwandan genocide as well as "The
Alchemist" and "First They Killed my Father", the latter being a
first-person account by Luoung Buong who was 5 years old when the
Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia and which I would highly recommend.
Jessica also read "The Alchemist" and is almost finished Buong's

We arrived in Phnom Penh by bus this morning, this time taking GST
Transportation which proved to be a bit faster and cooler (the aircon
was working instead of the heaters). We arrived shortly after lunch
and went to the Foreign Correspondent's Club (FCC; which was
recommended by Andrew) for a quick bite and some relaxation.
Afterwards we found a room for $15US, including aircon, hotwater and
breakfast, just north across the street, at the River Street Bar
Restaurant. The rest of the day was spent visiting the market and
walking the streets taking in the sights. This is definitely a city
that is worth a second, or third, visit and we look forward to
returning some day.

We leave for Bangkok tomorrow and are looking forward to being back in
Canada, and the -30C weather, soon.