Tuesday, July 13, 2010

100709 Siem Reap - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Woke up bright and early and caught the 6.30am bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. Sure, I was sad to leave Disneyland Siem Reap and head back to tuk-tuk crazy Phnom Penh, but I had a flight from Phnom Penh back home the next day and theres just no way I'm going to miss that. We both slept through the 6 hour bus ride and got back to Phnom Penh. Witnessed a traffic accident that left a Khmer guy dead at the roadside too. Sad thing to see/ Much sadder that the Khmer people didn't really bat an eyelid and was more interested in our bus driving past.

Anyway, we got to Capitol Tours (took the Capitol bus again because it was the cheapest at 17000R or US$4.25). We didn't even need to get off the bus for hoards and hoards of crazy tuk-tuk drivers to rush at the bus and scream "Tuk-tuk, tuk-tuk! Lady, you need tuk-tuk? Tuk-tuk, miss!" Oh my god, I don't usually hate, but I really hate tuk-tuk drivers who scream and tout. At Capitol, we were constantly harrassed by tuk-tuk drivers. One particular one was particularly irritating and creepy. He kept saying "Lady! I know you! I know where you stay! You stay same place again? I know you! Lady! Lady!" I wish I had a bazooka to blast off his mouth. I really really wonder if these tuk-tuk drivers know how creepy they are or how uncomfortable it is. Also, Leah noted that the creepy Australian guy was still at the restaurant and trying to make eye contact with me.

We decided to walk away from the mess at Capitol. We crossed the street, and less than 100m away, with only 2 tuk-tuk drivers touting for business (instead of 20 - no kidding!), we were at Dragon Guesthouse. As Dragon Guesthouse was recommended in Lonely Planet, we decided to head up and give it a try. Upon inspection of the room (after the scare at Capitol), we decided that Dragon Guesthouse was it for the night. US$8 - double bed, hot shower, fan, cable tv and free wifi - awesome deal!

This is what US$8 a night gets you

Once we settled our stuff in the guesthouse, we headed out again. For fear of dealing with tuk-tuk drivers, we decided to take a walk to the Royal Palace (about 30 to 40mins). Passing by the Royal University of Fine Arts, we saw a photography exhibition and decided to head in and take a look.

Photography exhibition at the Royal University of the Arts

Before long, we reached the Royal Palace, right by the Sisowath Quay. It was a grand sight. Everything was gold-gilded and painted yellow. There was a sprawling green park right in front of the Royal Palace, followed by Sisowath Quay. Sisowath Quay really reminds me of the quay in Zadar. That was beautiful too.

Sisowath Quay

Emy in front of the Royal Palace

We decided to head into the Royal Palace to take a look. It costs foreigners US$6.50 to enter the Royal Palace. Shoulders and knees have to be covered or one can rent pants and buy a T-shirt at the souvenir store. We decided to head to the Silver Pagoda first. The Silver Pagoda is floored with over 5000 silver tiles each weighing 1kg. It is a building made up of concrete and marble that housed the famouse 'Emeral Buddha' and a life-sized statue of Buddha that is in pure gold and weighs 90kg. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed.

exterior of the Silver Pagoda

Surrounding the Silver Pagoda are numerous stupas made of concrete. These stupas are very intricately decorated. Somewhere, we heard music being played. Being curious, we followed the music and was brought to a courtyard where traditional Khmer music was being played.

Leah and Emy

Traditional Khmer Music (will upload video soon)

After leaving the Pagoda, we decided to head to the throne room. The exterior of the throne room looks typically southeast Asian, however, the interior reminds me of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. They have mosaic on the floor that matches with the carpet (huge huge carpet, gift from China). It also has frescoes on the wall (just like most churches in the western world).

throne room

side view of the throne room

There was really nothing much to see at the Royal Palace. For US$6.50 (which is alot of money there, considering the average yearly wage is US$480!), at least the gardens were well pruned. *haha*

pruned gardens

After leaving the Royal Palace, I headed over to the National Museum (entrance US$3), which was just beside the Royal Palace. All the missing statues at Angkor are apparently kept at the National Museum for safekeeping, because people often headed to Angkor to steal statues to sell in the black market.

exterior of the National Museum

statue in the museum

collection of statues

more statues

The museum has a very pretty courtyard. Lots of flowers, greenery and ponds filled with koi! I really like gardens and water, thought not necessarily as manmade as this one. In the middle of it all, there was also a stature of Buddha.

Buddha in the middle of the courtyard

Leaving the museum, I took a walk along the Cambodian-Vietnam memorial, enroute to the Independence memorial. I walked along a very long mall, just like the one in Washington DC. People were playing ball games and doing mass exercises there too. It was fun. Along the mall was a monastry, so there were many monks there too.


a long way to the memorial...

Cambodia-Vietnam memorial

Independence memorial

And what better way to end the trip than going back to the very first place we had shakes and dinner? Again, shakes and dinner - fried mama noodles with beef, was AWESOME!


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