Phnom Penh is a bustling city set on the banks of the Sap river. There is a vibrant night market and a busy stretch of riverside bars and restaurants, but just another city to us, really.
Our hotel was just a short walk from town, however there didn't seem to be any pedestrian crossings so crossing the road was a bit of a daunting experience - simply relying on the goodwill of drivers to stop for us! (I have heard that Vietnam is even more crazy in this department so we'll look upon this as 'training').
In all the major cities across Cambodia there is an massage school called 'Seeing Hands', which employs only blind people. Kev and I had a treatment here and enjoyed the fact that the therapist was really feeling his/her way - as opposed to the routine so often offered by 'seeing' therapists. Unfortunately for Kev though, his therapist spoke no English so he couldn't tell (or show!) him his badly sunburned arms. Being blind was a bit of a hindrance on this occasion and it made for a bit of a painful treatment for poor Kev!
After a night in Phnom Penh we got a bus to Sihanoukville on the south coast of Cambodia, home to glorious golden sandy beaches (though not a patch on Cornwall's, of course) and beautiful warm, turquoise waters (fortunately much warmer than the Atlantic I've grown up swimming in).
The bus ride from Phnom Penh was quite an experience - and I think the same applies across the whole of Cambodia. You can expect crazy overtaking on single carriageways, preceded by a hand on the horn, which basically means, "get out of my way, I'm coming through!" Smaller or slower vehicles are expected to pull off the road on to the dusty roadside to allow the larger vehicle to pass. This basically meant the horn beeping constantly for the entire four hour journey and frequently looking up to see us overtaking someone - and consequently being on the wrong side of the road with another large vehicle coming straight for us!
There are no advertised speed limits so drivers tend to go as fast as they can. Maybe the suspension on the (old) 'luxury' coach wasn't up to much either, so it certainly made for a bumpy journey!
We stayed just off Serendipity Beach in a little hotel with a nice pool, which would become a great relief from the hassle we were to receive on the beach everyday from people trying to sell to us.
Serendipity Beach is long and thin and lined with bars & restaurants it's entire length - a lovely place to stop for some fresh barbecued seafood and a beer or a cocktail after a busy day's swimming and sunbathing. That is until you sit down and then you get approached time after time by kids selling bracelets and fresh fruit, ladies selling massage, pedicures and threading, people begging... It just does not end. If you say you do not want to buy you have to go into full reasons why you don't want to buy - and repeat for everyone which comes by. It is utterly exhausting, to the point where we chose to spend a day by the pool to avoid having to bat anyone away.
Among the many tactics these kids use to engage you, they often ask where you're from and on replying, "England", they all come back with, "lovely jubbly!" Ok, so it's fairly safe to say Delboy & Co are popular on these shores. However what I found really strange was the large number of children who respond to me saying I'm from England by saying, "I'm from Scotland" (in a Scottish accent). I have no idea where they have got this from but found it very amusing. Answers on a postcard if you know what this is all about!
We arrived in Sihanoukville on a Sunday to find mostly Cambodians on the beach - who all seemed to find it quite a novel experience to see a white girl in a bikini. Though having read the guide book before arrival I was sure I didn't read anything about not wearing a bikini on the beach... Some Cambodian lads found it hilarious and bounded over to sit next to me whilst their mate took a picture on his camera phone! Then I noticed even the Cambodian girls were swimming in all their clothes. Fortunately, when I arrived on the following morning there were lots more Western girls there in their bikinis and I fortunately didn't have any more problems.
On another interesting beach related note, we noticed how they don't build sandcastles here, but sand temples shaped like Angkor!
After a few days rest and relaxation we took the bus back up to Phnom Penh for an evening before heading across the border to Vietnam. We fitted in a quick visit to the 'Killing Fields' - another gruesome reminder of the recent war in Cambodia - before our bus departed to Ho Chi Minh City.
So next up is Vietnam. I can't believe we're moving on to our third country already. Time is certainly flying!
(Photo albums from Thailand and Cambodia to be posted online shortly - watch this space for the links)
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Phnom Penh & Sihanoukville (Cambodia)
Posted by Sarah Kerrigan at Wednesday, September 15, 2010