Friday, December 27, 2013

Sentiments: Phnom Penh 4D3N

The decision to travel to Phnom Penh was made on a spur. Truth be told, I was looking for a holiday destination for my whole family that’s interesting, somewhere we’ve not been before & yet cheap. I didn’t have much of a choice actually, because we’ve been to most parts of our neighboring countries. When friends heard that we were going to Phnom Penh, their first questions were, “Why?” and “What’s there to do?”

I googled and googled, but couldn’t really find much info. But I was happy to just spend time with my family, even if it meant we would spend most of our time by the swimming pool in the hotel. It was after all the year end, and we just needed to relax and rejuvenate after a long, busy year, and prepare ourselves for a brand new year ahead.

Surprisingly though, towards the last few days before the trip, I managed to find places to visit and things to do, and as I am typing this on the morning of the last day of our 4D3N trip, I looked back and thought it’s been a pretty fulfilling trip and we’ve done all that we planned to do.

Phnom Penh is a pretty messy & disorganized place, first impression. If you are a ‘noob driver’ (a phrase overused by one of my good friends), you will NOT want to drive on the roads here. Every lane/road is two-way drive, no matter how narrow and most of the vehicles ignore the center line that divides the two directions of the road. Which means most of the time, you get vehicles coming towards you then swerving sharply to your left or right when they are about 5cm away from you. I try not to look at the traffic because that gets my blood pressure up a little, but it’s really all part of the Phnom Penh culture - You absolutely need to be a ruthless and confident local to drive here.

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And of course, there were many beggars on the streets, some adults who are crippled, some children without shoes and some women with sleeping babies. It made me wonder if all those horror stories I heard about people drugging their babies so that they are always asleep and look pitiful during begging were true. I certainly hope not, because I did see more awake children than sleeping ones. And interestingly, most look happy even though they are in rags or have no shoes on their feet. I suppose to them, happiness simply means that they have something to eat that day and they have clothes on their backs. Televisions, IPADs and computer games should all be alien terms to them. Some houses do not even have lamps or fans – We saw many people just sitting by their doorsteps at night – That’s probably their way of relaxing after a hard day’s work, if there was any work at all. I cannot imagine a life without any means of entertainment but they seemed unfazed by it.

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Our hotel was more like a guesthouse with only 20+ rooms. I chose it because it gave me the option of a family room with a king-sized bed and 2 single beds all in a room. It was a basic room but I like it alright. The swimming pool was nice and very clean, and most of the time, my kids were the only ones swimming. Part of the reason was because the hotel’s pretty small, and we’ve only seen a handful of kids so far. And water’s crazy cold because the weather’s pretty cool at 23 – 27 degrees celsius most of the time. The lady boss was a very nice person who marked down the places we could eat at on our map.

On the trip, we took a sunset cruise, visited markets (bought nothing because nothing is nice), visited the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the Killing Fields. We dined at some really nice places and took a lot, a lot, a lot of Tuk Tuk rides. Tuk tuks are the main mode of transport in Phnom Penh for tourists. Everywhere we went, it costs us about USD2 or USD3 per trip for all 5 of us. Yes, everything’s in USD over here. All prices in restaurants, cafes, places of interest and supermarkets are all in USD too. I don’t know why either, but it seems that even locals transact in USD.

Now, the kids are taking their last swim in the pool before we would check-out and make our way to the airport for our flight home. It’s been such a relaxing trip and a perfect year-end family trip in my opinion. Once I get all my photos in order, I’ll start on my Phnom Penh series proper. For families who wish to visit Phnom Penh, I believe you will find this guide handy. :)

Merry Christmas, by the way. :)

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