I loved Phnom Penh. The city is noisy and hectic but so vibrant. We have thoroughly enjoyed our three days and look forward to returning in a week or so. I apologize now for the length and fully understand anyone who wants to stop reading now...lol
Arrived by Mekong Express...after a seven hour journey. Was not a particularly pleasant bus ride...my window was cracked badly and stuck together with plastic covering and duct tape so we were unable to see out. Bus guide was rude and arrogant. When we were preparing for the border crossing, he told us the cost was $25. When I spoke to him and said, we would pay $20 and do it by ourselves, he proceeded with lies...first, oh no sorry madam., that is impossible at this crossing...then it was no, sorry madam it will take too long and the bus won't wait...at this point, my husband held me back, paid the extra money and gave him our passports and forms. The young man was rude to me the rest of the trip, but we were the first to get our passports back at the crossing.
First we stopped at the Vietnam side, where we walked inside and were handed back our passports then waited in line. We moved through quite quickly and were soon out the door where our bus guide collected the passports again. We got back on the bus and drove a few hundred meters to the Cambodian crossing. I watched as individuals on their own moved quickly through while our pile of sixty passports was being processed at the other counter. Our names were called quickly, I expect it was not by accident we were on the top of the pile. Then through another line where I had my hands scanned...right hand slap, right thumb, left hand slap, left thumb...done. Showed the passport at a table by the door and I was now legally in Cambodia. My husband did not get scanned and we never had to hand in a picture! So only one pic in VN and none for Cambodia???
Lots of money exchangers walking around offering to exchange your dong for dollars. Huge wads of money in their hands! I bet their exchange rate was grand...lol!
Lunch just across the border...order what you want at the counter...noodles, salad rolls, sit, eat. Someone brings a bill. Someone else collects your money. Food good and very cheap.
A short ride and we were on the ferry. Ferry ride was short but colourful. Lots of hawkers on the boat selling giant prawns and horrid looking gigantic roasted BEETLES...hmm, I am an adventurous eater but not quite that adventurous!
Arrival at Orrussey station was pandemonium! Everyone jammed into a tiny space, trying to retrieve luggage while dozens of tuktuk drivers were vying for your business. We picked the guy who had spoken to us first, asked how much, were quoted three dollars but our hotel had told us no more than two so that's what we offered. He smiled and said OK and we were soon off on our first tuktuk ride. I felt like a little kid at Disneyland, flying through the busy streets, wind in my hair, and feeling like I was on one of the rides! Yes, I am easily amused, lol.
Today was a day for walking. We visited Wat Ounalom and chatted with the monks, who are most happy to speak with you. Beautiful and worth a visit. Make sure you wander the grounds. There are over fifty buildings. We ended up somewhere behind the pagoda where a blind little old man encouraged us to come into his tiny little temple, where he proceeded to light incense and (I hope) say blessings for our health and happiness. The blessings were complete with splashing holy? water on our palms and being told something about eyebrows and pointing at the Buddha. I think we were to focus on the spot between Buddhas eyebrows as we asked for our blessings. It was an eerie experience but well worth the small donation that left him with a big smile on his face.
We found a small market behind the Wat and wandered about for a half hour immersed in the sights, smells and sounds. My friends are all envious of my new $3 Gucci ball cap!
National Museum was interesting, not very big so you can do it in an hour or so, depending on how much you want to read...everything had English. Of note...costs a couple bucks to get in and a dollar if you want to take pictures. Don't bother...you can only take pictures in the garden but this was totally ignored...people took pics of the displays inside and no one seemed to care nor did anyone check for your camera ticket.
Next stop was Daughters of Cambodia for lunch, right across the street, an NGO working to get women out of the sex trade and into gainful employment by teaching them usable work skills. Food was wonderful. There was a video machine set up on one floor, I assume to see info on the organization but it wasn't running and no one was around to start it so we didn't bother.
Next stop was the Silver Pagoda but it was lunchtime so it was closed. We walked all the way down to the independence Monument, took some pics. By the time we got back the SP was open. We paid our $6.50 each (a little pricy since you couldn't see the palace) and wandered about. The actual pagoda was beautiful. Guards at the door made sure you removed hats and shoes and these ones looked serious about the no pictures business. Beautiful big emerald green Buddha in the centre of the room and displays of silver and bronze items. Note: on the map you get this is not called the Silver Pagoda but rather the Emerald Green Buddha pagoda. We were a bit slow figuring that out...Glimpses of the palace grounds throughout the gates but that was as close as we could get. Lots of activity in preparation of the funeral on Feb 4.
Rest of the afternoon we spent at Central Market. Sellers aren't as pushy as in Ben Thanh. Bargaining is done with smiles and good humour. Prices were good. Remember to keep things in perspective...you are haggling over fifty cents or less sometimes so keep it light and fun.
We also went to Sorya Market next door just to get into the air conditioning. Six or seven floors but we couldn't figure out the pricing..mostly set prices but there was still room for negotiating if you asked for a discount. But even with a discount, prices were better at Central Market.
Dinner at Friends, another NGO working to get youth off the streets. Dinner was excellent, good variety, tasty, excellent service. Places like this I am happy to leave a nice tip.
Today we had a private tour booked with Sam the Man. Can someone tell me how I can post a review of him? He was the most polite and accommodating young man. Excellent English and a fountain of information...he went out of his way to ensure we had a great tour to Oudong, the Buddhist training a centre and the silver makers village. His prices are very reasonable and his a/c car was clean and in good repair. A very safe driver and knowledgable guide, it was a great decision to book him. He picked us up at 7:30 and returned us to our hotel at one. He took a detour to show us around Wat Phnom on the way back and even offered to take us to the Killing Fields as well. We opted out of the Killing Fields, will do them do our return next week.
After lunch at Restaurant 126 next to out hotel (great food, cheap prices), we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Russian Market...great prices and pleasant sellers. Came back with a big bag of clothes and souvenirs.
Dinner at Karma was delish...I opted for the fish amok...to die for...and my husband the loc lac, also very tasty.
Off to Siem Reap...will post from there in a week or so...unless of course, my long postings are annoying too many people! Please let me know and I will stop.