Travel Day: Departure day from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. Giant Ibis had told me they would pick me up at 0745 for the 0845 bus but the folks at the hotel told me they were closer to the bus station so it would probably be the last stop. They were right, the pick-up ended up being at 0830. The bus departed Siem Reap at 0845. I had the aisle seat in the first row opposite the driver. They showed a couple of movies but the wifi was inconsistent. Good enough to check sports scores. The first stop was at 1115 for lunch. We were back on our way at 1145. The next stop was at 1315 and announced to be 10-20 min stop for a restroom break but ended up being 45 min because some folks decided to eat. We were back on the road at 1400. We arrived into Phnom Penh at 1515. The bags were taken off the bus and then it was a mad scramble to locate your bag and be on your way. I had set up a pick-up with my hotel and the driver was waiting for me. I checked into the Pavilion and had a swim. I headed out walking to try and find Romdeng restaurant. I walked past the Independence Monument. Even though I found the correct street, I could not find the restaurant. I grabbed a tuk tuk to take me back to my hotel so I could eat at Frizz which was right around the corner. Unfortunately, even with directions to the hotel in Khmer, the tuk tuk driver dropped me at the wrong place and I did not catch the mistake in time. I turned the corner and found Little Italy Restaurant (Picolo Italia). The owner was from Italy and had wood fire pizzas. What a great find! The al crudo pizza had real Parma ham. I had leftovers for lunch the next day. The owner called a tuk tuk and made sure the driver knew the location of the hotel. The driver did drop me at the correct place and I made a mental note of the hotel surroundings for next time.
Day 1: After breakfast at the hotel, I walked to the entrance of the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace is still closed but you can tour the grounds and the Silver Pagoda ($6.50). The grounds are quite large. I liked the many stupas in addition to the Silver Pagoda. I then walked to the National Museum. The museum is a good recap of my time in Siem Reap. I was tired of walking so I grabbed a tuk tuk to Wat Phnom. Wat Phnom sits on top of a hill overlooking the city. The ticket was $1 for foreigners. I saw the bird cages but nobody was releasing them while I toured the area. I then headed back to my hotel for a swim and leftover pizza. I set up a sunset boat ride with reception and made a reservation for Tepui Chinese House for tomorrow. The tuk tuk ride from the hotel to the boat launch was included with the $15 cost as well as one drink. The Butterfly departed about 1700 tooling down the 3 rivers. The rivers are different colors with the Mekong being green. We sailed past the Pavilion owned Bungalows which stand out against the back drop of the tin shack fishing village floating on the river. The ride was over at 1820. I had to pay for the tuk tuk back to the hotel. I ended up arranging the next day plan with the driver. The hotel posts normal rates for tuk tuk rides and the board showed $25 for Tuol Sleng, Russian Market, and Killing Fields. The driver quoted $20 so I didn’t even barter since I knew that was a fair price. The driver ended up being my driver for the rest of my time in Phnom Penh to include my transfer from the Giant Ibis bus station to the airport upon my return from Kampot. I ate dinner at Frizz.
Day 2: Met my driver at 0800 and we proceeded to Tuol Sleng. The entrance fee is $2. I spent over 2 hours at Tuol Sleng. I felt I owed the victims the respect to scan each of their photos. Tuol Sleng was once a high school. Pol Pot and many of his cronies were educators so it is kind of ironic that the first people to be thrown in prison and killed were the educated and elite. It made sense in a perverted way because it was easier to manipulate the uneducated country folk and have them do his bidding. The buildings still house the different cells. Some cells did not have doors. These cells were actually worse because they gave a false sense of freedom. They put barbed wire over the balconies on the top floors of the buildings so prisoners could not jump to their death. My next stop was the Russian market for some more kramas. I stopped for lunch near the market (Aparsa). After lunch, we headed off to the Killing Fields. The ride took a little over 30 min and was the only time I wore my dust mask. The entrance fee to the Killing Fields is $5 and this includes an audio tour to can listen to at your own pace. The trip to Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields reminded me of my visit to Aushwitz and Birkenau. I purposely scheduled the visits in the middle of my trips so the experiences would not be my first or last impressions. The stupa monument is pretty poignant. There is also a small museum at the Killing Fields. I headed back to my hotel to drop off my purchases and set up my Grasshopper Bike adventure for the next day. I decided to take a ride over to Le Royal Raffles for happy hour. The hotel is like taking a step into another world. It is very regal inside without being stuffy. I decided to splurge on the Belgium Flight. This consisted of 3 bottles of Belgian beer. The presentation was impressive. They had taken a block of ice and carved a holder for each beer so they would remain ice cold while drinking the other beers. I tried the Hoegarden first and then the two Leffes, a blond and a dark. I headed back to the hotel for a swim and to change for dinner. I was scheduled for a 1845 departure from the hotel for my 1900 reservation at Tepui but no tuk tuks were available. They ended up driving me in their vintage Jaguar. Again the ride to Tepui was free but later I would have to pay for my tuk tuk back to the hotel. After dinner, I headed back to the hotel to call it a night.
Day 3: I departed the hotel at 0745 via tuk tuk for my bike ride. We biked from the shop to the ferry through Phnom Penh traffic. I was not expecting this because the ad just mentions biking on the islands. We caught our first of three ferry rides. Our first stop was to visit with some farmers harvesting lemongrass. We continued on to a silk worm farm for a tour and some fruit. The tour of the silk worm farm was interesting with the different stages of the silk worm and then a demonstration of weaving the silk threads. I bought some more kramas. The bike tour lasted until 1230 with lunch included. The biggest drawback was my guide talked constantly, on the ferry, as we were riding. I’m not one for continuous commentary. After the bike tour, I returned to my hotel to relax. I headed back out to the Central Market for some more kramas and to take in the sights of the food on display. I headed back to the hotel for my free 25 min massage and then I was off to the FCC for happy hour. I had dinner at K’nyay.
Travel Day: I was picked-up by Giant Ibis at my hotel at 0725 for the 0800 bus to Kampot. The bus to Kampot was a smaller bus. I lucked out and had seat 3C. This ended up being a single seat right behind the door and steps so no seat in front of you. I had plenty of leg room. The wifi and video were not working but the a/c worked well. We did stop at 0915 for a restroom break of 5-10 min. We arrived in Kampot at 1030. I purchased my return bus ticket to Phnom Penh at the office and grabbed a tuk tuk to Rikitikitavi. I had lunch while I waited to check-in. I settled into my room and then took a walk around town. I stopped into Epic Arts for a peppermint ice tea. I walked back to Riki to catch a boat across the street for a sunset cruise ($5) on the river. Beautiful mountain views as you cruise down the river. The boat ride lasted over two hours. Unfortunately, it was cloudy so not much of a sunset. Dinner and drinks at Riki.