Phnom Penh

Day 45 / Day 4 of ATID – Travelling from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

It was an early check out of our Siem Riep hotel on this day to board a 7 hour private bus to Phnom Penh…very unfortunately, I woke up with a slightly upset stomach, and needed to go to the loo a few too many times before boarding the coach, so decided to pop some loperamide (anti-diarrhoea medication) to survive the journey!

After deliberating, Dave and I reckoned it was the salad from dinner the day before rather than the ice in the drinks in the evening, as nobody else was unwell, and several others had had chicken at the restaurant before like me, or also had ice in their drinks in the evening at the bar. Nobody had had a fresh salad, likely washed in unfiltered water, though! Darn it for trying to be healthy…

Anyway, the loperamide worked, and despite a gurgling, uncomfortable tummy for most of the ride, I did manage a few chips at the restaurant we stopped at for a toilet-and-lunch break and did not have any disasters…

Our tour facilitator organised for our group to attend a Cambodia v Thailand Muay Thai (type of boxing) match in the late afternoon after we had checked into our hotel. We had to pay for the tuktuks to get us to the stadium but to watch the actual match was, unbelievably, free!

Kickboxing! Thailand v Cambodia
Kickboxing! Thailand v Cambodia

On arriving, staff ushered us into an area where we could sit on the floor (lots of other tourists were in this area of the stadium as well) and watch the match – clearly it wasn’t an official seating spot, but we did have a pretty good view of the boxing ring and also of the seated spectators. We were right next to the speakers so the music was pretty loud but the atmosphere was really quite awesome, almost festival-like.

I found it pretty tough to follow the match to be honest, but enjoyed the many hip-hop song covers and dances that took place by professional performers in between the rounds on the stage behind the ring, and also enjoyed watching a little toddler in front of us happily dancing along to the music! One thing we noted about the performers was that all the male back up dancers seemed to be rather effeminate. Oh and also at some points there were lots of firework-fountains on stage. The area we were sat on was rather close to some of these fireworks and the people right next to the stage were definitely within stray-flying-sparks distance and had to rapidly shuffle backwards…

Take cover!
Take cover!

Cambodia won the match, by the way, making the atmosphere even more exciting, and after watching the absolutely-chuffed-to-bits boxer receive his trophy and shake hands with presumably important people, we left via tuktuks back to our hotel…

My earlier gurgling tummy was back by now and so whilst the rest of the group went out to get street food, Dave and I stayed in and ordered room service (just a few chips for me), because we didn’t want to risk street food and also because I needed to be near the bathroom…luckily I felt better by the next morning.

Day 46 / Day 5 of ATID – Phnom Penh

The next morning, most of us opted to visit the killing fields of Choueung Ek followed by the S21 prison and spent a harrowing half day learning about the atrocities that occurred during the 1970’s under the Khmer Rouge, when between a quarter to a third of Cambodia’s entire population was wiped out. We had a private minibus and excellent guide with us.

At the killing fields
At the killing fields – memorial site with caption

There is a peaceful atmosphere at the killing fields now (which are now designed to resemble a memorial park with a central mausoleum), despite the signs explaining the horrifying goings-on that occurred there, such that might be found at any cemetery where people come to pay their respects, and I was glad of this. Unfortunately, because the victims were only buried here relatively recently and not very well, occasionally and especially after rain, bits of bone are still surfacing to this day. Excavations are still ongoing and you’re supposed to inform staff if you see any remains.

The central mausoleum was filled with victims' skulls, with information on how they died
The central mausoleum was filled with victims’ skulls, with information on how they died

At the prison, after being shown around where prisoners were kept and seeing lots of photographs of former inmates and reading lots of information about what went on, we were lucky enough to meet one of the very few survivors from the prison, Chum Mey. He has written a book about his experiences, and visits the prison often to promote it. He was a very smiley, friendly, warm person when we met him, and we purchased his book, which I’ve now read – it was a heart breaking read, and I’m very glad he’s gone on to be successful with it. It’s the least he deserves after what he went through.

S21 prison site
S21 prison site

We didn’t do much in the afternoon, and in the evening we went to a place called David’s Noodles with a few others for dinner. We got to watch the noodles expertly being formed into shape by one of the chefs, which was quite cool. I ended up having curry-and-rice but Dave enjoyed the noodles. It was inexpensive, too, always a bonus.

After, we went to our hotel’s rooftop bar for a while (Queen Wood hotel – I remember for once!), which was okay but I must say the cocktails left a lot to be desired! We moved onto a rooftop bar next door, at 11 Happy Backpacker (er reviews for the actual accommodation bit are a bit suspect on that link), and that was much nicer – tastier drinks, decent enough music, a dance floor and many more people. We stayed for a drink and a dance before retiring back next door to bed.

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