Phnom Penh is Amazing!

Royal Palace Phnom Penh

Yes, you heard me right: I finally have something positive to say. Phnom Penh is a really incredible place. I haven’t been this excited about a city since Pyongyang.

Today, however, got off to a strange start. I had booked a boat to Phnom Penh through my hotel and they’d arranged for the boat company to collect me and take me to the dock. I was told I’d be collected at 7am, but by 7:30, the time when the boat was supposed to leave, there was still no transport. The hotel staff were phoning people and I got the impression that there was a problem – but they told me everything was fine and that the transport was on its way. Finally, I got picked up at 8am and was taken to the dock, where I realised that I had been forgotten about, the boat had left, and then turned back especially to pick me up. Every passenger looked at me accusingly like I was a time-wasting simpleton.

Though I was the last on the boat, I got a good window seat at the back. The boat followed close to the left riverbank, and I had a seat on the left, so I was happy.

Cambodia Customs

We got off at the Vietnam customs, and again at the Cambodia customs (above – I think it was the first time that I crossed an international non-EU border without having any kind of bag or body check). When I got back on the boat, a Malaysian girl – a pampered princess travelling with a rich-but-stupid-looking boyfriend – had stolen my seat. I’m embarrassed to say that I was incensed – raging inside as I sat in a viewless aisle seat while the princess sat with her eyes closed in my window seat. I spent the whole journey fantasising about kicking her head-first out of the window. I’m such a child.

Phnom Penh Riverfront 

When we arrived, I prepared myself for the onslaught of motorbike men – but there was no onslaught. There were just a couple of them waiting and they weren’t persistent or aggressive like in Vietnam. I walked down the riverfront (above) and was amazed by how calm and tranquil the place is.  I found a cheap, grimy hotel and went to the Royal Palace.

Royal Palace Phnom Penh Elephant

Look at that sky! It doesn’t seem real. Anyway, the Royal Palace is still in use, so only a few buildings are open to the public.

Royal Palace Phnom Penh 2

The palace has some spectacular metalwork:

Royal Palace Phnom Penh Gate

By now it was about 4pm and I hadn’t had anything to eat other than a roll for breakfast. It was baking hot and I was feeling dizzy so I went to look for something to eat and, by chance, came across a vegetarian restaurant called Evergreen that I’d read about online. This is stir-fried noodles with ‘intestines’ and a side order of ‘meat’ balls:

Phnom Penh Vegetarian Food

After supper, I found ‘Psar Thmei’ – the huge domed art-deco central market.

Psar Thmei Central Market 

It was very civilized. Nobody shouted at me or grabbed my clothing.

Psar Thmei Central Market Interior

And that’s about it for my first day in Phnom Penh. I haven’t seen much of the city yet but what I have seen has made a very good impression. I don’t want to paint a distorted picture – walking down some of the narrow backstreets made it very clear that a lot of people here are living in real poverty. I’ll try to write something a little more balanced once I’ve seen more of the place.


One response to “Phnom Penh is Amazing!

  1. Pingback: Boeung Kak Lake Protest | Tom Snik

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