Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Holiday in Cambodia

Yesterday morning (whatever day that was) we stepped out the back of our hotel in Chau Doc and onto a speed boat bound for Phnom Penh. It was a comfortable boat, covered except at the back and the front and with wonderful breezes blowing through. The entire journey, including the stop at the border was about 6 hours, but it was pleasant. Alongside the shores we saw more jungly trees and fields with people tilling the soil by hand, houses on stilts or just corrugated metal shacks built right along the shore, people fishing with poles or giant butterfly nets which the scooped into the water while balancing on the edge on small wooden boats, and, once we crossed into Cambodia, small herds of skinny white cows.

We stopped at the border leaving Vietnam, then reboarded and stopped again at the border entering Cambodia where we got our new visas.

Finally we saw the skyline of Phnom Penh and we pulled up to Sisowath Quay. We both immediately loved it. The buildings were an interesting mix of French inspired architecture, dilapidated low rises, and stunning temple peaks. We boarded a tuk tuk (our first) and we snaked through the traffic, which was similar to that of Ho Chi Minh in terms of its style and composition but was slightly less frenetic. 

 Our hotel, the Blue Lime, is pretty great. It has a South Beach feel to it, with its beautiful pool surrounded by Palm trees and lazy cabanas. Our room is perfect and has a modern design and there is an outdoor bar and restaurant by the pool, perfect for relaxing with a passion fruit juice (as I am doing now).  All this (and breakfast) for about $45 night.

After getting settled we went for a walk in search of food. The streets are very pleasant for walking (despite having to walk in traffic much of the time), as there are so many appealing and interesting street side eateries, shops, vendors, and whatnot to look at. The poverty though is evident, as steps away from the main temples and restaurants catering to tourists are people living on the street or naked kids picking through garbage. 

We found a restaurant and had our first Cambodian meal - the de facto national dish 'amok', a mild, steamed curry. Betty Lou had fish and I had I had a vegetarian version. It was delicious and for two of us it was about $6. A few small kids came up to sell us things, but I didn't feel bothered. The place is crawling with tourists, but that didn't bother me either. It is all a pleasant atmosphere.

After lunch we visited the Royal Palace, which is really a serene complex of stunning temples and pagodas decorated in intricate and ornate design; the peaked roofs glitter like dragon scales and Buddhas sat amongst the greenery. Walking among the trees and the buildings were many monks, dressed in their beautiful saffron robes. It was all lovely.

We retired to the room for a bit and then I decided to go for a walk to see what the nightlife was like. It was all really the same, but it felt even livelier (and that is certainly true of the bars and restaurants). I was having a fine time wandering until the skies opened up and it began to pour. I tried to wait it out in a bookshop but became restless and decided to head back to the hotel which was 3-4 blocks away only. In those few blocks however I got drenched; my eyes blinded by the torrential rain and my shoes transformed into pools. I returned though in one piece and enjoyed a wonderful sleep.


Anonymous said...

Fabulous ! Love reading and seeing the photos! - norma

Barry Curts said...

It's amazing and also sad to see such beauty in the palaces etc but know there is hunger around the corner. Great update, enjoy following you on your travels. PAT

Karen Robin Metrunec said...

Great descriptions, enjoying the pictures. Keep having fun!