Cambodia - Days 5 to 8

Submitted by derms on Thu, 30/12/2004 - 11:03am.

Day 5 - Battambang: Lotte and I had planned to go to Battambang by boat. Our tickets said otherwise. Our tour guide in Siem Reap - whose slogan on his business card read "Same Same But Different" - had given us tickets to Phnom Penh instead. Also, he was suppose to organise (and pay for) the transportation from the hostel to the boat. He organised the transportation fine, but neglected to pay for it. A bit annoying, but we eventually got underway on what was a torturous eight hour boat ride to Battambang.

Our boat was a rickety, packed to the brim with people and broke down often. By the end of the boat ride, one woman was crying (but she was french and it was probably because she ran out of baguettes or something ;). Anyway, we eventually arrived at Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia.

After eating at the (i believe) incorrectly named "Smokin' Pot" restaurant, we headed off to a cool little bar on the Riverfront where we spent the remainder of the night.

Day 6 - Battambang: We were taken on a tour around the countryside of Battambang. It was pretty amazing. We went to a large crocodile farm. The crocodiles were housed in pits. We walked along the wall seperating the pits. There was no barriers to stop us if we fell, so one wrong step and SNAP, no more derm. It kept it interesting. We went to a buddhist temple were we fed some catfish, another temple which had a massive buddha - the largest in the region - and a former "Killing Field" for the Khmer Rouge. The Killing Field now has a large stupa that houses the bones of the victims. Most interesting.

While driving around the villages the locals kept on staring and laughing at us - particularly the children. Many of the children kept on repeating this one word when they saw me - apparently it meant "Frenchman". One of the places we stopped was a fish paste manufacturing shack. One component of the fish paste manufacturing process involves leaving peices of fish in a wooden barrel for two years. You can't even begin to imagine the stench.

Day 7 - Phnom Penh: We travelled to Phnom Penh by bus and arrived there not long before sunset. We went on a boat ride around Phnom Penh to watch the sunset. Also on the boat were three Belguim tourists. We got talking and mentioned to them that there was a North Korean restaurant in Phnom Penh. North Korea has close ties with Cambodia - the King recently spent a few months hanging in North Korea with his buddy Kim Jong-il. We saw on CNN that a North Korean restaurant had recently opened in Phnom Penh. The waitresses that work there have to stay there for three years and are not permitted to go anywhere except the restaurant and their apartments.

Anyway, the five of us decided to find this restaurant. Our tour guide, however, had given us the wrong directions and we ended up going to a local Cambodian outdoor restaurant. It was a good night. One of the waitresses ended up talking to us for a few hours - we could not, however, understand much of what she was saying. From what we understood, she was either 14 or 20 years old, didn't have a baby because she didn't want one/couldn't have one, was recently married/not married and may have been a lesbian - she kept on calling Lotte her "sister" while touching her leg.

Day 8 - Phnom Penh: Today we toured the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. While there we saw the Old King, the current King's father. After the Royal Palace we went to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum. It was once a high school but the Khmer Rouge turned it into a place of torture. Over ten thousand people were tortured there before being taken to the Killing Field just outside Phnom Penh. It's an eerie place. Over 20,000 people - mostly intellectuals from Phnom Penh - were killed there by the Khmer Rouge. There is a glass shrine that holds 8,000 skulls. Mass graves, both excavated and unexcavated, dominate the landscape. While walking around the field you can see bits of human bone and clothing sticking out of the ground. The are trees there that the Khmer Rouge used to bash babies skulls against. The tour guide was freaky himself. Apparently he had been working at the site since 1980. He was just a teenager then, orphaned (by the Khmer Rouge) and had no where to say. So by day he worked on unearthing the graves and by night he slept in a shed next to the graves. At the end of the tour he took Lotte and I to the side and asked for a considerable ammount of money - like $100 AUD - for "schools" or something. This guy had a way of making you extremely uneasy and I ended up giving him some money (although no where near the $100 he demanded).

Lotte and I found the address of the North Korean restaurant I spoke of previously and headed there for dinner. I almost ordered "dog soup" until the waitress informed me what it was. We had some traditional North Korean rice wine, which was absolutely disgusting. To was the taste out of our mouth's, we had some red wine. Unfortunately for our wallets, the red wine turned out to be 12 years old. The most amusing part of the whole experience were the waitresses. Throughout the night they did karaoke - North Korean style - while other waitresses danced near the tables. Some waitresses even played traditional Korean instruments. It was at very entertaining night.

( categories: Cambodia )