KPC-SGN Day 4: Phnom Penh - The Ghost City Of Kamphuchea

My alarm rang just 6:15am in the morning. No way you wanna wake me up at this early hour! I was having a night drink out with some mates down at the restaurant next to the guest house last night. A couple of beers with some nice chit chatting till late. I regretted that I should have taken the time to get more rest as we were heading to Phnom Penh today, by BUS! The journey would take like 6 hours on the road and our guest house's staff told us that the bus will only be making one stop through out the journey for toilet. I must wake up now to "clear away" all the "dirts" left in my stomach after 3 days before going on for such a long haul bus ride. So a quick rush to toilet and to have a quick bath too and I went down to the lobby waiting for the bus to come at 7:30am.

The bus arrived then and it was like a school bus that we had in Malaysia. The driver picked us up and sent us to the bus station where we passed by when we came backed from Kompong Plok trip. Don't ever imagine that their bus station would be a terminal kind of building that buses come to drop people and pick up new passengers. It was a dusty field whereby lots of buses were parked in a row there next to the tarred road. Table was being put right at the front of the bus to sell tickets or check our ticket before boarding. Lots of hawkers moving around selling food on their trolleys or they carried with them on their head. The whole thing was so messy that we can't even differentiate a driver with a passenger or a hawker. I was left confused and after clearing my ticket with the staff standing by the bus door, I climbed up to the bus and found my seat and put my big ass on it immediately. I was doing so as I wanted to avoid confusion with seats number with the locals as all of them did not seem to be speaking English. I did not want to involve in any arguments with them at all. So better to sit still and wait for the bus to depart!

Inside our "VIP" bus :). The bus was a double decker. The lower deck were used to store all of the luggage as well as items to be delivered to Phnom Penh (Even motorcycle!). The upper deck were where we sit and there were around 40 seats.

Bus depated around 8:30am in the morning and we were heading to Phnom Penh, our second stop for this Cambodia - Vietnam trip. Below are some scenery that were taken by Katrina during the bus ride.

Nothing special along the way, mostly we were driving along paddy fields and some remote villages. But inside the bus, lots of funny things did happen. First I found out that lots of Cambodian kids on board were having nausea due to the bumpy ride. Right after the bus departed, the bus crew was distributing a bottle of drinking water to everyone of us together with a black plastic bag. I was confused with the purpose of the plastic bag so I returned it to him. So when the kids started to throw out some moment after we started the journey, they were using the plastic bag as puke bag. And I started to hear "worrgh" sound inside the bus. Man, that was disgusting! The sourish smell of the things being throw out was making me sick! I tried to hold my breath and lean my head towards the window to focus on the scenery along the road.

After some moment, the Cambodian guy sitting next to me was using his arm as cushion to hold his head for the comfort to sleep. His was putting his left armpit right next to me! Now you can imagine the total disaster that I had gone through =.=! The bad smell of his body odor was really
killing me. Right from that moment I was hoping the journey will end immediately to shorten my suffer! If that was not enough, the worst was to come! He even removed his boots and put his feet high up on his thigh. Man, I was going through moments of hell really! So after some 3 hours drive, the driver decided to make a stop at one of the resting area. I quickly rushed down the bus to get a few fresh air breath! I was suffocating myself on the bus!

Well, that did not mark the end of my surprises for that day. Guess what was the thing in the picture below?

That was the gents W.C. at the rest area. It was sitting right next to the ladies and the worst thing was that the floor was flooded with "water". So when I entered the thing to pee, I found that all of the fluid were flowing down to the floor and those were the "water" I described moment before! I was standing in a pool of PEE! LOL!

Backed on the bus, we continued our ride to the capital. That was when I saw the lady sitting on a same row as me taking out a kind of leaf and was applying some kind of pink gel on it. She taken out her tool to cut out some floss out of a kind of nut and put them on the leaf she prepared earlier. And then she taken out a bag of dried herbs and put a little of them on the leaf too. She folded the leaf up into a square shape and then put into one of her tools to smash it hard for few times. Finally, she put the whole smashed leaf into her mouth and started chewing. What the hell she was doing there, I was wondering. So I was observing and thinking to myself that what could it be. When I saw she spit out some red color fluid from her mouth to the black plastic bag given earlier, I know that was the betel-nut. That was my first experience with the nut and I was kinda amazed that someone would really chew it and to spit out something blood-like fluid. Well, maybe I would like to try it someday to find out the real taste of it.

Another 3 hours passed, Phnom Penh city was right in front of our eyes. The first view of Phnom Penh was that it looked like our Kuala Lumpur during the 70-80's. The bus stopped us at one of the unknown place in the city and I was kind of like lost my sense of direction with no idea where the guest house that I had pre-booked. So getting off the bus, the first thing that welcomed me were a bunch of tuk-tuk drivers! They were so annoying and kept shouting to me and asking me to take his tuk tuk. One even went so aggresive that he took over my bag and said wanna "help" me to put on his tuk tuk. I gone mad as it all went up to my head and I shouted back at him to leave me alone and give me back my bag. I saw my mates were all traumatized by the drivers who were like a swamp of bees buzzing around us! I gathered everyone and ran to the far end corner of the street and start looking at the map I have trying to figure out our location.

Slowly, another tuk tuk driver approached us and started to explain to us slowly that he was tryign to help us. He saw that the brochure I was holding was written with Capitol guest house. He offered that to send us all to the place for 1.5 USD. Well, after trying hard to figure out where we were, I gave up and gave him the business. He sent us all safely to the guesthouse which was located around 5 minutes from where we were being dropped off from the bus. Upon reaching the guest house, we were surrounded by another group of tuk tuk drivers and we had to force our way into the guest house.

First view of Phnom Penh down town from the balkony of our guest house.

We took up a river cruise trip along the Tonle Sap River which was only started 4:45pm. So we were having some free time in the guest house. To avoid being bugged by the tuk tuk drivers, we decided to take lunch at the restaurant in the guest house. I went backed to room for a rest before the evening cruise started as I was feeling so tired after 6 hours bus ride. I was reading my travel guide book about phnom penh. It was being described as the ghost city during the Khmer Rouge's regime. The entire population of Phnom Penh had been forced to leave the city when the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975 - everyone, young or old, sick or infirm, had to leave their homes and go out to work in the fields. Hundreds died in the ensuing chaos, a grim prologue to the genocidal slaughter that followed, and Phnom Penh remained a ghost city for the next four years until the Khmer Rouge were deposed by the invasion of the Vietnamese in 1979 [Chris Mitchell]. So Phnom Penh survived the darkest years of its country's history and its own near-destruction to become a city of life once again. Looking at the crowded streets together with it's tensed population, you will never think that it stood silent for 4 whole years some 30 years back!

Okay, enough of history lecture. Backed to our cruise, so the driver sent us to the waterfront jetty by the Tonle Sap river. So the whole topic for the cruise was about the sunset view on the river. As we departed from the jetty to cruise along the river and take a U-turn to the opposite shore to check on the locals who were building their houses on the river and finally backed to the jetty where we departed from. A short 45 - 60 minutes cruise.

It was not our lucky day and rain just stopped moment before our cruise started. The dark clouds were covering the sky and we can barely see the sun. So those were the best shots that we can take during the cruise.

During our way back to the guest house, I requested the driver to drop us at the Central Market (Phsar Central). As I checked on my map earlier, it was only a short walk back to guest house from Central Market. So I was confident that I will be able to make my way home by foot :). The market was closing that time and we decided just to snap a few photos without going in it.

Walking down along Mornivong Boulevard - one of the main streets in Phnom Penh on our way back to guest house.

Sky turned dark so fast and we were in total dark after 7:15pm. I was leading the group and to be honest I did not spot our guest house when we walked past it and ended up the whole group trailing behind me into a back alley next to Road 182. Maybe that was my lucky day indeed. My stomach started to growl and next I saw this restaurant - MAMA! It was a restaurant highly recommended by the lonely planet guide book. So without thinking too much, we went into it to settle our dinner.

The restaurant owner was so kind and gentle. He speaks little english but good in french.

He was highly recommending me this home made cuisine - Mama stew. It was a plate of stewed beef together with potatoes and carrots. The meat was so tender and I really like the taste of the gravy too. I ended up finished the whole big plate together with another plate of steam rice. Yummy Yummy!

That marks the end of my fourth day in Cambodia. Tuk tuk drivers in Phnom Penh really scared me off a little. My impression on the city was bad and to be honest we were discussing to leave the city tomorrow in the afternoon. Most of us were traumatized by the aggressive drivers but soon things were changed the next day and please stay tuned on day 5's log. I went to bed early after two cans of beers. My brain was not working well that day, I am guessing maybe I was a little too tired.