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Al's epic odyssey "A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." - Lao Tzu

Phnom Penh - just passing through

CAMBODIA | Sunday, 20 September 2009 | Views [735]

When I flew in to Phnom Penh I was amazed at the scale of the monsoon flooding. There was water as far as you could see. The river banks and settlements were raised high enough to see them but there was water everywhere. I was worried that we were going to find somewhere dry enough to land. Phnom Penh itself must be elevated from the flood plain as there is no evidence of the flooding. I’d decided to book into the Number 9 Sister Guesthouse on the Boeng Kak Lake as it was recommended in my guide. The taxi driver tried to persuade me to get a hotel on the river but I stuck to my guns. The taxi drove as far as he could go in a car down this narrow lane and pointed vaguely further down the road and told me I had to walk the rest of the way. I set off walking down this narrow dusty rutted alleyway that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Slumdog Millionaire; I was getting a little concerned but persevered. Two touts tried to take me into other lakeside guesthouses and I did look at one room, but wasn’t impressed. I eventually found Number 9 Sister and was relieved to find a little oasis of quaint beauty jutting out into the lake. The room was large and quite acceptable and cost 5 US dollars a night. The view from the restaurant / bar over the lake was quite special. At night the same dusty rutted ghetto of an alleyway transforms into a backpackers haven with loads of bars and food stalls. I’d met up with a Kiwi, a Canadian and a couple of Dutchmen and ended up literally drinking Whiskey by the bucketload in one of the bars. A bucket of whisky is $1-50 and is actually local Rum served with ice and coke in a small plastic jug rather than an actual bucket. It was great but gave me a rotten hangover. The currency in Cambodia is officially the Riel but in reality the US dollar (no cents though) is the main currency and the Riel is only given as small change. For transaction purposes, the exchange rate is set as 4000 Riel to the Dollar. This can be quite confusing if you pay $5 for a $2.25 meal, you’d get $2 and 3000 Riel in change. There don’t appear to be any coins. I’d arrived at the start of a three day public holiday so town was pretty deserted. I wandered around most of the attractions that I could manage to get to on foot. Unfortunately a lot of the tourist sites relate to the Pol Pot genocide and I didn’t feel in the mood for that so I’ll save those for my return trip, in the mean time I’m off down to Sinoukville and possibly Koh Kong on the coast for a few days.

Photo's on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=327886&id=744675149&l=23ae4d478d

Tags: phnom penh


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