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Eo Ire Itum

Phnom Penh

CAMBODIA | Sunday, 18 January 2009 | Views [1217]


We've been in Phenom Penn for several days now and I've really enjoyed it. We arrived from Battembang by bus on the 16th and that evening Greg, Charlie and I went out for dinner and then out drinking in the city.

We started at the famous Foreign Correspondents Club on the riverfront where we had a few beers and eyed the delicious looking but expensive food everyone was eating. We needed to eat so we walked along the riverfront looking for a decent bar/restaurant. We stopped for a few beers along the way and eventually made out way to a tiny street filled with bars, cafes and restaurants. We choose Indian food and it was delicious - the best Indian food I've had for a long time and the place was actually run by Indians.

What followed was a hilarious night out on the town going from bar to bar to sample Phenom Penn's night life. There are a lot of prostitutes around (hostesses or ladies of the night as they seemed to be referred to around here) as well as dodgy massage parlors and everyones favorite - old creepy men with young Cambodia women.

Some of them are escorts, others are married and a lot are obviously involved in prostitution. Every time I see it (which is often) it makes me feel really uneasy and I wonder how anyone in that circumstance could be happy. The girls look happy and the guys look VERY happy...but I wonder what anyone is getting out of it that's not money or sex - two very superficial things. Most of them aren't in love and many of the women can't even speak English so there can't be anything to talk about.
The men get their sex and the women get their money so I guess even the marriages are a transaction of sorts. Each to their own.
Still I imagine when you pull back the superficial happiness there would be a lot of misery there. A life without love.

The next day was a bit of a write off for me because of a killer hang over and I spent much of the day in bed listening to Ricky Gervais podcasts on Charlie's Ipod.

Yesterday we visited the genocide museum and the killing fields which made for a very depressing and contemplative day. As we walked around the sunny courtyard of the genocide museum which used to be a prison used by the Khmer Rouge, I thought about how much pain, death and misery had been inflicted within the prison walls. We saw photos of children, women and men who had been tortured and eventually slaughtered, sometimes for nothing more than being educated or living in the city.

20,000 children were killed by the Khmer Rouge. TWENTY THOUSAND. It makes me cry when I think of the children who died for nothing. What had they done wrong? Seeing photos of their faces and the dead, blank look in their eyes...I can't imagine how ANYONE could think it is okay to torture anyone, let alone an innocent child.

At the killing feilds we wandered through the site of mass graves and lay flowers at the memorial. Even the beautiful trees in this area were used for murder. A sign by one tree said the soldiers used to throw children against it until they died of head injuries. Another tree was used to hang large speakers that played noises and music to muffle the screaming and crying of prisoners. It was a sobering day and after walking by the riverside in the afternoon we decided it was time for a few drinks at the good old FCC.

After a few drinks the boys had their hearts set on going to a restaurant they'd read about in Lonely Planet called 'Sugar Palm' - so we found the address and walked off to find it. We walked along the riverbank, down 241 street, 242 street, 243 street... wait, what street was the restaurant on again? 240 street. We walked around for about half an hour looking for the street and when we eventually found the street we thought it was on there was no sign of ANY restaurants at all.

"Let's get a tuk tuk there then," said Greg "If anything they might know where the restaurant is, even if it's just around the corner." So Greg and Charlie stopped a few tuk tuks and no one seemed to know the place. I didn't really expect them to to be honest - Phnom Penh is a big place and I'm sure tuk tuk drivers don't know the name of every restaurant in the city. Greg and Charlie continued to stop drivers and ask them if they knew Sugar Palm - no one seemed to.

Eventually we spoke to a driver who said he knew where it was. We told him the street number and the name of the restaurant and he seemed PRETTY sure. We still had our doubts but we were willing to take a chance so we hopped in the tuk tuk.

After a short while we realised we were going around in circles, doing U-turns and going down the same streets two or three times in a row. The boys starting getting quite annoyed and we were all hungry. It would've been fair enough if the driver had said he didn't know, but he had said he did when he clearly didn't. I think we should've guessed that he didn't know to be honest - but perhaps it was wishful thinking that had pushed us on.

We directed the lost driver to take us back to our guesthouse and when we got out we found our guides and checked the address again. We had certainly driven and walked past where the restaurant was suppose to be and there had been no sign of it. "It probably wouldn't been a huge disappointment if we HAD HAVE found it," I said. "Let's just go somewhere else, eh?"

The boys agreed and we walked off down the riverfront in the opposite direction to where the Sugar Palm debacle had started. Charlie said he thought we should go to a little street he had found the other day. Apparently this street is filled with lovely little bars and restaurants and we would find something there with no problems.
When we got to this lovely little street it was clearly part of the red-light district and the restaurants that by day were lovely little european style street-side cafes, by night turned into sleazy back door establishments that specialized in providing services to any man drunk enough to stumble through the door.

Scantly clad women leaned against every inch of wall available and Greg and I teased Charlie for wanting to come down this particular street. We walked back down towards our guesthouse and eventually chose a very quiet looking Khmer restaurant. We were hungry and it was already past 10pm.

The meal was horrible and just after we had finish a HUGE rat ran straight out of the kitchen and onto the street. Even the rats hadn't liked this place. We all thought about Sugar Palm and what might have been.

The next day we got up early and after breakfast Greg went and bought three tickets to our next destination - Sihanoukville. A beautiful town down south on the coast.


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