Thursday, March 09, 2006

Phnom Penh II

... whew... it's a little hard to write this, as they've just turned the fan in the internet cafe up to what must be force 10 hurricane setting ... my hair's a blowin' in the wind'...

It's so humid in PP (= Phnom Penh) that I'm beginning to realise it'll be this and not the heat (it's only in the low 30's on average) that will be the killer. I've been spending a bit of time out & about, seeing the sights and generally being a tourist. It's not very cool of me I know, but I do like to look at museums and some of the major attractions in a city. PP is an OK town - low key, spacious, clean ... beggars, monks, tourists, expats (what are so many of these single guys doing here!?), restaurants. It's a very pleasant place, but not what I'd call overly fascinating (in fact, I'm feeling a little bored and almost ready to get cycling - probably Saturday. The plan at this stage is to head to Siem Reap via highway 6. Skuon - spider city - will be the first stopover ).

So, yesterday & today I visited the Royal Palace & Pagoda, Museum, Wat Phnom (Buddhist Temple), Library, Railway Station and market - some of it by foot and some by bike. The Tuol Sleng Museum was the standout - quite harrowing - this is a former prison, based in a local high school (given that it almost seemed purpose-built, you have to wonder what they were thinking in their approach to schooling when they designed it) and run in the 70's by Pol Pot's security forces. There were cabinets full of skulls, and rooms & rooms of photos of men, women, and children killed by the Khmer Rouge regime.

On reflection, the subsequent massage I'd booked earlier in the day was an uneasy contrast. I did start a little when, after having changed into special green pajamas, the masseur grabbed me vigourously around the neck, ready to commence the process. I was at Seeing Hands Massage - conducted by blind masseurs. While on the table, I mused over the notion that blind masseurs might be better at this than sighted ones .... could a bunch of deaf guys set up a variation on this ... mmm ... dunno... It wasn't a bad massage, and he spent most of the time working on my back, for which I was grateful, having fallen flat on it at my tae kwon do class last Saturday while trying unsuccessfully to execute a 'turning hook kick'. The massage only cost $4.50 USD (about $6 AUD) for an hour - a fraction of what you'd pay in Australia. And it was undoubtedly a much better massage than the likely one proposed to me by two very masculine faced 'ladies' while I was out walking yesterday evening ...

I've enjoyed eating out at various places - Friends - a place set up to help street kids get into the workforce - was pretty good, and Kyhmer Borane, where I had Lok Lak - fried diced beef with salad - was also good. But I think I'll have to start being a little more careful about what I eat, as the beef did seem a little under-cooked, and my understanding is that it's quite easy to get a stomach bug of one sort or another here. Still, no ill effects to date from eating flesh (well, one small drama - I had some fried won ton at Friends, and (what I later discovered was) a fish scale became stuck in my throat. I confess I became a little alarmed when I suddenly began to feel this bizzare rasping sensation in my throat ... "what the hell is it?" and "what to do...?" as the sensation persisted ... luckily the fish scale suddenly dislodged after a while ...

Pretty much everything here in PP is paid for in US dollars, and change is either in dollars or the local currency - riel. I'm saving these up for when I'm in the backblocks of Cambodia, just in case the greenback is not so readily accepted.

I do love the way people here cram onto motor-scooters/motorbikes - yesterday I saw four young lads out on the town, all on the one motor-scooter. A family of six was the record for the evening ... well, time for dinner I think ...

5 comments:

Lisa Forrester said...

Hey David,

Is great to hear what you think of different places, as I'll be visiting some of the same sites in just a few weeks. Have read about that school that was turned into a prison.... scary stuff. Am looking forward to seeing it though. Will take note of what places you recommend for eating though - I really don't want to end up sick!

Talk to you soon,
Lisa

david w said...

hi Lisa... I guess the main thing is watch your drinking water ...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.