Saturday, June 30, 2012

my travel notes: phnom penh, cambodia

i decided that i would split my travel notes about cambodia into two because phnom penh and siem reap are two different cities and each city has its own character, its own distinct qualities, its own allure and yet, without outdoing each other. combining my thoughts on the two of them may result into a muddled heap of words, giving less credit than what each deserves.

Phnom Penh - The Charming City

our tuktuk driver sped away to our guesthouse and these 2 stitched pictures were my failed attempts to take the charming city in its entirety. but anyway, i hope the message still gets across. some of my highlights pertain to cambodia in general but i experienced them first in phnom penh and siem reap was a different experience altogether.

  • Cambodia's Currency Notes (Riel)

we were too overwhelmed on how the cambodians make use of two currencies in their daily lives, the USD and the riel which the latter has no value outside cambodia. as my brother had put it, the riels are just paper money. in the years 1975-1980 (the first 5 years were during the polpot regime), cambodia had no official money although the riel was introduced for the second time in 1980; but the cambodians shrugged off the currency and in 1993, UN brought in USD which is still mainly being used up to this day. source from wiki.

as an example, here is the computation of our dinner at master grill in sorya mall.

rice set teriyaki grill spicy - 3.30USD
master pepperwing - 1.95USD
water - 0.90USD
total:  6.15USD

6USD + (4000*0.15)Riel = 6USD and 600Riel

we paid the decimal values in riel because they don't have the USD coins. and yes, 4000 riel is worth 1USD.

getting used to this computation had to take some time for me and even if it was on our last day in cambodia, there's a nerve in my head that immediately throbbed whenever i dealt with their currencies. don't get me wrong though, i love math. when i was at school, i was more into it due to the reason that it doesn't require a foolproof memory which i very much fail in that aspect.

  • Phnom Penh: Khmer people and their parks

the locals lounging in their spacious and well-landscaped parks made such a charming sight. they did various activities, doing chit-chats, amplifying their boomboxes (one was even pumped up with a korean pop song!), kids playing, men playing sepak takraw and just anything they did fancy...

and even watching a hard core band playing live at broad daylight! there were also several groups doing dance routine exercises and these set of people with different agenda, dotted the long stretch of the park and they all seemed to be carefree, maybe throwing away their worries for just a bit.

  • Phnom Penh: Khmer people and their enticing food menus

even if we only ate at a modest hole-in-the-wall type of eating place, surrounded by a display of groceries, the brisk woman handed these laminated menus and prepared our food just as how we saw it. and all over phnom penh, we saw these various laminated type of menus even if they were street-side food affairs.

  • Phnom Penh: Khmer people's fashion

almost wore long sleeves! we got the explanation only in siem reap when our tuktuk driver commented on me and eva that we were not wearing something that could cover our arms from the sun. philippines is also a tropical country and we also share the same annoying heat with cambodia; but we'd likely choose to wear something light and breezy. the long sleeves added to phnom penh's charm though.

  • and the peddlers refer a woman as "lady"

"pants, lady?" "t-shirt, lady?"


i may get too redundant already that the description that instantly comes to mind about phnom penh is laid back. it just is. it succinctly adds to its charm. and i didn't regret we stopped by here before heading out to a more touristy siem reap.

our itinerary (from singapore and philippines)
phnom penh on day 1
phnom penh and our appetites
phnom penh on day 2
phnom penh to siem reap: the journey


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