Saturday, June 2, 2012

searing hot phnom penh on day 1

i had been forewarned enough that april is incredibly hot in cambodia. i had read the fair warning in the articles about cambodia online but impudently, i shrugged them off. in other words, the weather was the least of my concern.

Our Tuktuk Ride

his name was "nan". he greeted us at the airport's arrival area, carrying a bond paper with my name on it and after a swift and awkward handshake, he led us outside the airport's perimeter, passing by plush cars that were sun-dried in the parking lot. he turned his gaze to us from time to time in case eva and i mistakenly opened a car's door, eager for the air-conditioning comfort. my thoughts went haywire because all he could muster were an amiable smile and few hand gestures to direct us to the right way. he might not be able to carry on a long conversation in english but we did get along just fine.

we reached europe guesthouse in half an hour while we caught a glimpse of what phnom penh is, along the way and the scenes were nostalgically stark reminders of home. mr. seng, the owner of the guesthouse readily ushered us to our room. with a bit of concern filling up my head, my brother then arrived shortly from siem reap. our planned rendezvous time was just perfect. knowing that we wouldn't choose to sulk inside, even the lure of an air-conditioning; mr. seng made a quick explanation about the places of interest while referring to the city map pinned on the wall at the lobby.

Toul Sleng

Tuol Sleng Grounds

with nan as our driver again, we firstly went to tuol sleng which was the farthest among the places that we could squeeze in our short itinerary, that clammy mid-afternoon.

it was a disheartening choice to visit because it wasn't that long ago when tuol sleng's buildings served as prison camps during the khmer rouge in 1975-1979. today, the buildings remain as standing witnesses to the atrocities in the past, which cambodia has turned into a genocide museum to remind everyone not to repeat the same gruesome mistake.

we met bou meng in tuol sleng who is one of the seven survivors, with a disposition of a grandfather who i no longer have. assisted by a young khmer lady, he sells books about his biography at 10USD a piece. we didn't care if it's overpriced so, i told my brother to buy one.

Entrance Fee: 2USD/person

Independence Monument

Independence Monument at the center of the roundabout.

i only managed to take a picture of this independence stupa while we were speeding on our tuktuk. restorations works were undergoing that time. this monument symbolizes the independence of cambodia from france in 1953.

Silver Pagoda

Silver Pagoda

we were grateful for the little rain that showered phnom penh when we reached the silver pagoda. heaven knew, we needed that to cool the heat off. this is my brother who was already burnt after his solitary siem reap visit.

when entering the silver pagoda, one must take off his/her shoes and photography is not allowed inside.

The Checkered Tiles

i could imagine the checkered tiles in a plot in one of the old stories for children. alice in the wonderland particularly crossed my mind!

Manicured Plant

of course, i don't need to explain my weirdness if this reminded me of edward scissorhands!

the manicured plants were in various forms!

i may not be fully inclined to an artistic side but it doesn't require an art genius to appreciate these intricate works.

although these stupas are apparently just done recently, these are still beyond superb!

A mini replica of Angkor Wat.

Khmer Performers

our visit to the silver pagoda was capped by the sound of khmer instruments. our fee was still somehow worth it even if we weren't able to fully take advantage of the amount because the royal palace was off limits that time.

Entrance Fee: 6.25USD/person or 25,000Riel/person

Wat Bottom Park

one of the many things that amazed me in cambodia was the presence of beautifully landscaped parks where locals convene with their friends or families and do all sorts of activities, chit chats, play sepak takraw, lounge while the day goes by or even listen to a hard core band playing at broad daylight. it's a very relaxing sight while you throw your worries at the back of your mind. what's even more interesting were the few groups doing their dance exercises! we even joined one for a bit!

Tonle Sap River

our weary feet brought us to a promenade along tonle sap river and this also seemed to be a favorite local hang out. we finally took our cue for our last stop for the day from the few locals peddling local snacks and that was, dinner.


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