On to the 2nd leg of the Ho Chi Minh City-Phnom Penh-Siem Reap Travelthon and we found ourselves in the bus crossing the Mekong River on a barge, a few hours after we left Saigon.

The Terminal

At the Backpackers’ District in Saigon

(Kumho Bus picked us up in front of our travel agency, where there was a sidestreet cofee joint, and yes, that’s where we had our breakfast before finally driving to Cambodia. Do what the locals do, right?)

The Batcave

A friend of a friend’s house

Places Only in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, Cambodia I should say, is a land full of pointed architecture. You would see in the photographs below how it’s just everywhere!

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is home to the King and Queen of Cambodia, His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and Her Majesty Preah Reach Akka-Mohesey Norodom Monineath Sihanouk

Whew! How long can Royal Cambodian names be!

Felt like Milan but in Asia, because of the birds, at least
How at home I felt in the yellow palace!
I’m guessing someone (in power in Phnom Penh)’s favorite color is yellow!

A westerner with an Asian background (and a tuktuk mobile street store). What contrast!

National Museum

The tourist and the tourist spot
Even waiting sheds are in full culture character, why not?!
Beautiful, accidental art in the middle of a palace
Ancient intricacies
Monkey business is eating
National Museum. A group of students interviewing a meseum-goer; interesting how history and culture here are so alive, even the youth are so involved!
For these guys, culture and travel are serious businesses! They had to sit on it! :p

Tuol Sleng Museum

Tuol Sleng was a former school-turned prison facility and now a standing reminder of the brutality that transpired during Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge Regime.

Go here in the afternoon, not the first stop for the day, nor the last, as it may either set or leave a depressing mood.

To satisfy a hunger for power is fatal.

Torture steel: bodies hanging upside down, water in the jar

Tour guide walking the Indian tourists down the history lane

Asian tour group in the grounds of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
 “Cubicles”, among the many rooms, which were witnesses to how victims were tortured
Barbed wires installed to contain the “prisoners” and prevent suicides
A normal high school-looking infrastructure-turned prison facility; one cannot imagine what butality both the young and the old had to endure in this supposed safe corners
Hope and Future: Innocent Khmer children unknowing of what tragedy occured in their present playground

Russian Market

The Russian Market is not only the place where we ate a surprisingly good breakfast and tried the best iced coffee in Phnom Penh, it’s also where we panic-shopped before our next stop!

Russian Market food section
Young women working as market peddlers
Food tastes like our very own Filipino dishes

And there’s our flag, hung properly
The really happy Mr Bounareth, the famous creator of the best iced coffee in Phnom Penh

Russian Market hours: everyday from 7.00am – 5.00pm

The Independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach)

A symbol of Cambodia’s independence; patterned on a lotus flower bud, adorned with Naga heads (multi-headed cobras) 

The Streets of Phnom Penh

All forms of Cambodian transportation captured in one frame– tuktuk, motorbike, car, bike, and even feet! :p

Phnom Penh was a heartbreaking stop and glimmer of hope in one. It is similar with the Philippines in more ways than one, but totally different as well. It was foreign but it was home.

It was a city-big reminder to appreciate, to be thankful, and to keep moving forward. Maybe that’s how they’ll define the past, the present, and the future.

Gory brutality is not a movie fiction alone. For some time it was their truth.

That fact is a knuckle-knock on our skulls to appreciate our privileged freedom, our flawed couches at home, and the peace that these entail; we are not under a tyranny and we can speak our minds.

In this same place, at another moment, travel reminded me that the world is my hometown. We met families who willingly welcomed us into their home, toured us around, treated us to a feast, and arranged logistics to make our stay as convenient to a family member as possible–even if we were strangers.

We felt loved away from home

Aside from the best tropical fruits, Cambodia and the Philippines have a lot of things in common. Phnom Penh still has a long way to go, maybe even longer than the Philippines, but it is as culturally rich, and as full of hope as my country.

You give much respect to cities and nations like that.

Phnom Penh Travel Tips

  • There is a bus stop before arriving Phnom Penh, in a restaurant. Even if it looks like food is free, it is not. Eat fast if you can. Never mind devouring a local meal here if you’re not keen on a very quick, meh meal. Wait for the destination instead, or munch on really cheap fruits sold in the sidestreets.
  • US Dollars are widely acceptable, so don’t bother looking for a money changer unless you want a real local immersion, or a headache, or both.
  • Do not take the Kumho bus unless desperate. Airconditioning will make you even more desperate, unless we just got lucky.
  • Having said that, book your Mekong Express Limousine (don’t be fooled, it is a bus, sorry to break it :p) in advance. It sells out fast.
  • As in anywhere in Southeast Asia, wear light, modest clothing. It gets hot and humid.
  • We skipped the Killing Fields as it was a long drive, plus traffic, and there is nothing to see, but a field, as advised. So if cramped on time, this may be let go.
  • Bring extra lightweight dufflebag. You might shop. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.
My mini Southeast Asian travelthon companions

And we’re off to one of my bucket list sites, the home of Angkor Wat and the Angelina Jolie-famed temples, Siem Reap next!