More Phnom Penh

Still in the city of Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

I am in a semi-big city again. I figure it would be a good time to try my luck again at finding yoga pants for my upcoming yoga retreat. I wander around town by foot trying to use and using up my precious data for google maps to find a place to shop. I end up at a high end mall in the basement of a casino where I STILL CANNOT FIND YOGA PANTS. But the place is air conditioned and a nice place to use the bathroom. I give up on the yoga pants. Maybe some place in Bali should have some I can buy??

*Trigger Warning : Genocide

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

I won’t go into a history lesson but if you aren’t familiar with the Khmer Rouge and the 1970s please google it. It wasn’t widely discussed in my school. I am just familiar with it because as an adult I am a curious reader and read the book First They Killed My Father. From the book I was curious to learn more so I watched history programs and read things on the internet.

Basically during the late 1970’s the Communist Party of Kampuchea government under the direction of Pol Pot systematically killed close to 2 million people. Many were killed in what is called “The killing fields” (there is a famous movie by the same name which I also saw a long time ago). As a visitor you can visit the killing fields and I heard it is very emotional. I chose not to visit because I did not feel comfortable going there. I did however visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former jail where many prisoners were held, questioned and tortured.

I took audio tour with very detailed stories. It was sad and very painful to listen to.

The final rooms of the tour contain pictures of those detained and tortured in the facility (I took no photos of these).

Very small cells

I think the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is an important visit in Phnom Penh not to glamorize the location but for us as humans to understand what horrors can happen if tyrannical governments are left unchecked. The 1970’s were not too long ago in the grand scheme of time.

Cambodia River Cruise

To lighten up the end of my trip I booked a sunset river cruise along the area where the Mekong meets the Tonle Sap River.

It is a nice a peaceful way to end my trip to Cambodia. There is of course so much I didn’t see so I hope some day to return.

Phnom Penh

Aspara dance

To get to Phnom Penh I take a small plane of the same airline I took into Cambodia. It is a short flight and the experience isn’t quite as bad as when set out to arrive in the country.

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia. The capital feels more contemporary and does not have all the ancient temples like Siem Reap. Also famous is that it was the capital of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s, the group responsible for horrific genocide. My stop in Phnom Penh is short and I just get a slight feel for the city.

I book a decent but affordable hotel near the Royal Palace (which I end up not visiting). Lately I make sure I book a place with a pool since it is a requirement anymore for traveling during these hot times.

Villa Grange

I decide against visiting the Royal Palace right away because of the heat and it proves to be a bad decision because it seems to be my only opportunity because of two reasons: missing the limited opening hours on my other free day and the unfortunate death of a Cambodian princess which had many things shut down – including alcohol service at restaurants (I awkwardly found out when trying to get a cocktail at a restaurant and they refused to serve me alcohol. I am a little confused until somebody explained it to me on the table nearby).

The princess Norodom Bopha Devi is famous for helping revive traditional Apsara dance (unique style dance with intricate hand movements) after it is almost destroyed during the horrific time of Khmer Rouge.

I fortunately booked an evening to see Apsara dance at Cambodian Living Arts.

Churning of the ocean of milk
Apsara dance

Here are some short clips of that dance performance:

Siem Reap lonely birthday

Today is my birthday and I am still in Siem Reap Cambodia. I am alone and inexplicably sad. I mostly don’t mind my alone time but today I am down in the dumps. To cheer myself up I try some some back home normalcy. I google a nearby cafe that has brunch dishes. Brunch sounds like a great way to treat myself. I order french toast at Sister Srey Cafe.

After a “taste of home” style brunch I head back to my hotel room because 1. It is another hot day and 2. Still don’t have motivation to do anything. I guess it is normal after all this traveling to take days off but it always comes with guilt – what am I missing out on seeing by taking this day off.

Back in my room I check social media for glimpses of back home and watch some movies on netflix.

I get a call from the hotel staff making sure I am ok since I did not come down to breakfast. I find it odd but charming that they are looking out for me. I tell them I am ok but had breakfast elsewhere this morning. A few minutes later there is a knock at my door.

It is the hotel staff with a plate of birthday fruit and balloons. They planned to surprise me with this at breakfast but I wasn’t there. It is the sweetest thing ever and not at all expected. I spend my time watching movies and now chowing down on yummy fruit.

I go to the pool again for a little bit but then decide I must go out for a drink or two on my birthday, even if I am doing it alone.

I head down to pub street again and find a cute little cocktail bar Miss Wong Cocktail Bar. I order a cocktail and dim sum then wander around some more.

I head back toward my hotel when some horrible karaoke singing catches my ear. I could use another drink so I sit down at the bar with some extremely drunk american expats and tourists. I learn all about the art of living in Cambodia as an American (visa runs and all). One guy is getting too uncomfortably friendly for my taste so I head out after a drink or two, besides I head to Phnom Penh in the morning. Not too terrible a day though considering I started out in a sour mood….

Drunk karoake. No I did not participate.

Siem Reap Dinner

Banana Pancake

After my long day of sightseeing I catch dinner around the corner at The Christa Restaurant & Bar where I get to try Cambodian style curry. It is quite good.

Khmer Curry with chicken.

I call it an early night.

Next Day

I could do another day of sightseeing today but I instead choose to stay close to my hotel.

I start the day at the breakfast buffet at the hotel. They missed me yesterday since I woke up so early to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

I am exhausted from the heat and traveling so I book a massage through my hotel and because it is Cambodia it is very affordable. The female masseuse comes to my room. We don’t speak each other’s language which doesn’t matter too much except I want to make sure she doesn’t do any back/hand/whatever cracking like what happened in Thailand. I try to communicate this in mime and not sure she understands but fortunately my massage had no cracking and was just what I needed.

Afterwards I decide to take advantage of the pool. It is small but only enhabited by two others who don’t stay long. The laps I do are refreshing but once I get my fill I decide I need to go try to find yoga pants for my yoga retreat I have scheduled in about a week. Unfortunately I am a terrible shopper in my home country and even worse in a foreign country. I cannot find yoga pants. It is hot so I give up.

I spend the evening exploring pub street instead.

I settle on a restaurant with balcony seating where I get to try Fish Amok at Traditional Khmer Food Restaurant. The balcony over looks a narrow alley with stores and other restaurants. Not a ton of foot traffic but it keeps me sort of entertained while I eat.

Fish Amok (fish with traditional Cambodian curry made lemongrass, chilli, coconut milk and amok “ngor” leaves, served in banana leaf)
Shrimp appetizer

Tomorrow is my birthday and I have nothing planned. I decide I need to go back to my room and make some sort of plans for tomorrow.

pub street area

Angkor Small Circuit: Ta Prohm

The second most popular temple in Siem Reap Cambodia is the Angkor Ta Prohm temple. It is the second to the last temple I see during my two day temple extravaganza.

Ta Prohm is impressive for its size and the beautiful trees growing in and out of the ruins. It is also the temple from the famed movie Tomb Raider (which I still have not seen). As it is a highly anticipated and popular temple and I try to not let other rude guests ruin my experience. My patience is really challenged here because people are especially inconsiderate at this temple. I even caught myself scolding others for their inconsideration (not my best moment but sometimes you have to stand up for yourself as a solo traveler). Despite the drama it is a lovely temple. I highly recommend this 12-ish century temple.

Look at those trees!

The temple is mostly preserved as it was found but there are some repairs in progress above.