After crossing the border coming in from Viet Nam via the Mekong River, our first stop in Cambodia was the Capitol city of Phnom Penh. We only stayed there for a couple nights on our way to Siem Reap and I have to admit that at the time, we didn’t have the heart to visit any of the “killing fields” from the time of the Pol Pot regime.
We did spend half a day visiting the Royal Palace complex and it was extremely impressive.
We stayed at the legendary FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club.) While the Phnom Pehn FCC is not a membership club for journalists as many of the other FCC properties in Asia were, it did serve as a meeting place for working journalists in years gone by.
In addition to a comfortable 2nd floor bar with terrific views over the Tonle Sap river (and overpriced cocktails), the FCC houses a small (9-room) hotel with stylish rooms. It is not the luxury property that the FCC Angkor is but the room we had was full of charm and we did enjoy the experience.
Our best meal in Phnom Penh was at frizz, a small place just up the street featuring Cambodian dishes. (Editor’s note: frizz has since moved to a location behind the Royal Palace.)
As is the case with most visitors to Cambodia, our real purpose of this visit was the chance to see the Angkor Wat Temple Complex so we set about arranging transportion to Siem Reap. There are several options for travel there from Phnom Penh. One of the cheapest is by bus. Another inexpensive option is by ferry down the Tonle Sap River (and lake.) A number of local travel agents organize trips in mini-vans as well. We decided to hire a taxi for the 4-hour drive at a one way cost of roughly $45 USD. It was an interesting drive and a good exposure to a little bit of the local life.
Our driver drove like a Wild Banshee. He didn’t bother waiting for oncoming traffic to clear before passing and we sometimes found ourselves 3 abreast on a narrow 2-laned road. He stayed on the horn constantly whenever we could see another car or pedestrians. We later found out that honking the horn is the major defense for any traffic accident.
Along the way we observed water buffalo and other farm animals walking unattended along side and sometimes in the roadway. We saw tarps spread out on the side of the road covered with rice drying in the sun. In one area were a row of small factories where bricks, which were very similar to some we saw uncovered in ancient ruins, were being made by hand. Nearby the factories we saw makeshift restaurants complete with tarp shaded hammocks ready to serve the factory workers.
Somehow we made it to Siem Reap without any major incidents (or accidents).
Click here to read more about that first visit to Siem Reap.