Friday, October 7, 2011

Phnom Penh Cambodia - Day 1

Our bus to Phnom Penh was to depart from Ho Chi Minh at 645 am so we requested the hotel for an early breakfast. Then we walked to Pham Ngu Lao where the bus terminal was. We were early birds; we were the first ones to board the bus. Other passengers then started coming; we were traveling with a group of students who had attended a football camp in Ho Chi Minh. They were returning to Phnom Penh with their coach. 

The bus ride took about 5½ hours; at one point the bus boarded a ferry to cross a river. We also stopped for a short break at a roadside cafeteria.  Then we were at the Vietnam-Cambodia border.  The bus company took care of immigration and visa processing so it was really very convenient. First we had to go through the Vietnamese immigration, then we walked to the next building where we got our Cambodian visas. I noticed the many new casinos and hotels (some still being built) after we crossed the Cambodian border.

Cambodian border

Newly-built casinos

We arrived at the Phnom Penh bus terminal shortly after noon. The terminal was situated near the Central Market. When we saw the marketplace, the variety of merchandise attracted us like magnets.  We ended up buying lots of souvenirs even before we had checked in at the hotel. Loaded with our overnight bags and the newly bought items, we hailed a tuktuk and headed for the Silver River Hotel.

Central Market

After unloading our stuff and freshening up a bit, we were ready to hit the streets again. Based on the maps we had downloaded from Google, the places we wanted to see were within walking distance. Wat (temple) Ounalom was right down the street from the hotel so that’s where we started. 

Wat Ounalom

Our “places to see” list also included the National Museum, the Royal Palace, the National Assembly, Wat Botum, the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship monument and the Independence monument. During our walk there were tuktuk drivers offering to take us on a city tour; we declined all offers. There was this one guy who was very, very persistent; he followed us around on his tuktuk for several blocks but eventually quit. I guess the maps we downloaded were not that updated; many street names did not match. We had lots of misses (no, we really did not get lost) but we continued walking anyway and got to see other interesting buildings and landmarks that were not on our list.

The persistent tuktuk driver

National Museum

Plaza in front of the Royal Palace

Royal Palace

National Assembly

Wat Botum
Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument

Independence Monument

Other places of interest

We stopped at Vego Salad Bar for a snack and to rehydrate (it was very hot and sunny). We were actually looking for a vegetarian restaurant that was on our itinerary but found this place instead; we were not disappointed. After the meal, we were once again ready to go. This time we hailed a tuktuk to take us to the Russian market which was quite a distance away. Apparently it was already closing time so most of the shops had ended their business for the day; there were only a few street stalls that were still open.

Back at the hotel we indulged in a Khmer massage. Aaaahhhh, we deserved it after the day’s travel and all that walking.

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