We didn’t have the best arrival in Phnom Penh. There was a fair amount of traffic on the outskirts of the city and Molly had reached meltdown point nearing the end of the three hour drive. The taxi driver could only stop in a congested part of the road away from the hotel and as I clambered out holding Molly and some of our bags $40 fell out of my pocket without me noticing. Marcus made me feel even worse about the situation which didn’t help proceedings! A little time apart, a venture to soft play equals a fresh start. The soft play was in a tall building called Kids City with a different zone on each floor; laser tag, go karts, science/discovery, climbing walls etc – fortunately Molly was only big enough for the toddler world! I can see how parents could end up spending a fortune here!
We decided to head to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda on our first full day. The weather was scorching, I had to wear trousers and a t-shirt (no shorts/vests allowed) and within minutes we were sweating. Once we arrived we realised it was ridiculously expensive to get in and the full sun was doing nothing for Molly. We cut our losses and headed back to the hotel by Tuk Tuk where we could strip off, nap and restart the day. The Grand Palace in Thailand awaits!
We took another Tuk Tuk to Wat Phnom, a beautiful Buddhist temple north of where we’re staying. It resides on Phnom Penh’s only ‘hill’ – fun carrying the buggy up all of the steps!! We came across more monkeys much to Molly’s happiness. These ones were cheeky and attacked a couple of passing tourists!
We walked south along the unimpressive river stopping off at the gaudy Wat Ounalum – so much gold – I loved it!
We cooled off in the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club), one of my favourite bars so far! The staff flocked towards Molly and they all wanted to serve us. Before we had even ordered our drinks, a sliced apple was given to her and she sat so happily munching away – it was incredibly restful and great to enjoy the view of the all the goings on at street level and gave us a chance to take in all of the famous photographs inside.
We jumped straight into the pool on our return – for once I was the first one in – too, too hot today!
Marcus found a great Japanese in the Bassac district. It was super cool and very hip – perhaps not the most Molly friendly of places as the chucked chop sticks around and managed to turn the lights off in the whole restaurant!! We soon made a move after polishing off some delicious gyozas (as food is SO expensive in Cambodia we were unable to beat our PB of 60 gyozas in one sitting like in Kyoto!).
We walked to Tuol Sleng early in the morning to take advantage of Molly’s first nap. When planning the trip I thought Marcus and I would visit these historic sites solo and leave Molly with each other, however she’s been so well behaved (most of the time) and if we time things correctly she’s easily portable and we can hide her with the sun shade/let her sleep through anything we don’t want her seeing.
Tuol Sleng was once a high school, when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 they turned it into a secret torture prison and interrogation centre. We listened to the informative yet harrowing audio guide as we walked around the buildings where unfathomable atrocities took place. There were only 7 survivors, two of which were there on the day we visited selling their books.
Our next stop was Choeung Ek, the killing fields. We passed on the audio guide and instead made our way around slowly taking in the mass graves and the central memorial dedicated to the hundreds and thousands of people who were so brutally murdered.
Back in the city we stopped for another mediocre lunch, gristly chicken anyone?! Molly certainly wasn’t impressed and decided to kick off. Neither of us could pacify her, in stepped the waitress who calmed her down straight away and took her on a tour of the bar and showed her off to the kitchen staff – I’m tempted to go back and ask whether she wants to move in with us?!
We stopped at the Russian market to buy a holdall as the cot bag has got a couple of holes and we’re not sure how many more flights it can handle. Marcus was incredibly impressed with my haggling!
We finished the day with some tasty ice cream and more Japanese for dinner – a different restaurant this time – far more Molly friendly and a lot more authentic!! ARIGATOU GOZAIMASU!!
I can’t quite put my finger on whether Phnom Penh has impressed me or not. It’s certainly a city of two halves with extreme poverty and affluence. There doesn’t really seem to be a central hub and I fear it lacks a little in atmosphere.
Our final stop in Cambodia is next where I’m eagerly anticipating exploring Angkor Wat and the neighbouring temples. Fingers crossed they live up to the hype and my expectations!!