Monday, 12 January 2009

Phnom Penh

We'd heard that the architecture in Phnom Penh is very interesting, so we decided to follow an architecture tour which we found on the internet. There were many beautiful buildings and some downright ugly ones, ranging from the start of the 20th century to the present time. The highlight was the enormous Central Market, built in 1938.

The National Museum and Independence Monument were also striking, in a more traditional style.

Along the walk, we also saw a fine example of preserved road kill, and a man using a motorbike as a bed.

Fortunately, the streets of the tour were relatively quiet. Walking across roads in Phnom Penh is very dangerous. Traffic comes from every direction. People don't drive on the left, like in the UK, or the right, like in Finland. They drive on the left and the right. How there aren't more head-on collisions is a miracle. But somehow the traffic flows. We saw somebody getting a ticket from the police – probably for obeying a green light!

In the evening, we were lucky enough to meet three very friendly Cambodian men – Kimley, Kun and Khoen – at a street side eatery. Kimley spoke excellent English, and we discussed border relations with Thailand, and the value different cultures place on time verses money. Every 10 minutes or so, it was customary for everyone to chink glasses. Our evening meal consisted of beef-on-volcano, thin strips of beef which you cook yourself over a charcoal burner.

The other night, we tried 'soup chnnang dei' – a cook-your-own-soup very similar to Chinese hot pot. A litre-bowl of base soup with bones and beef bubbled away on what looked like a camping stove. Extra vegetables, eggs and crispy sheets of something were added to taste and plucked out once they were cooked. Every so often, the base soup would be topped up. It looked like it had snowed in the restaurant, as the customers had discarded the white tissues on the floor once finished.

We're catching a bus to Siem Reap tomorrow. This will be our base for a few days as we visit Angkor Wat.