14 June 2012

Old woman Penh

Let me dwell a little more on Phom Penh, while it is fresh in my memory. While there are no Khmer temples here to visit, there is still a good amount of sites to see and explore, besides finding a better Hotel than the Frangipani Fine Arts Hotel ;-)

All the tourist sites are listed in guide books and web sites and we did of course visit them as well. We used the city as a base to go out to Khmer sites and ancient places, which we will cover in their own blogs. But we absolutely loved Sambor Prei Kuk site, Phnom Udong mountain and specially Phnom Chisor sites and the whole area around Tonle Bati lake and Ta Prohm site.

Phnom Penh city was a bit too chaotic for my taste, specially the traffic and the street vendors got onto my nerves, though having my tour guide to fend them off really helped. I found the city far more expensive than Siem Reap though. Making it across the streets alive was a real challenge as pedestrians seem to have no rights whatsoever. The traffic was dominated by very expensive and very big SUV's, which were used as weapons on the opposite side of the road, with flashing lights and hunking horns. Phnom Penh also appeared to have the highest number of Toyota Prius Hybrid cars I have seen so far, which was a bit surprising given that Cambodia is one of the poorest countries.

Silver Pagoda
Must see's were the Royal Palace and specially the Silver Pagoda with all it's awesome Buddha images. While photos can be taken outside the buildings, there is no photography allowed inside the Silver Pagoda. Some of the most important images are covered in a very good, yet very bad quality book, which is available for sale in the Royal Palace stores.  There is also a good size replica of Angkor Wat behind the Silver Pagoda.  

Wat Phnom
We did also visit a good amount of local monasteries, which with a few exceptions, turned out to be very disappointing. Most were really dirty, filled with litter and filled with people who lived in the temples. Something we had never seen before. Whole families with kids going about their daily life, in the middle of a temple. It was different on the opposite side of the Mekong river, but most of the Phnom Penh temples seemed to be "living temples". Wat Phnom, the temple on the hill was a nice place of worship and prayer though and we also were positively surprised by the Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Center in Udong and the Sway Chroom Pagoda on the other side of the Mekong.

National Museum
The National Museum is filled with information and statues related to all the Khmer temples we have visited before and which were still on our list to visit. I personally found the National Museum in Siem Reap better in terms of presentation but the pieces shown here are just awesome. Going through the museum with all it's detail takes time and we took plenty of time since those pieces here where the originals of all the copies we usually see in the Khmer temples in the country. Unfortunately there is absolutely no photography allowed inside the museum :-(

S21 prison and Killing Fields where two sites, which every tourist visits and they both were some of the saddest places I have ever visited. Since it is part of the Khmer culture, I will probably do a separate blog on them because I learned a lot about the Red Khmer's disrespect of their own history and the deliberate destruction of Khmer temples and artifacts.

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