A Cambodian Christmas - Phnom Penh & Kampot

Dec 29, 2010

Hey all! We left Phu Quoc at 8.45am on Christmas Eve and after a full day travelling we arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, at 7.15pm. The journey was long and we were shattered when we arrived but the journey was fine (they played King Kong followed by Vietnam Idol on the TV - Jimmy was engrossed in his current read ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ the whole way) and the border crossing in to Cambodia was easy and hassle free (it was a nightmare when we entered Cambodia from Thailand in 2006 so it was a pleasant surprise). After arriving we got a Tuk-Tuk to our boutique hotel (we treated ourselves for Christmas) and then we went to a local restaurant for some dinner. Ordering our food proved very tricky as none of the staff spoke English but we had a gorgeous meal with a couple of Angkor beers each and it only cost us $6! Bargain!

We woke up late on Christmas day and had breakfast at our hotel. It was a bit of a weird experience as there were no Christmas presents or decorations or the usual Christmas bits and bobs but we were determined to make the day as Christmasy as possible. We got a Tuk-Tuk in to the city centre for an explore and we stumbled upon a chocolatiers so as it was Christmas, we bought a selection of chocolates and truffles and scoffed the lot with iced coffees! We were desperate for a Christmas dinner and after doing a spot of searching we found a restaurant overlooking the Mekong that was doing roast turkey with all the trimmings for $9 per head. We enjoyed our dinner with a glass of wine (our first wine since starting our trip) and it was lovely (- it wasn’t as good as yours though mum!). After our lunch we headed back to our hotel to get ready for a sunset cruise that we were invited to by some friends that we made in Laos (thanks Gill & Kev!). The cruise was loads of fun (60 people on our boat) and after watching the sunset with copious amounts of booze, we were dropped off at a bar called Snowy’s (Jimmy & I were well on our way). We danced and drank there for a few hours and then headed to a restaurant for some rice and bony chicken to soak up some of the alcohol before we headed to another bar called Chilli Blue which had a drag queen show on. We watched the drag queens dancing on the bar miming (very badly) to Western tracks whilst enjoying cocktails and having a boogie before we headed back to our hotel at around 1am. It was a really fun day! We woke up late on Boxing day with rather sore heads so we had some breakfast and then went back to bed and watched Home Alone (obligatory Christmas movie). We forced ourselves to get up in the afternoon and we headed in to the harbour for a late lunch at the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC). We both had fish & chips (Amazing!) and then we went to the Sorya Shopping Mall to kill a few hours. We found a great place there (Snow Yoghurt) where we had frozen yoghurts and then we went back to our hotel to call our families via Skype and then we watched Toy Story 3 in bed before getting an early night.

The following day we decided to check out the sights. We started by going to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek which was a really sobering experience. In 1975 the Khmer Rouge attempted to transform Cambodia into a peasant-dominated country by radical and brutal means. The population was forced to march into the countryside and work as slaves and anyone who was deemed an intellectual (and their entire family) was exterminated in secret. The Killing Fields are where the intellectuals and their families were brought to be murdered and at the Choeung Ek site more than 20,000 people were murdered. There is a memorial stupa at Choeung Ek that displays more than 8000 skulls of victims and as you walk around the site you can still see the clothes and bones of victims that have come up during the rainy seasons. The Khmer Rouge rule was brought to an end by the Vietnamese in January 1979 but during their rule they murdered over 2 million Cambodian people which was more than a third of the population at the time. There are other Killing Fields throughout Cambodia and Jimmy and I both left the Choeung Ek site feeling shocked and upset. Our next stop was the National Museum which houses the world’s best collection of Angkor-era sculptures and Khmer artwork. There were loads of statues and artifacts to see but we walked around the museum in a bit of a daze due to our morning at Choeung Ek. In the evening we had quayside drinks and then a really delicious Khmer meal - Amok fish & Loc Lac beef. We left Phnom Penh for the town of Kampot yesterday (28th December). Our bus left at 9.30am and we were due to arrive in Kampot at 1.30pm but our bus broke down three times during the journey and we eventually arrived in Kampot at 4.30pm. We checked in to our guest house ($6 per night) and then headed out to look around the town. Kampot is a small riverside town with lots of crumbling old French buildings and it’s famous for its pepper. The people here have been the chattiest and happiest we’ve come across so far which adds to the towns charm. After a mooch about town we had dinner at a restaurant that was recommended in our Lonely Planet but the food was really disappointing so we decided to treat ourselves to some cocktails (Pina Coladas and Pimms) at a riverside bar. Today we’ve had a lazy day chilling in Kampot. We had a beautiful breakfast at Epic Arts Café (a tomato, cheese, Khmer sausage and mango chutney open-sandwich in Kampot pepper bread), we’ve had numerous iced coffees and tonight we’re heading to a gorgeous restaurant called Rikitikitavi which looks Amazing! Tomorrow morning we’re getting the bus to Sihanoukville and then a boat to Koh Rong Samloem where we’re spending five nights. We can’t wait as we’ve heard its paradise; the island only has one resort on it with thirteen bungalows so it should be paradise!

Hope you’re well and you enjoyed your Christmas. There’s no internet on Koh Rong Samloem so Happy New Year!