The SIAMPEDIA Expedition to Cambodia – Phnom Penh today

Written by Frank on September 18th, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

 

From 1863 until 1953 Cambodia was suppressed as a part of the French Indochina colony, they tried to force their alphabet and language on them as well, but to no avail. Today’s Cambodians are eager to learn English to communicate with the world and only die-hard old timers still use French to a small extend. Signage for roads and important things are in Khmer and English, just projects the french taxpayer dish out some dough for are left sometimes in the former oppressor’s language.

This project deals with a much needed renovation of the Psar Thmei or Central Market building, no one really calls it Marché Central . French manipulations led to major wars towards the end of their colonial oppression in almost any country they set their feet into.

Psar Thmei is one of the liveliest markets in the capital of Cambodia.

Motodups or Motos handle a large percentage of the individual traffic in Phnom Penh, they have replaced the pedal powered cyclos and are ever present anywhere, note the extended seat on the red bike, they are built to carry two paying passengers.

Cyclos are still to be spotted around the bigger markets (for locals) and near Sisowath Quay along the Tonle River promenade after dark. Their charges for tourists are largely inflated and they are not really safe to ride in, being traffic obstacles almost everywhere.

Most markets have a wide variety of goods, often second hand shoes or garments nest to food stuffs or veggies.

The Royal Palace and Silver Pagodas are quite a sight to see.

The area near the river Tonle (also called Bassac) meeting the Mekong is one picturesque area any time of the day, the green grass strip in the picture below is the dividing piece of land between the Mekong (in the back) and the Tonle River coming from the huge Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia’s natural wonder. In the rainy season, the higher levels of the Mekhong drain some watermasses into the Tonle Sap, in dry season, the flow reverses and the Tonle Sap feeds the lower Mekong with massive amounts of water. The day of the reversal is celebrated big time and coincides with a national holiday in Cambodia.

A lot of neat monuments and gathering spots have been erected, where they were ruins and dust pits before. The city is exceptionally pretty now in certain areas. We toured our hearts out and enjoyed every single minute of it. I consider the traffic manageable. Then again, Tunis or Cairo in Northafrica or Jakarta and Manila over here have much denser traffic.

The Cambodian Independence Monument is surely one of their most treasured ones. It celebrates their independence and freedom of the french rule. You can find it on the intersection of Sihanouk Boulevard and Norodom Boulevard, just a few 100 m south of the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. To the east of it, there is a large park, the roundabout right at it is heavily frequented by traffic, the shot here was sheer luck.

Theres good food to be had for every taste now, the street food often has tasty surprises. Make sure it is well cooked or grilled. Public toilets are a big void.

Beers, Booze and Bargirls are cheap in Cambodia, some other types of travelers enjoy the hotel bars or plenty of alternative locations around town. We had a 24 hour joint just in our hotel – this city really never sleeps:

There are all kinds of entertainment venues. Karaokes, girlie bars and regular bars are so plentiful these days, here are a few of the famous ones:

This one sports a disco plus bar and eatery, one of the older establishments in Phnom Penh:

A plentytude of modern neon lights and LED powered screens with animations are to be found across town, perhaps the most visible sign of a city improvement for the traveler during night hours, besides the much better surfaced roads.

The Psar Thmey is the focal point of most transport activities. Here or near here, most bus lines start or end and almost all private taxis, pickups and minivans hang around, waiting for passengers to fill or overfill their vehicles. Common practice in Cambodia is to sell the passenger seat twice and the bench of those old Camry’s to no less than four paying passengers. This is the rule of thumb for a shared taxi. Minivans appear often in a sorry shape, but their capacities are stretched by far. Usually some boards or a room door in the back under the open rear door, increases their capacities for any cargo, human or not.

The cheapest form of transportation is being offered by pickup trucks. Big rolls of carpet, cement, motorbikes, building materials, foodstuffs, once this thing is loaded to the brim – the human passengers board on top of it all!

My ride with a good friend on top of a load from Poipet to Battambang a while back was documented here:

Khmertrip – Stage 2: Poipet to Battambang

For us the time came to move on to the village of Tani in Kampot province, where we planned to visit a friend and his interesting projects. Only 100 km away to the Southwest and closer to the Gulf of Thailand, our friend and his family were running a small farm and so much more.

 

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