Monday, October 27, 2014

Phnom Pehn, Cambodia : Travel Spots to Visit

After a year of no new travels aside from our regular trips between Manila and Singapore, Paul and I finally got back to our yearly travel routine. Yahoo!

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Normanton Kids in Cambodia
A few months ago, we joined the NKids for our first ever out of the country trip to Cambodia! Planning started months in advance where C and I took charge of researching and coordinating with our very reliable tour guide David. It was a 5 days trip where we flew to Phnom Pehn and headed directly to Siem Reap where we spent 3 wonderful days and later went back to Phnom Pehn again for a full day before flying back to Singapore. With David handling all the on-ground logistics, this has made our itinerary so smooth flowing and totally stress-free. 

This is the start of my Cambodia Travel Series where I shall tell you about the different sites that we were able to visit around Phnom Penh

For most of my readers who probably have read my past travel entries, you may have noticed that I'm more of a cosmopolitan-loving traveler. Indeed, the term "roughing it" is not really part of my travel vocabulary. I prefer staying in nice, comfy hotel rooms, enjoying a number of good meals and appreciating the sights and sounds of the bustling city. So, when we began planning for this particular trip, I have to admit that I was somehow bracing myself for the physical challenge that awaits us. Well, I survived and I'm mighty proud of it! 

As soon as we landed in Phnom Penh, I was really impressed with the airport. To be honest, I wasn't really expecting much from a country that has recently just gained its independence not so long ago. The Phnom Penh International Airport was very clean, it smells amazing and the service was efficient. How I wish that NAIA will someday be like this too. *sigh*

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We met our driver Sim who was so helpful and kind. He brought us to our first stop which was the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center a.k.a. The Killing Field. This was where we had our first lesson about Cambodia's history which happened not so long ago (1975). 

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A ticket costs $3 and you'll receive an audio guide spoken in the language of your choice. All you have to do is to follow the number per stop and press this on the player to hear the narration about it. I don't want to ruin the experience for you but this stop taught me a lot about the terrible and rather gruesome past of Cambodia. It's really terrible to hear how millions of people were massacred in this place and mind you, this is just one of many killing fields in Phnom Penh. 

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For instance, this particular tree was where millions of babies and women were killed. You can just imagine how they were tortured and murdered here. This was probably where I really felt my heart breaking as I listened to the sad narration about this specific spot.

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Right in the middle, there's tall memorial which was built. You can see hundreds or maybe thousands of skulls in there. We were told that there are still many broken bones scattered around and these normally becomes more visible when it rains and the soil moves. Collection of these bones and remains are still ongoing till this day. 

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Aside from Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, we also visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum a.k.a. S-21. This used to be one of the bigger prison camp where intellects, artists, rich individuals and even common workers where brought to. Before victims were killed in the Killing Fields, they were detained here. I have to say that walking around this abandoned high school turned prison camp gave me the chills. We even saw blood marks still evident on some of the cell floors! Creepy!

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I really can't believe how sad and traumatic Cambodia's history was. Truly, no one was exempted. We saw photos of young boys and girls up until the elderly. Everyone was captured, definitely no one was spared. Another heartbreaking stop.

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Among the thousands detained in this prison, there were only 12 (yes t-w-e-l-v-e) survivors. We met two of the survivors who were actually in Tuol Sleng that day, Chum Mey and Bou Meng.

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They both wrote their memoirs and were present to meet visitors like us. I honestly had mixed emotions upon seeing them. Of course, I was surprised and happy that they have survived such a harsh, inhumane regime and yet, I can't stop thinking about the awful things that they went through during that time.

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We were all feeling so down and affected with these two heartbreaking stops that we felt it was time for some quick retail therapy to lift our spirits up again. Our next stop was the Central Market. Located right at the center of the city, you won't miss this huge golden complex that houses probably hundreds of stalls selling jewelry, food, clothes, household products, souvenirs, and more!

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If you're the type who loves to bargain shop then this is definitely the place for you! I saw a couple of nice souvenirs here which are reasonably priced and they got really cheap household items too like bathroom organizers, tissue holders and more. I'm not so crazy about the food sold here though. If you have a weak tummy, maybe just skip it.

There you go! We just had a full day and a half in Phnom Penh and here are the three spots that we were able to visit. I purposely skipped the Royal Palace though as I got a number of lukewarm comments about it.

Currency Tip: You can pay using US Dollars in Cambodia. I actually recommend for you to do that as most (if not all) of the meals and commodities are priced in USD. Though, you will probably get Khmer Riel as change. Make sure to use this first so that you won't be left with a lot on your last day since it will be harder to change back to USD. 

Flying to Phnom Penh, Cambodia is a breeze! A number of budget airlines such as Tiger Airways, Cebu Pacific, Jetstar and SilkAir have regular flights at least 3 times a week.

To avail of shuttle and tour guide service, contact Sovann David at

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