Saturday, 9 January 2010

Phnom Penh trip - 9 Jan 10

Woke up at 4 am and feeling like zoombie. We called a cab since it is hard to flag one so early in the morning. We reached Terminal 1 at 5.30am and check in first. Teminal 1 is currently under renovation as some area are sealed up. We had bread which we bought yesterday and had it for breakfast at the transit longue. It is quiet and dim at the transit lounge and we saw some travellers sleeping on the floor.
After having our breakfast, we intend to use the internet access for a while but we saw the screen showing “Last Call” for our flight. Hence we walked at a very fast pace to the gate. Although it’s “Last Call” but after we passed through the security checked and waited for quite some times before boarding the flight.

Our flight departed at 6.50am. As we are sitting on the left side of the plane, we couldn't see the sunrise. When I went to Hong Kong, I sat on the right side and could see the sunrise.

Cambodia Immigration card

Cambodia custom declaration card

The flight is about 2 hr and we reached Phnom Penh at 7.45am (GMT +7).

Reaching Phnom Penh

Although Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh International Airport is the 2nd largest in Cambodia. The largest is Angkor International Airport.

Phnom Penh International Airport

Luckily there is aerobridge at Phnom Penh International Airport. We carry our luggage on board as Jetstar allows 10kg hand carry luggage free of charge. If we checked in our luggage, it would cost S$15 more per pax.


Everyone is required to fill up a health declaration form before entering the arrival hall.

Filling up health declaration forms Queuing to go through health declaration

When going through the immigration counter, everyone is required to look at a black desk lamp structure which I guess is a camera.

There are only 2 baggage carousels at Phnom Penh International Airport. I only saw one duty free shop in the arrival hall. This is a pale comparison to our Changi Airport.

People collecting their luggage
Duty free shop
Arrival hall
Once we stepped out of the arrival hall, we saw our tuk tuk driver Alex carrying a paper with my sis name. He told us to wait here while he get his tuk tuk. While waiting, I saw a signboard "Ministry of Tourism" and thought that we can pick up some maps here, but there was no one manning the desk.

Initially, we were sceptical of taking tuk tuk from the airport to the guesthouse as my sis told me that she read some reviews that tourist luggages got snatch by motorbikes when they are on the tuk tuk. However Alex replied us in the email that he will ensure our luggage safety. We are able to put our luggage underneath the seat at least we are not so scared that our luggage will get snatch. We also carried our bag at the front so that we can keep an eye on it.
It was not very hot when we are on the way to the guesthouse. As the captain of our flight mentioned that the temperature is 24 degree celsius, we were concerned that we did not have enough warm clothes. I bought T-shirts and sleeveless shirts and only one sweater.

On the tuk tuk

On the way to the guesthouse, we told Alex that we want to buy mineral water. He stopped by a shop along the road and my sis alight while I stayed on the tuk tuk to guard our luggage. Three 600ml mineral water cost 3000 Riel ~ S$ 1.
There are a lot of motorcycles on the road and horning is a norm here. This is very similar to Ho Chi Minh City.
Petrol stationChinese TempleWedding celebrationLots of motorcyclesTraffic countdown
Selling newspaper
Coconuts for sale

After half an hour, we reached Nice Guesthouse which we are staying for the next 3 days.
Bicycles for rent
Nice Guesthouse
We were asked to wait for 20 minutes while they clean the room. Hence we waited at the lobby and informed Alex too.

Internet counters

There were no lifts in the Guesthouse and luckily our room is located on the 2nd floor. We asked the receptionist whether there are safebox available and they only have lockers which we are required to purchase our own locks.

Saw the green lockers at the right side
My sis requested for a quiet room as she is afraid that the horns from the cars would disturb our sleep. Although our room is located at the back, it's not quiet at all. The air con vendilation box are outside our room and there is a staff room beside our room.

Hallway to our room at the left
We checked our room whether the aircon and lights are functionable or not. The room is overall considered clean, just that the toilet lock is a bit rusty so we decided to close the toilet door only when we are using it.

Our room
We left our luggage in our room and head to our first destination - The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. The weather is no longer as cold as just now and a bit sorching hot.

Outside Royal Palace

The entrance fee to both Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda is US$6.25/ 25,000 Riel ~ S$8.75. The opening hours is 7.30am – 11am and 2.30pm – 5pm daily. All the attractions except the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are closed for lunch break and varies. It is a culture in Cambodia that there are long lunch break so that the people can take a nap. Visitor are expected to dress decently (no bare legs or shoulders) before entering the compound.

Ticket booth

The Royal Palace was built in 1866 by King Norodom after the capital was moved from Oudong to Phnom Penh and is currently residence of the King of Cambodia.
The Napoleon III Pavilion seems almost out-of-place, sitting like a European-style dollhouse amongst the imposing and distinctly Khmer-style buildings that surround it. The Pavilion was in fact the first permanent structure on the site of the Royal Palace. It was originally built for Empress Eugenie of France, wife of Napoleon III, in 1869 for use in the inauguration of the Suez Canal. It is constructed entirely of iron. In 1876 Emperor Napoleon III made a gift of the building to King Norodom of Cambodia.

Napoleon III Pavilion

The Damnak Chan was constructed in 1953 and currently houses the administrative offices of the Royal Palace.

The Damnak Chan

Hor Samrith Phimean is also know as the ‘Bronze Palace’ which housed a display of royal regalia and costumes on the ground floor.

Hor Samran Phirun
Royal costumes

The Throne Hall (Preah Timeang Tevea Vinicchay) is the primary audience hall of the King, used for coronations and diplomatic and other official meetings. This Throne Hall is the second to be built on this site. The first was constructed of wood in 1869-1870 under King Norodom and was demolished in 1915. The present building was constructed in 1917 and inaugurated by King Sisowath in 1919.
Throne Hall
Restrictions in the throne hall

The Pavilion serves as a venue for the Royal Dancers, as a tribune for the King to address the crowds and as a place to hold state and Royal banquets.

The Chan Chhaya Pavilion

Except Khemarin Palace compound where the present King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihamoni currently resides, the Silver Pagoda compound and the central compound containing the Throne Hall are open to public.

Khemarin Palace compound behind the gate
Students on excursion

A walled walkway separate the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. Upon entering the Silver Pagoda compound, there is a long mural which covered the whole of the compund walls.
The murals were painted in 1903-1904 by a team of students depicting stories from the Reamker, i.e. the Khmer version of the classic Indian epic, the Ramayana.
Ramayana Frescoes
Silver Pagoda ( Wat Preah Keo Morokat ) is also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It is best known as the Silver Pagoda for the 5,329 silver tiles that cover the floor. Each tile was handcrafted and weighs 1.125kg. Visitors are not allowed to take photogragh inside. Only a small area of these tiles are available to be viewed by the public as most of the area are covered with carpet.

Removed shoes before entering Silver Pagoda
We met a French lady who asked us where is the Silver Pagoda without knowing that she just went. That's her finger in the photo.

Silver Pagoda
Statue of HM King Norodom Mural door
Stupa of Princess Kantha Bopha
There is a minature model of Angkor Wat. This is what every Cambodian are proud of. It's a pity that we didnt went this time but nevertheless, I will definitely visit it in the future.
Model of Angkor Wat

The bell is used to signal the opening and closing of the temple and for ceremonies.

Broken arm Buddha
Aircon in the toilet!!!

We skipped the National Museum which is opposite the Royal Palace as we cant appreciate those Khmer artifacts. We head to Killing Fields of Choeung Ek directly. On the way, we passed by the Independence memorial. We did not stop to take photo as we intend to take it later.

Independence memorial (Vimean Ekareach) was built in 1958 following the country's independence from France. It also serves as a memorial to Cambodia’s war dead. It is in the form of a lotus-shaped stupa, of the style seen at the great Khmer temple at Angkor Wat and other Khmer historical sites.

Independence memorial
Car plate in Phnom Penh
Recognise who is this person?
Students going home Students cycling back home
After more than 30min, we reached Choeung Ek Killing Field. The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek is situated 15km from central Phnom Penh. It is opened daily from 7am – 5.30pm. Admission fee is US$2 ~S$2.80.

Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
Ticket booth
Choeung Ek is the site of a former orchard and Chinese graveyard. During the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979, at least 200,000 people were executed by the Khmer Rouge and 17,000 people were executed here. Men, women, infants and children were transported here from Tuol Sleng prison S-21 after being detained and tortured.

A Memorial Stupa, built in 1988, displays the remains of human skulls arranged in age and sex behind glass panels.
Memorial Stupa
Clothes of the victims when the graves were unearthed May they rest in peace

My sister and I bought a stalk of chrysanthemum and incense for 2,000 Riel ~ S$0.70 to pray for the victims.

Stall selling chrysanthemum and incense
17 storeys of skulls and bones
Broken skulls
Mass grave of 166 victims without head
Pieces of bones remained after evacuation after 1980
Please observe silence here

Below is the "magic" tree where a loud speaker which play music loudly is hang to avoid the moan of the victims while they are executed.

The "magic" tree
Children asking for money
A House outside the Choeung Ek Killing Fields
Walking around the dyke at Choeung Ek Killing Fields
Burning rubbish
Clothes wore by the people during the Khmer Rouge
Tuk tuk waiting for their passenger
After spending after half an hour here, we left Choeung Ek Killing Field and head back to Phnom Penh city for lunch. On the way, we asked Alex to stop by the road when we saw bakery selling local snacks. We bought some to try and the fillings are bean paste. We also concluded that the locals like to eat sweet food.

Local snack
We asked Alex to bring us to a place which serves good local food and he bought us to Boddhi Tree Restaurant which is located opposite Tuol Sleng prison. Actually Boddhi Tree is in our recommeded list of restaurant but we wanted to see if Alex would bring us to those local restaurant.
Alfresco area
Interior of the restaurant

As we were not very hungry after eating the snacks, we ordered only 2 dishes. The Amok Curry taste like our Otak. There are only few slice of fish and most are mushroom. The lunch cost US$6.75 ~ S$9.45.
Cambodia rice crepe
Amok Curry
After paying the bills, we went upstair where the washroom is located. Boddhi Tree also provided accomodation and we managed to catch a glimpse of one of the empty room.

Layout of the room

We crossed the road and went to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum also known as S21 (Security Prison 21). The opening hours is 8am-1.30am and 2pm-5.30pm daily and admission charge is US$2~S$2.80.

Formerly a high school, the five buildings of the complex were converted into a prison and interrogation center during the Khmer Rouge. From 1975 to 1979, an estimated 17,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng. At any one time, the prison held between 1,000-1,500 prisoners. They were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates, who were in turn arrested, tortured and killed.

Ticket booth
Inside S21
The rules at S21 during the Khmer Rouge
Please maintain silence

Upon arrival at the prison, prisoners were photographed and required to give detailed autobiographies, beginning with their childhood and ending with their arrest. After that, they were forced to strip to their underwear, and their possessions were confiscated. The prisoners were then taken to their cells.

Photographs of the victims
Iron bars
Barbed wire to prevent escapes
Inmates at the prison were held in tiny brick cubicles and systematically tortured, sometimes over a period of months, to extract the desired ‘confessions’, after which the victim was inevitably executed at the killing field of Choeung Ek.

Brick cubicles
Wood cubicles
Iron bed

The poles were previously used by students for exercise. During the Khmer Rouge, the victims's hand are tied at the back with a rope and is lifted upside down until they lost consciousness. Then their head are dipped into the jar which is filled with smelly and filthy water used as fertilizer for the crops. The victims would regain conscious and continue the interrogation.

Visitors viewing the photos

Out of an estimated 17,000 people imprisoned at Tuol Sleng, there were only twelve known survivors. After visiting Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, I really feel very sad for those victims especially the babies. They are killed together with their parent as the Khmer Rouge are afraid that when the babies are grown up, they would seek revenge. I really dunno why this Pol Pot who is educated would instigate such a genocide in the country. He killed nearly half of the population during that period.

After spending almost 1.5hr there, we head to Russian market. We saw a pushcart selling sugarcane and we wanted to try. Alex treated us and taught us how to eat it. Initially I wanted to bite it but it is too hard and Alex taught me to put the whole sugarcane into my mouth and chew it until all the sugarcane is squeezed dry, then split out the remains.

The Russian Market (Psah Toul Tom Poung) caters more to the tourist. It is called Russian market because of its popularity among Russian expatriates during the 1980s. It is similiar to Ho Chi Minh City Ben Thanh Market but smaller in size. The souveniers shops are located at the south side of the market.
Russian Market
Amazed that this woman can balanced with such a huge plate at the top of her headSouveniersFood and drinks stalls at the center of the market
We only bought some keychains as souveniers. Nothing much to buy as most of the things here are similar to those sold at Ben Than market.

I saw a stall selling kueh and wanted to try but I dunno how to communicate with the lady. I saw other people buying a box of kueh but I only wanted one. In the end, I gave up and left.

Dunno what is this?Do you dare to try?Their wet market Cyclos

We left Russian market and head to Wat Phnom as it is already 4.30pm. The opening hr is 7am – 5.30pm daily. The admission is US$1. The legend of the founding of Wat Phnom is tied to the beginnings of Phnom Penh. Legend has it that in 1372 Lady Penh (Yea Penh) fished a floating Koki tree out of the river. Inside the tree were four Buddha statues. She built a hill (‘phnom’ means ‘hill’) and a small temple (wat) at what is now the site known as Wat Phnom. Later, the surrounding area became known after the hill (Phnom) and its creator (Penh), hence the name of the city ‘Phnom Penh’. The current temple was last rebuilt in 1926.

Ticket booth
Elephant ride
Wat Phnom
View from the hill
Stupa of King Ponhea Yat
Monkeys Big clock at the background Pushcart selling sugarcane

We look for Alex after we finished touring and we could not locate him. We looked around and few tuk tuk driver came forward to ask us whether we want a ride. We ignored them and walked away. We saw someone selling corn and we bought one for 1000 Riel ~ S$0.35.


After we finished our corn, we saw Alex. We suspect that Alex went to pick up other passengers and didnt wait for us. We ask him to go to Camory cookie shop first as we wanted to buy cookies. It is located at 167 Sisowath Quay and opening hrs is from 9am - 8.30pm.

It is a cafe-cum-development project that trains chefs and plows back money into humanitarian causes. The best seller is the Sreh T'nout which is made from a rich combo of chocolate, nuts and palm sugar.

Camory Cookie Boutique

We bought cashew nuts cookies, pineapple tarts and Sreh T'nout. Then we head to the Cambodia Vietnam Monument.

People exercising
Cambodia Vietnam Monument Me & Alex
Independence Monument

Night Market (Phsar Reatrey) opens only on the weekends from 5pm - 9pm. The night market is located in the park between Street 106 and 108 on the riverfront. We told Alex to come back 1hr later as we thought that there are lots of things to see at the night market.

Night Market
Stalls in the night market

We finished the whole night market within half an hour. We felt a bit hungry and wanted to buy some food. There were not many food stalls and most are either selling drinks or fried "yong tau foo". We walked across the road and didnt see any restaurants so we walked back to the night market. We had no choice but to settle for something at the night market as we had agreed with Alex to pick us up one hour later.

You have to pay to measure your weight

We wanted to buy the bamboo glutinous rice but after testing it, the rice is cold and does not taste nice. We bought bean cakes and jelly which cost R1000 ~S$0.38. As we couldnt speak local language and the lady couldnt speak English, we communicate by pointing and using the notes to indcate how much.

Bamboo glutinous rice

Bean cakes & Jelly
US$1 for such a small coconut

We still dun feel full and in the end, we bought the "fried yong tau foo". This plate of food cost 5000 Riel ~S$1.75.

Our dinner
Locals sitting on the mat and enjoy their food
After we finished our food, it's almost time to meet Alex at the entrance. We told him that we wanted to buy mineral water before going back to the hotel. Most of the shops were closed and some streets are quite dark. We reached the hotel around 9pm. We paid Alex US$22.50 ~S$31.50 and gave him US$2 ~S$2.80 tips although we were not so very satisfied with his service on "Wat Phnom" incident.

>>Day 2: 10 Jan 10

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