Sunday, 10 January 2010

Phnom Penh trip - 10 Jan 10

We woke up at 6.30am (Singapore time 7.30am) as we had booked a day tour with Bon Voyage and agreed that the taxi driver would pick us up at 7.30am. Our taxi driver Narith was waiting for us at the lobby when we came down. We told him that we wanted to buy mineral water first and my sis pointed the bottle to him as she thought that his English is not very good. To our surprise, his English is reasonably well, he could converse in English without much difficulty.
He dropped us at a convenience store and we bought 3 bottles of 1.5 litre mineral water and we also bought one 600ml mineral bottle for Narith too. From my opinion, it doesnt cost us much and at the same time it also shows our good gesture.

We told Narith that we havent eat our breakfast and ask him to recommend us what to eat for breakfast. He stopped by a road side stall selling baguettes. This is my 2nd time eating baguette. The first time was in Ho Chi Minh hotel and the baguette was not nice, so I had some reservation eating this time.

I chose sardines for the fillings and my sis chose ham. The 2 baguettes cost R7000 ~ S$2.45. 2 small packet of local salad was given complimentary. The baguette is yummy as it is very crispy. I tried the salad and it is a bit sour.
Narith was very kind to let us eat the baguette inside his car and we tried not to dirty his car when eating.

Baguette stall

Ham baguette

Today we are heading to four places - Phnom Da, Phnom Chisor, Prasat Neang Khmao and Ta phrom Temple. Our first destination is Phnom Da which is located in Takeo province. During the wet season, Phnom Da can only be reached by boat. Although it would be fastest to Phnom Da by boat from Angkor Borei, it cost USD25 to rent the whole boat. We chose to travel by car as we wanted to save cost.

Most of the visitors who visits Angkor Wat would normally only spend about a day or two at Phnom Penh, hence they seldom visit the places mentioned above as they are already temple "burn out".

On the way, Narith went to pump petrol and asked us to pay him US$20 first. At first, we were sceptical about this as we scared that at the end of the day, he still collect US$60 from us. I double checked with him and confirmed that later we only pay him US$40. Although this day trip cost us US$60 ~ S$84, Narith only earns US$50 and US$10 is given to the travel agency Bon Voyage which recommends him. Narith told us that his actual earnings is only US$30 after deducting US$20 for petrol.

We chatted on a lot of things, asking him about the culture and custom in Cambodia. He told us about his family background and how they survived the Khmer Rouge regime. His mother has 12 children but 4 sons and 4 daughters died during the Vietnam war and Khmer Rouge regime. After hearing this, I feel really very sad for his family. At the same time, I also feel very blissful that I am born in Singapore and never encounter these. It is also very interesting when Narith told us that the Cambodians also have Ching Ming Festival.

So many people
The seat belt is automatic
So dusty
The leaves become red due to the sand
Diluted petrol
Uneven road
Low visibility
Kampong house
We reached a place where people can board boat to Phnom Da. Narith stopped here as we told him that we wanted to go to the toilet. However there were no petrol station along the way so he stopped here. We went to someone's home who is running a small stall to relieve ourselves. This local is kind to let us use his house toilet even though we didnt bought anything from him.
A place to take boat
White cows
Padi field

After 3hr of long and bumpy journey, we reached Phnom Da. Narith asked a local teenage boy to guide us up to Phnom Da while he eat his baguette first and join us later. We were wondering where to pay the admission fee as we couldnt see any booth at all. Suddenly a number of kids flock here and climb up the stairs with us.

We are at Phnom Da
The local kids
150 steps up to Phnom Da
This kid is climbing so fast

The temple is 12 meters square and 18 meters high. It was built in the 11th century Angkorian-era and is constructed by laterite, brick and sandstone. The temple was constructed under King Rudravarman and dedicated to Shiva. It faces north towards Norkor Kork Thalork, which was the capital of Nokor Phnom at the time the temple was built. It has three false doors and a real door which opens on the north side.

Phnom Da
Black & White
One of the false door
Open Ceiling
Abundance of spider web

We gave the old man US$1 ~ S$1.40 as donation.

Old man guarding Phnom Da
The local kids and us
Vietnam border behind the row of trees
Kids playing
The kids here do not have those advanced toys but they seem contended with their natural toys.
Their toy
Wonder who draw this on the floor?

After about 20 mins, Narith came up. He told us that there is another temple further down and the teenage guy would guide us there while he go back and drive the car to wait for us at the bottom of that temple.

The kids ran around bare footed

Further down the hill is the unique little temple ruin Ashram Maha Rosei, quite unlike other Khmer monuments in both design and adornment. The unique design is reminiscent of Prasat Ashram Isay in the Sambor Prey Kuk group in Kampong Thom. Ashram Maha Rosei was constructed of basalt stone and built in the late 7th-early 8th century (perhaps earlier), during the pre-Angkorian Chenla period, under Bahavavarman. The design and adornments shows signs of non-Khmer influence.

Ashram Maha Rosei
The teenage guy
Village at the foot of the hill

We used hand sign to ask the teenage guy to guide us back since he cant communicate in English. My sis and I were discussing whether to give money to the kids as we do not have a lot of Riels. I decided that we buy some sweets for the kids instead. When we reached the ground, a lady came forward to collect the admission fee from us. It cost US$2 ~ S$2.80 per person.

We told Narith that we wanted to buy sweets for the kids and he asked us to buy the sesame biscuit. Initally we wanted to buy one packet which has 14 biscuits but it seems that the kids are more than 14. Hence we bought one more packet. Two packets cost US$1 ~ S$1.40. To us, the cost of the biscuits are peanuts but to them, they dont get to eat this everyday. Narith asked them to queue up and my sis starts to distribute one packet. When it's my turn, I dont know who to give as some of the kids hid the biscuit under their clothes so I ask Narith to help me translate and ask those kids who havent received the biscuit yet.

After finished distributing the biscuit, we gave the teenage boy US$1 before we went off. This teenage boy sat at one corner after guiding us downhill. He is a spark contrast to the guy we met next day. I wonder if this teenage boy knows how to speak English, would he be still the same?

Giving out biscuits to the kids

We left at around 11am and head to Phnom Chisor. The journey is about an hour.

Saw the candle? It's the opposition party logo

Phnom Chisor (Chisor Mountain) is 100m high and 503 steps lead to the top of Phnom Chisor where the temple ruins is located.

As we only eaten half of the baguette, we brought along the remaining half and ate it while we climbed the steps. It was very hot and scorching as we reached here around mid noon.

Bottom of Phnom Chisor
Children carrying mineral water uphill to sell

We finished our breakfast and we hang the rubbish bag on the railings since we are coming back the same way later and I dont want to add on the additional weight on our bag. We did collect the rubbish bag later. I'm not that unenvironmental friendly.

Mid-hill where locals set up stalls to sell drinks
Finally we reached the top

The admission fee was not collected at the bottom of the hill but at the top. The admission fee is US$2 ~ S$2.8

A temple

Another temple

This elephant must be painted recently

Big declining buddha

Finally we see Phnom Chisor temple

Dunno what is this?

The temple was built under King Suryavarman I during a period when Angkorian Empire was powerful and on the rise. As most Angkorian temples of the period, this temple is Hindu, dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu.

Phnom Chisor temple

Countryside view

Spot the temple in the center?

Temple in ruins

Black & White

On our way down, a local guy tried to strike a conversation with us by asking where we are from and whether we need to hire taxi. We told him that our taxi driver is waiting for us at the bottom of the hill. He said "I want to talk" and we replied him that we can talk on the way while going down. Then he took out his handphone so we guess that he wanted to take photo with us. After that, he asked for our handphone number, I bluff him that we left our handphone in Singapore and ignored him.

This is the local guy who tried to 搭讪

When we reached the foot, we saw a stall selling coconut and we bought one for US$1 ~ S$1.40 to quench our thirst.

Much bigger coconut than yesterday one

Narith told us that he had make a reservation at a restaurant for our lunch so we are heading there now.


On our way there, we passed by Prasat Neang Khmao and stopped for a while. There were no visitors at all except us. Admission is free.

Prasat Neang Khmao (temple of the Black Virgin) consists of two deteriorating brick prasats (towers) built in the Angkorian-era in the 10th century A.D. under King Jayavarman IV. There was probably at least one more ancient prasat where the modern pagoda now sits. Prasat Neang Khmau was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The temple complex is named after Neang Khmau, ‘Black Lady’, a modern-era statue located in front of the temples.

Prasat Neang KhmaoModern pagoda

SurroundingsMy sis using her hand to beat the drum

Me & Narith

We left shortly and head to the restaurant for lunch. Actually there is not need to make reservation as there were no diners except us. My sis thought that the restaurant is air-conditioned. Narith ordered 3 dishes - Chicken soup, Fried egg and Fried vegetable with beef. Yummy, the fried egg is delicious. The egg is fried with fish and pork. The chicken soup has a strong lemongrass smell and a bit spicy. The beef was very very tender. We also bought a local Cambodian fruit on the way just now. The fruit is a bit sour, dun really like it. Our lunch is very cheap, only US$5 ~ S$7!


So many sauces

Our lunch

A local Cambodian fruit

On the way, we passed by some stalls and bought barbeque frog and palm fruit. The barbeque frog cost 2,500 Riel ~ S$0.70 and 5-6 palm fruit cost R1,000 ~ S$0.35. The palm fruit shell is similar to coconut and the fruit itself is very juicy.

Barbeque frog

Palm fruit

Road under construction

Ta Prohm was built under Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century during the same period that Bayon and Angkor Thom in Siem Reap were constructed. (Do not mistaken it for Siem reap Ta Prohm.) There are 2 temples at Tonle Bati - Ta Prohm and Yeay Peau. Ta Prohm is the more extensive and impressive of the two. The admission to Ta Prohm is US$3 ~ S$4.20

Once we got out of the car, adults and kids selling flowers and incense surround us immediately. They keep saying "Sister, buy flower". Each of us bought a flower for US$1 ~ S$1.40. The kids told us to follow an old lady to a small shrine to pray to the buddha. Then after that, the kids asked us to donate to this old lady. We donated R5000 ~ S$1.75 as we do not have US$1 in our wallet.

After that, we went into Ta Prohm and the kids keep following us and asked us to buy more incense and flowers. We ignored them and continue to explore Ta Prohm. After a while, they gave up and left.

Ta Prohm

Able to spot the Singapore Dollar? I wonder who donate it

After spending about 15 minutes in Ta Prohm, we left. The kids appeared again and keep saying "Monday no school" and I pondered for a while before realising that they are actually saying "Money no school" .

On the way back to Phnom Penh, we stopped by the roadside and bought milk fruit. This is another local fruit which Narith introduced to us. The fruit taste sweet and is a bit like mangosteen and soursoup. We bought 20 milk fruit from a stall for US$2.50 ~ S$3.50, damn cheap. My sis commented that this stall owner can closed her stall today since we bought so many from her.

Milk fruit

When we are reaching Phnom Penh, the traffic was moving at crawl speed. We saw few tourists who are Caucasian cycling along the road. The traffic here is not suitable for cyclists as there are too many motorists and they can u-turn in the middle of the road which is dangerous.

Narith asked us whether we would like to use his service tomorrow as we mentioned that we are going to Oudong tomorrow. He told us that he will be charging us US$40 ~ S$56 to Oudong and Mekong Island. We had booked with another taxi driver online who charged us US$30 to Oudong only. Since Narith service good and the price is reasonable, we took up his offer. He even thank us for giving him the chance.

Comparable to Ho Chi Minh City

Tourist cycling in Phnom PenhRoad sign in Phnom PenhWater tank for the city

We passed by Olympic Stadium. I wondered why it was named Olympic Stadium since Phom Penh never hosted Olympic games before.

According to Wikepedia, the stadium was constructed in 1963 and was completed in 1964. It might be built to host the 1963 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games (origins of Southeast Asian Games) but the games were cancelled due to political problems in Cambodia. The stadium played a small part in the 1966 FIFA World Cup. It hosted the North Korea vs Australia qualifier since North Korea had difficulties finding a suitable venue for the match.

Olympic stadium

I like this Orange scooter

We reached the Guesthouse at around 5pm. We paid Narith the remaining US$40 and went back to our room. We decided to eat the barbeque frog and palm fruit before going out to explore the surroundings.

Barbeque frog

This is the Capitol guesthouse which is located at the corner of the main road and the street where our guesthouse is. Imagine if we were to stay here, we would not have undisturbed sleep since there are so many cars and motorcycle horning on the main road. Crossing the roads here is similar to Ho Chi Minh City. My sis was hesitant to crossing the road and I just drag her along.

Capitol Guesthouse

We walked along the street to see if there are any local food to try and we passed by Orussey Market which caters to the local. The shops in the market generally sell essential items rather than souvenirs.

Orussey Market

We saw quite a number of stalls selling balut (duck fetus egg) which we dare not try. Balut are duck eggs that have been incubated until the fetus is all feathery and beaky, and then boiled alive. The bones give the eggs a uniquely crunchy texture. Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack. They are enjoyed in Cambodia, Vietnam and Philippines. Quite disgusting and cruel rite? Click on this link for the photo taken when this blogger ate it in Cambodia.

We walked around and nothing really fancy us. We just bought a sausage and some meat stick (similar to satay) for R6300 ~ S$2.20 back to the guesthouse for dinner.

Barbeque sausage and meat stick

After we finished the food we bought, we went to the guesthouse lobby. My sis make a local call to the taxi driver which we previously booked to inform him not to come tomorrow. We lied to him that we changed our flight so we are going back to Singapore tomorrow. The local call only cost R2000 ~S$0.70. It would cheaper to use the hotel/ guesthouse to make local call compared to our handphone which is damn expensive. I used the internet service for 1 hr which cost R2000 too.

There are a lot of television channels here including cable channels, around 60+. There are even Channel 8 and Channel News Asia here.

>>Day 3: 11 Jan 10

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