We travel from Koh Rong Samolem to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. To do this, we first had to ride the ship to Sihanoukville, where we went to the bus. We were able to book bus tickets right from the harbor. Regardless of the higher price, we decided to take a VIP bus, as the bus ride supposed to be at least 5 hours. It turned out, however, that our VIP bus was a completely standard minibus that was full of people and stuffed with their bags. However, we tried to keep the motivation high and before going on the bus we also had a nice pizza to get better sleep on the bus.
Surprisingly, the entire road network in Cambodia was very underdeveloped. The roads were bumpy, often covered with gravel, and so the progress was very slow. Fortunately, the bus driver also stopped on the road, because the bumpy roads and rough driving made Kaija sick. So sick that the delicious pizza was just wasted. Because nature does not tolerate empty space, we bought fresh fruits from the market, which would somehow nurture Kaija. We don’t even know the exact name of these fruits, but half a kilo disappeared quite quickly.
Toilet, coffee and food stop :=)
Finally, 7 hours later (the planned driving time was 5 hours as mentioned earlier) we arrived at Phnom Penh, where we were dropped off from the bus, basically at random place. From there, we had to take the tuk-tuk to reach our place of stay.
There’s always good after bad. So, after such a horror ride, we were very happy that our rented room was perfect! We stayed at Airbnb at one of the Swiss men home who rented the top floor of their apartment. We had a private room and giant bathroom, a large bed and air conditioning. Everything important for a comfortable stay plus a very good company.
We went straight to the market to get some dinner
The Swiss master gave us good advice on what to do in the capital and where to go. On his suggestion, we went to the famous genocide museum the following morning. Otherwise, we would have left it out of our plans because we feared the museum was too … “depressive”. That was the case, but despite that, we were happy to see this place. After visiting the museum, we were quite devastated and sad, but much smarter about the unfortunate history of this country, moreover how cruel people can be with their fellow members. Only 50 years ago, half of the total population of Cambodia was destroyed in four years by a totalitarian regime. It was literally a genocide regime that was still supported by many Western countries at that time. It was amazing to see these cruel methods of cruel torture and the means used to do so. The prison camp we visited was at the former school premises. Thus, the same existing tools that children otherwise played were used for torture. In this prison camp, people were tortured to write a testimony appropriate to the regime. One Australian who was detained there wrote a testimony of all this absurdity, which, of course, was pure fiction for the Western world. There was used the lyrics of Beatles and the names from cartoons known in the West, etc. Finally, the young Australian boy who had sailed on the sea near Cambodia and this was his only sin also died there as a result of torture in a prison camp. This is just one example of a number of unfortunate human lives that ended up in prison there. The prison rooms were filled with images of people who had been left there since they were looking for information about their own people from prison camps. There were pictures of children up to the young mothers whose small baby was on their lap. The mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters of hundreds of thousands of people have disappeared and no one knows what has happened to them. We recommend reading the book “First they killed my father” or watching a movie of the same name, which quite well summarizes the suffering of the Cambodian people. Why are we writing this in such detail? Even today, we are quite simply using vocabulary such as “should be hanged”, “shot”, “destroy”, etc. by many people (including those in power and therefore an example to others). This genocide prison camp was exactly the place where people were literally doing so, and it makes us think how far the people of Fascist tendencies today are going. And how scared can be those people who know that their loved ones once died just like this … Does history start to happen again?
In addition to a history lesson, of course, we also saw many admirable things in Phnom Penh. We were in the capital just during King’s birthday. For the locals, it was a great holy day and people had gathered to the Royal Palace to celebrate the day off and the King’s birthday. Sitting with families and enjoying the fresh air and local street food. Jaanus also grabbed some frog legs on the way. Among the people, the monks with their orange suits stood out. Of course, when the darkness arrived, the fireworks show begin to honor the King.
We also visited the most famous Wat Phnom temple in the capital city. For dinner, we headed for the night market. This is definitely one place where you can taste the best local street food. In the middle of the market, carpets are laid down, around which there are many different merchants. First, you have to choose yourself a meal from the merchants and then find a place to sit. Meat, salads and the seafood are grilled and cooked right under your eyes. Jaanus dared to try new things again and tried the chicken legs. Kaija stayed with her favorite Papaya salad again. For dessert, we enjoyed coconut ice cream.
On our last day in Cambodia, we decided to drive out of the city and visit the famous silk island. To do this, we had to drive an hour away from the city with a tuk-tuk and get a ferry across the river. Ferry riding was in itself an exciting experience as the ship carrying car, scooters and passengers looked like an old iron barge rather than a ferry that can survive on the water. We were comforted by the fact that the ride was so short and, if necessary, we could easily swim to the shore.
As a surprise to us, the silk island was a local village, and there was no indication that there was a million city in just an hour’s drive away. People were helpful, and so was a local woman who offered us the opportunity to introduce us to her home and the silk made by her family. It was difficult at first to believe he was doing all this for free, but we decided to go and take the offer. She introduced us to her family and parents and explained the process of making silk fabric. Every family in this village has its own specific pattern which they make on silk scarfs. This pattern is designed by the family’s mother and is inherited from generation to generation. The woman’s sister was now behind her looms when we arrived at her house. For Jaanus, the whole process on the looms seemed quite inconceivable. Kaija was not so puzzled, because the looms are also in her grandmother’s home. True, they are not nearly as fine as needed for silk making. Finally, however, she tried to sell some silk scarves to us, but we didn’t fall into that. We had seen her close to the port earlier by taking them out of a plastic wrapping – these scarves were certainly not made in this village.
However, she was so friendly that she took us to the back of her scooter and drove us to the nearby silk farm.
On the farm we got the guide to hear the same story that the woman had told us. In addition, we also saw the process of the formation of silkworms to making silk and patterns on the silk scarfs with our own eyes. Jaanus is still puzzled at how black and white silk threads will create a gray fabric ..
Tired of all the information we got, we stayed there for lunch at the same farm. For this purpose, there was an ideal environment created – we could lay down by the river in the hammock and enjoy the peace and quiet. Whoever wanted there was an opportunity to cool themselves in the river, but we did not want to dip ourselves into the brownish water.
All in all, Cambodia was a big surprise for us. We rested, discovered new things, and got a lesson from the darker pages of history. Cambodia is definitely an interesting country for adventurous migrants.
Below some of the simple Cambodian food we tried – Clear Vegetable Soup with the rice bowl, just a bowl of grilled pork meat with some cucumber, Prohok Khtiss, and Green Mango Salad. Bon appetit.