After 2 days spent in Bangkok it was time to start the main part of our journey. Our first steps went to the capital of Cambodia Phnom Penh. First of all I have to say that I chose Cambodia over Vietnam or Thailand because it was the country I knew the least about and has probably the least visitors from these 3 countries if we don’t count Angkor Wat. Our itinerary was a bit zigzag starting in the Southeast in Phnom Penh, then visiting 2 islands in Southwest and finally Siem Reap city of Angkor complex in North of Cambodia.
After just about 55 minutes we landed with Air Asia at Phnom Penh international airport where it surprisingly was raining. First important thing to do after landing was to hand in our passports with departure card and 1 photo. After this we had to wait to be called by a passport officer to pay amount of $ 30 per person, collect our passports and go in the third line to wait for the Cambodian visa. All this process took approx. 45 minutes. I was really surprised when I found a small paper in my passport which was actually a promotional flyer for a new multifunctional building in Phnom Penh. Marketing on the whole new level I guess. The airport itself was very small and I was trying to find our backpack but I just couldn’t see Bangkok anywhere on the belt’s screens. After I asked an officer where is luggage from Bangkok he responded with a smile on his face: “on the floor”. We were too slow so they just left our luggage on the floor. But I have to admit that Phnom Penh airport is one of the coolest I have seen so far.
Our hotel wasn’t situated in the city center but it didn’t really matter because it was a brand new hotel with an excellent service and great value for money with swimming pool on the 11th floor with sky bar. Next morning the weather miraculously changed and it was a beautiful sunny and hot day just like it was supposed to be. Since we only had just 1 whole day we decided to take a tuk-tuk ride to the city center and wander around. After our first stop our driver just didn’t want to lose us as clients and offered us 1-day tour which we modified a bit and finally agreed since it was the best way to see the sights in short time. Phnom Penh is not really that big so it’s easy to explore the city in just 1 day. From the obvious sights we didn’t go to killing fields because we got the idea already in Oswiecim in Poland, which might be a bit different but still the same.
Instead of killing fields we took our time and did the whole tour of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh. It used to be a high school until 1975 when Khmer Rouge won a Cambodian Civil War and turned it into a prison. Between 1975 and 1979 there were 20.000 prisoners and at least 150 executions. An audio tour took approx. 2 hours and some of the information were really shocking. The feeling in the cells was really strange when you know that not too long ago there were normal people as prisoners waiting to be punished and killed. I even saw a few people crying while listening to the narrated audio tour and looking at all those prisoners on the photos being tortured or sent to death. It’s worth visiting and spending time to understand how cruel the history of Cambodia was.
Our tuk-tuk tour also included visit to Wat Phnom palace which was the smallest one but very nice. Next stop was a National museum where you can see many sculptures and paintings from Cambodia’s history and costs $5. It is very nice building but I am not 100% sure it’s worth paying $5 especially if you are not a museum fan. The best-known palace in the city is definitely a Royal Palace. To be able to enter you need to cover your shoulders as well as knees so be careful and wear longer pants and T-shirts otherwise you will have to buy a new pants right there like my girlfriend Maria. It’s worth visiting Royal Palace since it consists of several building and it’s a royal residence of the king of Cambodia.
Phnom Penh was really different compare with Bangkok from where we arrived and I have to admit that Phnom Penh suited me even better than much bigger capital of Thailand. I prefer the city as it is now but sooner or later it is going to get even more touristy and more developed but that’s what is happening all over the world right now. Our 2-day trip to Phnom Penh was a good choice. There is not much to see compare to other places but just cruising around the streets of Phnom Penh and looking at people living their everyday lives was a great experience.