Chocolate Lingams In Scambodia

After hanging out in Laos way longer than we thought we would, we finally made our way into Scambodia (a term Stu coined, which aptly describes so many of our experiences there.  You wouldn’t believe some of the crap we heard in that country.)

After the bus ride from hell, and our fun day in Ban Lung, we made our way to Phnom Penh, the first big city we’d been to in over a month.  I loved Phnom Penh from the get-go.  I don’t know if it was the city itself, or the fact that we were just in a city once more, but it hooked me from the first evening.  There is a lovely waterfront in Phnom Penh, with great public space, shops and restaurants.  There is also quite a lot of wealth in Cambodia, and it shows.  Expensive shops and restaurants abound, and it became clear pretty quickly that our $5 a day digs and $2 meal days were over – for the time being, anyway.

Being the capital of Cambodia, tourism abounds in PP. We split our time there up into two rather eventful days:  the first visiting the National Museum and Royal Palace, and the second visiting Tuol Sleng Prison and The Killing Fields.

Day 1:

On our way to the museum, Stu got aggressive with a bunch of birds before they could get aggressive with him.

The museum is lovely– a beautiful building with a lovely courtyard and lots of interesting things to see inside.

Those of you who know me know that I’m not that big into art galleries, but I like museums quite a bit, and hadn’t been to one in a while (including the ROM, sadly.)  The National Museum holds an impressive collection of art and artifacts from the ancient civilizations of the Khmer people, including things like this:

Next we took a walk over to the Royal Palace.  Visiting the palace probably would have been more fun if we’d had a guide.  We walked through ourselves, and it just wasn’t the same not knowing what everything was, or the significance of the colours and buildings and sculptures we were seeing.  But we saw some cool things nonetheless.

And in continuing the tradition of nutty t-shirt, we came upon this one while walking down the street.

“Do I make you look far?”

What the heck does that mean??

Day 2:

We hired a tuk-tuk for the day to take us to Tuol Sleng and The Killing Fields.  This was a hard day.  We took pictures at both places, but to be honest, I don’t really want to look at them, so I’ve opted not to post them.  You can google images of both places and see a bit of it for yourself, but be warned that they get quite graphic.

It’s a funny thing being confronted with a place like that.  I’m a writer, but I was at a loss for words that whole day.  I still am.  I left that place with my heart a little heavier, and my eyes a little more open to the easy life I live in my perfect little bubble.

After all that, we needed something light again.  So we boarded a bus to Battembang.  A small town with a growing tourism business centered around activities that could all be done in one day.  Again, we hired a tuk-tuk and hit the town, seeing everything we could in one short day.

The first thing we did – and my favourite part of the day – was the trip on the bamboo train.

A trip to a village along a 7km track through flat land, trees and rice fields, sitting on a few slabs of bamboo propped up on two barbells, propelled forward by a small engine and being directed by this little guy:

There is only one track but there are trains going in both directions.  So sometimes when you’re on the train, you see a sight like this coming right at you:

When that happens, whichever train has less cargo must be disassembled and taken off the tracks while the heavier train goes by.

Then they put your little train back together on the tracks and off you go.  But in the meantime, there’s nothing to do but wait.

At the end of our line was a little village, with these kids waiting anxiously for our arrival to show us their town.

They showed us the brick-making factory,

and their village’s pet python.

When the little girls found out we were married, they made us wedding rings out of palm leaves.

Then it was off to the winery.  Did you know Cambodians make their own wine?  And they sell it for $15USD per bottle.  That’s a lot for a bottle of what tastes like sweet grape juice.  But we took a little walk around the winery and tasted the juice – er…wine – and enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

Battembang has a couple of other places for tourists to visit.  Both happen to be temples on hills.  We had to disembark from our tuk-tuk and mount motorbikes to get up to the first one.  This temple contained on its grounds another killing site for the Khmer Rouge, but higher up had an old artillery weapon from days gone by

and some pretty great views.

The second temple had no motorbike service provided so we had to walk up the stairs.  Up and up and up.  I stopped to rest at one point,

but we kept going

Till we finally made it to the temple ruins at the top.

They were nice, but really, the view alone was worth the climb.

After Battembang, it off to our last – and most awaited – stop in Cambodia – Siem Reap.  Most awaited because it is that city that holds the famous Angkor Wat.  Siem Reap has built up a whole town around Angkor Wat tourism.  Aside from that collection of temples, and a floating village, there really isn’t much else to see and do there.  But the town itself bustles with markets (both day and night), tons of shops and restaurants, hotel after hotel and enough nightclubs to keep you busy for many nights in a row.

I’ll save Angkor Wat for another post, but there are a couple of things in Siem Reap that are worth noting.

The always-bustling pub street,

extended happy hours,

a most excellent night market,

and chocolate lingams.  That’s right.  Chocolate lingam.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Angi on April 13, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Stu… leave the birds alone!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Mum on April 15, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    What is a choc linghum?

    Reply

  3. Mum, a lingam is a penis.

    I wish you had just googled it.

    Reply

  4. Posted by mum on April 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Sorry 🙂 Next time I will google before I ask. Weird !!

    Reply

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