Friday, November 30

Vietnam-Cambodia, Day Fourteen: Phnom Penh

The single handiest tip I can give anyone planning on checking out Phnom Penh is to secure a tuk-tuk and driver for whole days rather than on an ad hoc basis. We managed to do pretty well (I think), paying $15 for one to take the two of us around for the whole day, particularly since we would later ask him to take us of the beaten tourist path.

But for the most part tourists we were. Our first stop was the nearby school-turned-prison-turned-killing station-turned-Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (photos), a scarring insight into the conditions met by the people of Cambodia under the governance of the Khmer Rouge. Yes, it certainly was more culture porn, but the educational effect was definitely there too and the whole thing was very sad.

As we approached noon, we asked our driver to take us to a mosque we had the address of. Noor-ul-Ihsan was as regular as a mosque could be, and apart from the Cambodian language that the Friday sermon was delivered in the experience was strikingly similar to what we would find elsewhere in Asia.

And it was just as hospitable too. We got to talking to some Bangladeshi expats who were kind enough to even treat us to a wonderful home cooked lunch while we did our ummah thing. As is always the case, and indeed one of the reasons I insist on adhering to Jummah while travelling, it was brilliant to meet people living in the country we were spending time in.

The afternoon was spent visiting The Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, otherwise known as The Killing Fields. This was an area where political prisoners (many from Tuol Sleng) were taken to be killed en masse. The place definitely had more of a memorial vibe to it than that of a preservation one, but there were also clear reminders of the atrocities committed there. After the museum this morning the whole day served to be pretty poignant (photos).

After meeting with the other half of our travel party (who had decided to stay on at Koh Rong for another day), we headed to the river side for a hang and dinner with another expat we had met on the island. It was a fitting way to spend our last evening in Phnom Penh, Cambodia... and our holiday as a whole.

And just for the laughs, a couple of us went for a five dollar massage at a seedy place across from our hotel. It was worth much less than what we paid, but it had to be done.

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