A travel day takes us back to the nation’s capital
03.09.2011 - 03.09.2011 31 °C
Battambang to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Bright blue skies greeted our imminent departure from Battambang. Travelling with a variety of treasures, purchased during our time in Cambodia, a private taxi would take us the four hours south to Phnom Penh.
The journey south followed the now familiar scenes of rice fields, bamboo huts and periodically simple towns selling food, clothes and what appeared to be a preponderance of mobile phones. Our driver took great care to reach the nation’s capital as quickly as possible. Frequently, we were overtaking three abreast on the narrow roads. Approaching scooters and tuk-tuks moved to the side of the road as we swept passed slower vehicles. Yet, observing other drivers this is the nature of Cambodian driving. Blow the horn and overtake. Everyone else will get out of the way, hopefully.
Some four hours after leaving Battambang and with traffic barely moving, it was clear we had reached Phnom Penh. A road traffic incident caused the first of many slow downs as we crawled through the streets. Returning to the capital after our time in the provinces, Phnom Penh felt like the bustling and vibrant city that it is, tall buildings and a multitude of vehicles seeming a little foreign. Unlike, when we had first arrived, landing in from Bangkok, everything now felt cosmopolitan and exciting.
Settling into our chic, modern hotel we were soon back out in the city exploring the streets and alleyways we had only time to peruse briefly the previous week. Yet, as in the rest of Cambodia curious sights could still be seen. Fifty or so live chickens hanging by their feet from a small scooter, en route to market, lifted their heads lazily to watch the upside down world pass by. Ten or more locals crushed into a tuk-tuk, taking an uncomfortable ride somewhere and newly arrived tourists still nervous about how to cross the streets, with the never ending streams of traffic.
In the evening we retired to the river front section of the town. A night market was in progress but designed more for the locals than tourists. Promenading along the river front appeared a popular activity. Along with badminton and tai-chi, locals enjoyed fine views of the Mekong, its brown, monsoon engorged waters flowing quickly by. For the tourists small children touted ‘copied’ books, postcards and bracelets their parents cynically knowing that a small child will be far more successful selling to the tourists than they would. Some cheeky, others resigned to the tourists rejection of their wares it was a saddening sight as they worked the streets alongside a variety of beggars with small children or horrible disabilities. Repeating what we had done in Battambang and Siem Reap we once again resolved to make a small donation to one of the many charities operating in Phnom Penh in the hope that donating in this way would make a difference, whilst not encouraging begging.
Tomorrow, we would depart for Sihanoukville but tonight a final cold beer at a pavement bar, watching the night life pass by was sufficient to bring a close to a simple day.