Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh – just the name is exciting. One of those places you dream of visiting.

Today another early start and we travelled on a public bus from Saigon to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. It’s about a 7 hour journey with stops. The buses are good with air con but always busy with the odd chicken or animal on board occasionally. With luck we got front seats and were still fascinated how the buses deal with the masses of scooters mopeds. Basically they just push through on the principal that the riders will get out of the way. It seems to work. The road is nearly all two way traffic and heavily rutted in parts. The constant stream of scooters, mopeds, agricultural vehicles and the occasional donkey are often vastly overloaded with produce and people. The bus driver constantly hoots his horn to warn other traffic to move over and there are a few times when you appear to be heading straight for another bus doing the same thing coming towards you. Aargh!!!

We had a good lunch stop. The border crossing into Cambodia was chaotic but was mainly handled by the bus crew. They took everyone’s passports and we wondered if we would ever see them again. There was a great ferry crossing thrown in and of course the beggars, food hawkers and children who frequent these places were all there. The most interesting food we were offered was plates of barbecued sparrows and deep fried tarantulas. We declined! This is an easy place to lose weight.

We arrived in Phnom Penh mid afternoon. Our hotel was right in the centre with great views of the street down below. The increase in poverty after the boarder was quite noticeable. In the evening we had a Cyclo tour around the city. A Cyclo centre was set up in 2004 to help Cyclo drivers. There are about 1400 of them registered and they are some of the poorest urban dwellers who come to Phnom Penh from the countryside in search of work. The centre offers a number of projects to help these guys I.e. a smoke cessation project, HIV/Aids awareness, English language training and a credit scheme to help them buy their own Cyclo. They are a great bunch and took us safely round all the sights through the masses of traffic.

Our evening meal was in a restaurant run for charity set up for homeless children and it was oh so cheap – about £3.50 for a main course and delicious as usual.

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