Phnom Penh – Capital city of Cambodia
Moving from Battambang to Phnom Penh was like moving from a slow lane to a fast lane. Suddenly I saw tall buildings and international names donning the buildings and retail outlets. There are more cars and other vehicles on the roads. The drivers and riders were less patient with pedestrians. I was nearly knocked down by an on-coming car since I was not used to left-hand drive roads without road dividers. The drivers at Phnom Penh use their vehicle horns more than Battambang.
I felt that Cambodian people are not naturally happy people. The service person at Burger King looked glum and serious while serving me. Another person taking our orders at the Noodle House could not bring herself to smile at us. Not that she could not, she laughed a bit with the local people. The worst case was our driver of the minivan who took us on a bumpy 6-hour ride from Battambang to Phnom Penh. He did not smile at all and did not open his mouth to talk to us!
On the other hand, I also encountered helpful service people of the hostel and water taxi stand. So it is a mixture of people. The past atrocities must have an impact on the personalities. They kept telling us to visit their killing field and genocide museum.
Something Unique about Phnom Penh
What I saw are high walls surrounding buildings in Phnom Penh, some have barb wires resting at the top of these walls. You cannot see inside beyond these walls. There are fears of intruders. We were told by our tour guide to watch out for personal belongings like bags, because there were cases of snatch thiefs on motorbikes snatching carry-on bags. Security is a concern in Phnom Penh.
We had been to Aeon Mall. This shopping mall has mostly international brands. The mall was not like Singapore with many people walking around. The local people generally do not patronise this mall. There is no need to, really. The locals have many markets to go to for their purchases, like the Central Market and it is cheaper.
There are many tuk tuk, motto (motobike taxi) plying the roads. These drivers will always offer their services especially to tourists like us. They tout and this can be really annoying. They were desperate for businesses. Each ride can be US$2-3. This must be good income for them. It would even be better income, if they get to send tourists for a longer ride to far away tourist attractions. They are tour operators as well!
Roads in Phnom Penh are chaotic. Whoever is the bravest gets to cut into other vehicle’s path. There are few traffic lights junctions. Only the major cross road junctions have traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. As for the other smaller roads, one has to be brave to cross these roads! Walking along streets and roads is challenging. Often, we had to get onto the roads since the pavements were not passable.
There are several construction sites near the hostel we stayed in. The roads are perpetually sandy and dusty. Whether we were walking or sitting in the open tuk tuk, we breathed in smokes and dusts. Pollution of the air is a problem.
In Cambodia, almost all goods and services are quoted in US dollars. They accept US dollars readily and one needs not bring Cambodian Riel, their local currency when travelling.
When we came to Cambodia, we did not set expectations as to how the place would be. We just have to accept that Cambodia is still a developing nation. It is a pity. Cambodia had her glorious years with rich history when the Khmer Kings were ruling the country before the civil wars and Khmer Rouge regime ravaged the nation. Cambodia recently celebrated 40 years after Khmer Rouge lost. 40 years had seen progress but not enough to catch up with nations like Vietnam and Thailand. I hope to see a prosperous nation in the years to come.
People of Cambodia
16 million people living in an area of 181,000 square kilometres. Nearly 2 million died during the rule of Khmer Rouge 1975-79. Cambodian people went through a history of wars, both of foreign incursions and Khmer Rouge era. It was colonised by the French in 1860s onwards. The once proud nation of Khmer Kings with rich history went through a lot to become a nation as we know now.
The people of Cambodia would not forget the past. Tourists were reminded of the killing fields and killing caves with skulls and bones displayed for the world to see.
I have been to Siem Reap and Battambang and I found that the people were very courteous towards tourists. They depend on the tourist dollars for building their wealth. People working in the tourist trade try to pick up English Language to connect with us. Though not all can do it well, they get by. I am actually overwhelmed by their courtesy towards us. It reached a stage of being subservient. They would put their palms together and bowed to us every time we walked towards them.
I met this tuk tuk driver who were quite elderly, much older than me. He would want to take us to a theatre and wanted to wait for us until the show (Circus) ended. He was willing to charge us just US$5 for his effort. To him, I think it is good money and appreciates whatever he can earn. For me, I do not feel so keenly about US$5. But it meant so much to them.
Copyright © 2019, limkimtong for Living Investment