Phnom Phen: Mixed Impressions

We kicked off our time in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city, at Mad Monkey party hostel. The room was good and I really liked the location, but they were fully booked for all but one night that we were in Phnom Penh. That was fine with us though; we figured one night partying followed by a few nights somewhere quieter would suite us just fine, plus it allowed us to see different parts of the city (notice how un-travel weary we were at that point, happy and eager to move our stuff around).

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I had very mixed views of Phnom Penh. There are plenty of positives, such as friendly people, cute cafes and nice restaurants, but the negative side of tourism is also abundantly clear; in the “happy” pizza restaurants, child beggars and the signs in hotel rooms warning that sex tourism with minors is illegal.There is also no public transport in the city and the friendliness of the people was something I was sadly starting to grow suspicious of.

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Yet if you can get past the chaos and not being able to walk on the pavement (because they’ve crumbled or are littered with parked obstacles – throughout SE Asia this really bugged Matt!) it definitely has it’s own charm. The city is a busy mix of old French colonial buildings and modern constructions.

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Whilst the S21 Tuol Sleng Genocide museum is a harrowing reminder of the countries brutal, and still relatively recent, history (the Khmer Rouge kept extensive records of those held prisoner, tortured and killed, at this former school turned prison) this is a city that is moving forward.

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We also visited the National Museum and, whilst the presentation of the collection was a bit dated and rubbish, the building itself was beautiful. As was the royal palace, which looks extremely similar to the royal palace in Bangkok.

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The highlight of my time in Phnom Penh was a completely unexpected encounter my friend Kelsey. I got back to my hostel one evening only to be told by the receptionist that a friend of mine had noticed my name in the guestbook; and there I was thinking that she was in China, what are the chances! Anyway being the cool kids that we are we headed out for a drink together, only to end up eating frozen yoghurt instead.

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