Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 1!

After a whole day of Phnom Penh site seeing, I don't know where to start. Let's just say, it has been absolutely amazing, mind-blowing, and eye-opening.

I woke up early in the morning to the sounds of the bustling city below--it took a moment for me to remember where I was. After a western style breakfast, our lovely chaperones took us on a impromptu tour of the nearby market. The Cambodians start their day early in the morning. At 7 a.m., the vendors were all set up and ready to go for the day. Our first true taste of Cambodia, the tour of the market was already too much to take in. Endless was the variety of foods being sold. One woman chopped the head of a catfish, while another seller was busy tending to their fruit.

After breakfast, we met our tour guide/ translator, Lika. Our first stop was the Royal Palace, the residence of the current king and revered figure King Sihamoni. The extensive compound was breathtaking and gave the visitor a tangible idea of the rich culture and wealth the land of Cambodia possesses. The architecture alone told the fascinating story of the nation. A mixture of Hindu, Buddhist, and French, the buildings of the compound reflected the history of colonization in Cambodia. Where one could really understand the wealth of the land of Cambodia was the Silver Pagoda. The tiles of the house of worship each weigh about 1 kilo of silver. The pure gold statues were adorned with gleaming diamonds of impressive size. I personally am not a religious person, but being inside the Silver Pagoda turned out to be an out of body experience.

The nine of us traveled to our next stop by our tour bus which could probably fit twenty people. The National Museum, besides being a wealth of knowledge of Cambodian ancient art, also houses the largest bat colony in a public building. I didn't end up spotting any because most reside above in ceiling in the attic. The museum with an impressive collection of Khmer art provided a glimpse into the rich history of the complex empire.

For lunch, we ate at a nearby restaurant called Friends which is partnered with an NGO working with Cambodian street children, their families and communities to create creative projects that will help successfully integrate them into society.

We traveled the next leg of Day 1 by CYCLO--a fascinating vehicle. Basically, it is a bicycle with a basket seat for one person in front. Our friendly cyclo drivers brought us to the post office to pick out postcards. Afterwards, we stopped at the central market where you could find virtually anything--street foods, clothes, jewelry, bath products, anything.

At Wat Phnom, the Buddhist temple built by Lady Penh, we had our fortunes told. Inside one of the rooms of the temple, we were instructed to wish for good luck and then to shake a can of sticks until a single stick fell out. The numbered sticks indicated the your luck. I got the number twelve which meant good luck! Sabine, on the hand, had pretty bad luck. The shook the can four times and could not manage to receive a good fortune. After the fourth time, the fortune teller instructed Sabine to wash her face with holy water to cleanse herself of bad luck. In the main room of the temple, another man handed what looked like giant lima bean halves to Sabine. She had to drop them so one was face up and the other face down. In her third attempt, she succeeded!

The Independence monument was next on our list. A massive lotus shaped stupa in the center of a bustling rotary, the monument was daunting and a bit overwhelming to glance at. We took pictures with our cyclo drivers who were eager to get in the shots.

We rode along the beautiful river front, cooled by the breeze, a nice break from the oppressive humid 90 degree weather. Our next destination was a visit to the bridge where 351 people died in a stampede during a popular Cambodian water festival. A newly built bridge eerily contrasted the nearby remains of the bridge where the incident occurred. This was just one of the many examples of the mixture of old and new in the city of Phnom Penh.

We ended our day of site seeing with a sunset cruise on the Tonle Sap and Mekong River. Boat houses and fisherman boats lined the  banks of the river. Sitting with our feet dangling above the water at the bow of the boat, the magnificent sunset was a perfect ending to our day in Phnom Penh.

For dinner, we ate at Khmer Surin where Rohan ordered mackeral fish paste with fresh vegetables. The waiter warned Rohan of the pungency, but he not ready to back off. It ended up not being too bad.

That's all for now!


1 comment:

  1. So glad to hear about your amazing first day! Good for Rohan for exploring the fish paste. Hope you are now all getting a good night's sleep. - Carisa (Kate H's mom)