Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Phnom Penh: Palaces, Prisons, & Markets

A trip to the palace and the silver pagoda was on our list of things to do.  In many ways the architecture and feels is similar to that of the Palace in Bangkok but only a limited number of areas were open to the public. 
We headed to the famous silver pagoda with it’s floor tiled in 5 tonnes of silver. Most of the floor was covered to protect it from the mass of tourists passing through, but some were uncovered and on display.

From there it was to an entirely more sober institution.  Tuol Sleng Museum or Security Prison 21 (S-21).
This was once a local high school, but in the three years 1975-1978 it was a detention and torture center.  Actual numbers are not known but it is estimated over 17,000 people passed through here; deemed as traitors to the communist Khmer Rouge regime.

We made a decision we wanted to come here as it was such an integral part of the recent bloody history of this country.  While we both knew some of the stories about this period of Cambodian history the pictures of victims en-masse, torture cells and translated confessions, in what should have been a place of learning, made some of it a little more concrete.


Perhaps one of the most subtly poignant images was in one of the converted classrooms: an original school black board was still there, along with the 1x2 metre brick cells


People were visibly moved by this place and visitor books were obvious in most rooms as an opportunity for many people to verbalise their feelings about what they had seen.  Others had had a much more visceral feeling when looking at those displays that had pictures of the members of the Pol Pot regime -  not one those displays had not been defaced.  Defacement was not done in a superficial graffiti manner, but in a pure outpouring of hate. This was not a nice place.

We visited the Russian Market, but having seen more markets in the last 18 months than we have had lamb dinners, it was a pretty cursory visit.  We were surprised at it’s size – we knew it was big, but it was bigger than expected.

The one thing that was new for us was the multitude of stalls selling engine parts and acting as small mechanical workshops – that was something we have not seen anywhere else.


Having enjoyed Amok in Siem Reap so much there was a quest to explore the Amok variations in PP.
Our 1st evening’s meal at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club was average and their Amok not worth mentioning again.

Day 2 had us out pounding the pavement.  We stopped for an excellent macaroon and lime drink at The Shop on street 240, before picking Anise for lunch.  Basically we had walked far enough, we were hungry and in need of a drink.

The Amok was lovely.  As was the rest of the food.
A return to the hotel, a rest and a swim in the it was back down to the waterfront for more happy hour drinks and dinner.  One thing you get used to is the children trying to sell you books or DVDs.  It doesn’t matter if you said no 5 minutes earlier, you still might want to buy a book this time.

Dinner at one of the street side restaurants.  2nd lovely Amok for the day.  What we learned today was that the PP style was more solid ‘baked custard-like’ in texture than that which had been consumed in Siem Reap

Final day and we leave mid-afternoon so there is one more meal of Amok to be tried.  And we left the best for last.  Frizz’s proclaims itself as having the best Amok in town and we had to agree.  That said the version we had in Siem Reap remains the absolute favourite – the Amok to which other Amoks are compared to in our books


Meanwhile, other people went about their daily lives.  We did see a lot of food on wheels of some form or another.

meals on wheels

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