I’ve made it to Phnom Penh. I took a boat from Siem Reap down Tonle Sap, which was interesting. It was a very leisurely trip with most of the passengers on the top deck the entire time. Almost the entire length of the trip had elevated homes (shacks) on the water. Almost everyone who lives there fishes for a living. From what I saw, everyone fishes, including men, women and children.
Phnom Penh itself is unlike any city I’ve been to on my trip. I’ve been to poor countries before, but none had major cities in them (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and East Timor). The power here goes out several times a day. One major intersection I was at today had no working traffic lights. There are few if any stores as you would find in most cities (even Siem Reap had convenience stores). Even the “nice” parts of town aren’t that nice compared to cities like Manila or Jakarta.
There is a definite French influence here. I have read that in the early 20th Century, Phnom Penh was the nicest city in all of SE Asia. I can believe it. The street naming scheme is almost, but not quite logical. The names of some of the streets are odd. One is named after Charles de Gaulle (makes sense, former French colony), one after Mao, one after Yugoslavia’s Tito. It is like they were trying to suck up to countries in the 60s and 70s and just never renamed the streets.
The city is pretty cheap. I can stay in a room with a bathroom (and hot water) for $10/night. A meal is $2.50 and I’m sure I could go cheaper if I really wanted.
Tomorrow I’ll be getting my visa for Vietnam and visiting the Killing Fields and the genocide museum. The guesthouse I’m staying at shows the movie The Killing Fields every night, which gets to be a bit much.
I don’t plan on staying here for too long. I’ll probably head to Saigon as soon as my visa is approved.