Cambodia Phnom Penh Phnom Penh
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we enjoyed phnom penh more than we expected to -- it was fairly quiet and smaller than we'd thought. we ate a lot of great food, walked around the city (it was really hot. bright sun, and 95+ with a pretty good amount of humidity). coconut smoothies are fantastic in this climate
we saw the royal palace grounds, on which is the silver pagoda -- the floor is completely silver tiles; there were also many monkeys walking around the grounds.
we also visited Tuol Sleng, a museum that is formerly a prison, that is formerly a school. it's purpose is to educate about the genocide during the rule of the khmer rouge in the late 1970s (before the vietnamese army liberated phnom penh). something like 20000 people were held here from 1975-1979. incredible thing to see; such a normal, urban setting for a place where such bad things happened
cool thing about cambodia: they use both US dollars and cambodian Riel as their normal currencies. i payed $10 for a meal that cost $5.50, and received as change $3 and 6000 Riel (4000 Riel = $1).... fun. in other places where we payed in dollars, prices in the local currency were always rounded up to the nearest dollar
from phnom penh, we took a bus to siem reap -- fortunately uneventful! we arrived in siem reap and were greeted by a tuk tuk driving holding a sign with my name on it. amused, we let him take us to a hotel (where he gets a commission, no doubt); it turned out to be a nice place, so we stayed for 3 nights
the 2 full days we were in siem reap we spent visiting the temples of Angkor! one of the big destinations on the trip for me. the main, well known temples (particularly Angkor Wat) were overrun with tourists, which did subtract from the experience, but we were able to visit some more remote sites (Preah Khan, Banteay Srei, Kbal Spean) that had a really nice, quiet atmosphere. very cool place! favorites were Banteay Srei (amazingly complex carvings) and Preah Khan (big, many tunnel-like corridors and tumbled blocks, giant trees overgrowing everything)
next was a bus to Bangkok -- we planned to take a train the night of our arrival in bangkok, but the bus was late so we stayed the night (and actually, a second night as well!). the "bus" from siem reap was actually 3 or 4 minivans and 2 buses -- i guess they overbooked. despite initial concern when the drivers instructed us to leave our bags to put on the big bus and get on the minibuses (rachel and i refused, and they eventually let us take our bags on the minibus), the trip went well: easy border crossing, food stops that weren't outrageously expensive, and decently fast (although not arriving at the time they had told us when we booked!)
Bangkok has surprised us; we expected a bustling city that was impossible to get around, but it's actually pretty nice -- lots of green space, and streets closed off to vehicles make it easy to get around. lots of good food, once again!
today we went to the weekend market: absolutely crazy. we walked for 3 hours, lost, and didn't pass the same thing twice. one side was full of clothes (shirts, tailored fancy clothes, leather/boots, jeans...), another was a whole block dedicated to aquariums (bags of fish everywhere on the sidewalk, tanks inside the stores...), a section for textiles, kitchen things. next to the fish was mammals: squirrels, puppies, and quite a few other animals i couldn't even name. our guidebook says this is one of the biggest (possibly biggest?) markets in the world -- i believe it!
(ran out of time at the cafe and only part of the pictures i had in mind uploaded. perhaps more tomorrow, otherwise this might be the last update before we head home?)