phnom penh 02.

After more than a month of not updating due busyness and laziness (the latter much more than the former), here I am back again to continue on what I had started, travelogues on my 4 day trip to Cambodia. This is part 2 of my planned 5 entries.

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You can read the first part here.  Being on the cruise was a lot of fun, but what I liked the most on the first day was just taking a stroll around the city. The contrast between this country and mine is so vast that you can't help but be critical about it.

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This is the flag of Cambodia. Interestingly, this flag design was used before in 1948 before they changed it in 1970. Let's just say a lot of things happened in Cambodia for the past 60 years. Since then the national flag had been changed for a staggering number of 5 times.

The 1948 flag was readopted in 1993 when Cambodia achieved their independence. Another interesting fact is that the current Cambodian flag, hold the honor of being the only 2 flags in the world to feature a building in their flag design. The building is of course the very famous Angkor Wat.

Afghanistan holds the honor for the other one.

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I'll backtrack a bit and tell you where I spend my night on the first day.

Here's the hotel where I am staying for the night, named the Boeung Mas Guesthouse. Like food, clothes, souvenirs and other things here, they can and most likely will charge you more if you are a foreigner. Thankfully my friend sorted out the price for me.

We booked to single bedrooms, one for me and one for him. The total? Let's just say that the 2 rooms cost less than 15 USD a night.

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This is my room. Not bad. No carpet but I don't mind. The housekeeper gave me a small basket containing a bottle of mineral water, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and also a small packet of soap and shampoo.

Towels are also provided. And not to forget free WiFI too.

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But remember that unlike in Malaysia, in here they use 2 pin electrical sockets. I didn't bring (nor did I anticipate) to bring one of those electrical socket converters but thankfully, I was able to borrow one from a Khmer friend. His name is Raihan and he was kind enough to let me lend it for a day.

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The view from my room. Oh well.

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The hotel's reception area, very simple and clean. There's a small mart near the entrance way. Of course USD is the prefered currency usage here.

We checked out and the 2nd day trip officially begins.

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This is a stall just outside the hotel.

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And in front of it is this repair stall. There are 2 or 3 of them, side by side. They repair bicycles and motorcycles. You know when I was young, I think I was nine at the time, my English teacher Mr Barrett said that one of the most difficult word for primary school students to spell is the word bicycle.

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Off I went to this very familiar restaurant. In my 30 something hours in Phnom Penh, I had eaten here for 4 times. Now the original owner of this restaurant is a Muslim from Thailand. He operates it for about a decade and then a few years ago he passed the ownership of the shop to a local Muslim Khmer.

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That's the story that I was told anyway.

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But the important thing is the food here is very good. Especially the fish soup.

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The fish soup, an omelet and Thai 3 flavoured fish - this is what we had for lunch by the way. I'm out of chronology for a moment. A prolepsis or flash-forward if you will.

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For breakfast I had a bowl of Cambodia's famous Kuew Teow Soup.

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I was told to complete the dish I had to add soysauce, tomato ketchup and a heap full of MSG into the soup. Speaking of MSG, it enhances the fifth flavor in our tongue called umami or savory. The other 4 flavors are of course sweet, sour, bitter and salty.

Umami is an interesting topic to read on because there are lots of myth regarding the hazards of MSG.

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The warehouse, where many poor Muslim Cambodians live. Most of them living here are studying in the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

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This is what the warehouse looks like inside. There are 20-30 people living here. No monthly rent and they only need to pay the water and electricity bills.

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This is the condition that they have to live in in order to minimize living costs. But I was told that their houses in the village are much worse than this. The majority of the occupants are from Tropeangchuk, Kampong Thom, a village which I will visit in a short while so we'll see if that claim is true.

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Laptops are a must for University students. They do part time jobs after classes to earn extra income.

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A compartment for one person. Not everyone can apply living in here. Since this is a house of sort everyone in the house must agree before accepting a new person coming in.

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A mini gas stove for cooking.

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Raihan, the friend whom I borrowed the socket converter lives here. He gave me a short tour around the house, where they eat, where they bath, where they wash their clothes etc. But it was a bit comfortable for me because the place is really crowded with things.

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This is a world wholly different from mine and to be honest, I'm grateful not to be in their shoes.

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Next stop, me and Ershad will go to the famous Central Market by motorcycle. Of course, no helmet needed.

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Looks like there is some type of commotion in front.

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A motorcycle accident, thankfully the rider is alright. Ershad was shouting "Snap a picture, snap a picture!!" to my ear which was very funny. "Don't forget to show this to mama and abah at home".

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But I think if I wasn't by his side, he knows that this is just a normal event on a normal day in Phnom Penh.

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Phnom Penh Central Market.

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Parking was quite hard to find. The weather was hot as well. We entered what looks like the shoe selling area of the market.

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I'm not a shoe person thankfully.

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Lots of jeans and jackets in this area as well. I can spot quite a few family of Malaysians strolling around inside here. But they may be Khmers for all I know, it is hard to distinguish us after all. There was one event where a seller thought that I'm a Khmer whereas Ershad's a Malay. So you can't be too certain on things.

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Ershad is busy choosing new clothes to wear. He just had a new job you see, overseeing workers at a mining site somewhere. The boss is a Malaysian businessman, so Ershad's ability to speak both Malay and Khmer fluently is an advantage. He is like a middleman, or a translator between the boss and the mining workers.

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He's also looking for new shoes. I have to say the prices are not too bad. Of course this is before bargaining. The shoes do look nice.

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I was off alone looking, and snapping pictures - in close proximity with Ershad of course. Imagine getting lost inside here, I also have no simcard to contact him in case I was lost.

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Ershad had decided on a pair of black coloured faux leather shoes. He's bargaining on the price whilst I wait on the outside of the shop.

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A very focused local taylor at work.

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Moving on towards the electronics and gadgets area. I'm sure most of these are chinese knockoffs of popular branded products.

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Gemstones and jewelleries are sold here.

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I bought some very nice wallets here for mom and opah and my aunts as souvenirs. Ershad also bought some for me to brought back as a gift to my family.

Central Market  T-Shirt1

Look at these assortments of T-shirts.

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I almost, almost bought T-shirts here but decided against it. I'll be visiting the Night Market in Siem Riep in 2 days. I'll buy the shirt there.

Central Market 1

I think we're finished with the Central Market. We stopped by a sugarcane stall to quench our thirst. The taste of sugarcane here is unlike those in Malaysia and Egypt, it has its own unique flavor that should be tried. Ershad said the juice has a blend of pineapple and lime juice added to it to enrich the taste.

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We had lunch and are now headed to a temple named Wat Phnom next. Normally, tuk-tuk drivers will provide an advertising space for rent behind the back seat like the photo above. Just another way of them creatively trying to boost their monthly income and I praise them for it.

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We went past a group of 15-20 tourists riding a tricycle rickshaw.

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Now this is Wat Phnom. The name literally translates to "The Hill Temple".

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This green garden surrounding the temple is pleasant to for us to just stroll and look around. There are more locals here than tourists. Since the 1980s there is an elephant here named Sambo. But last year in 2012 the elephant had been retired for duty after more than 30 years of being a tourist attraction.

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Though this site was founded in the 14th century, most of the buildings here were rebuilt in the early 20th century.

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This clock is impressive to see live.

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We can pay the man a certain amount of Rial to set the birds in the cage free. But afraid not, the birds are trained to return back to their cage again after a certain time.

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A small shrine near the main entrance on top of the hill.

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2 majestic looking lion statues guarding the entrance of the temple.

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Inside the temple. You can tell that it has been taken care of nicely.

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On the ceiling on top of the large statue is a painting untouched since the development of this temple. Other paintings had been retouched and recoloured in some ways.

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The mural on the ceiling and the wall around it depicts the tale of Reamker. This is the Cambodian version or adaptation of the Hindu epic called The Ramayana.

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A bus full of tourists had just arrived just as when we were going back home.

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After the trip to the temple we had lunch. Ershad's brother whom had just arrived from Kampong Thom joined us as well. We ate the afore mentioned Sup Ikan, Ikan 3 Rasa and omelette.

After that we had our prayers. Not in this mosque unfortunately since it is still a work in progress.

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Our next stop? Kampong Thom and we're going there by this car right here. It costs me 15 USD per head and the journey will take around 3 hours.

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Though all the passengers in this car are going to Kg Thom, remember that Kg Thom is a very large province. The place that me, Ershad and his brother are going is a village named Tropeangchuk.

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The car was cramped with people.

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2 people sitting on the driver's seat which is unheard of anywhere before. I'm shocked. The journey was surprisingly not that bad. There weren't many cars, nor buses and lorries on the road at all.

Sunset at Kampong Thom

We arrived at Tropeangchuk by evening and that is where this tale will continue on next.

1. Phom Penh Part 1
2. Phnom Penh Part 2
3. Kampong Thom.
4. The Unfinished Mosque.
5. Siem Riep & Angkor Wat.