Phnom Penh is leaving us exhausted. It is dirty, it is loud, the traffic is chaotic and we are constantly being asked if we need a tuktuk and if not – do you need one tomorrow, Sir? – why not? – how about The Killing Fields, Lady – I give you good price?
While we were very impressed by how the Thais would allow us to look at the items they were selling and we had the feeling that we were buying stuff rather than being sold stuff, the Cambodians are constantly trying to sell us things so we take care not to stop too long looking at things unless we are serous about buying. If we linger too long, they start pulling out all sorts so stuff we had no interest in and try to get us to buy something …anything.
Yesterday we went to see the National Museum, next to the Royal Palace. It contained mostly artifacts from the Angkorian era taken from around Siem Reap but also a few pre-Angkorian artifacts as well as later stuff. The museum it self is in a beautiful building that by it self is worth the visit. The museum was kind of small and took maybe a couple of hours to see everything, which is quite surprising considering the long and eventful history Cambodia has but I guess the ministry of culture does not have too much funds – the money is needed elsewhere.
After the National Museum we headed across the street to see the Royal Palace. Admission was a whopping $6 per person – we were hesitant but went in anyway (yes, we’ve gotten so cheap by now :). There were only two buildings that were available to us, the coronation room and The Silver Pagoda. The Silver Pagoda is famous for the 500 kg of silver that decorate the floor of the temple and the two Buddha statues, first a 90 kg solid gold man-sized statue decorated with over 2,000 diamonds and a smaller a small 17th century baccarat crystal Buddha. The buildings were nice but we felt that there was something lacking – it seemed like they were trying to make the numbers rather then creating a balanced and beautiful space. Unfortunately photography was not allowed in those two buildings.
We were allowed to take photos in the shrine or temple that amused and intrigued me the most. In that temple a sacred cow was worshipped. We have all read about the Hindus considering cows (like all other life forms) to be sacred but to see a cow on the altar is something different.
The Khmer cuisine hasn’t kept the promise it made on our first night in Siem Reap. I think that was our best meal in Cambodia so far. They have a lot of noodle and rice dishes but the curries are not as hot as in Thailand and there is some ingredient they use that we are not loving so we are looking forward to trying something new in Vietnam. We can even admit that we have had pizza once and a chicken burger once, not bad though for over three weeks of travelling?
I’ll tell you about our day today, when we went to the biggest market in town and the gruesome S-21 prison, in my next post.