Monday, August 25, 2008

A Phnom Penh adventure

Armed with a Lara Croft-style attitude, but with a much more decent wardrobe, I recently spent three wonderful but tiring days in Phnom Penh — and what a trip it was for my friend and I!

Upon arriving at the hotel, we immediately set off to find Central Market, a shopping haven for fashionistas.

One really needs to toughen up mentally so as not to succumb to the temptations on sale such as unique handbags, custom-made jewellery, jade, delicate Cambodian silk, silverware . . . basically everything and anything is sold under this big yellow dome.

We even chanced upon Cambodian delicacies like fried cockroaches, grasshoppers and the like.

Though I’m adventurous, I chickened out when it came to putting one of those bugs in my mouth. Guess I am not as audacious as Lady Croft.

After the shopping trip, I took my friend for her first full body Khmer massage. For just under US$4 (RM13), it was indeed a steal. The masseuses were so good at their craft that both my friend and I felt so light and relaxed after the session. We were now all geared up for our second day — exploring Phnom Penh.

There are undoubtedly a lot of temples and pagodas in the city, most notably the majestic Chatomuk Mongkul, The Royal Palace.

The grand palace, surrounded by magnificent sculptures, is characterised by the many tiered roofs and towers which are symbols of prosperity.

The glorious sight of the palace left us awed. Most of the ornaments and embellishments in the banquet halls are made of gold.

The luxurious palace, however, is such a contrast to Cambodia’s poor living conditions.

Apart from the notorious traffic and “out of control” tuk-tuk drivers and motorcyclists who kept pestering us to use their service, there were many dental clinics in the city — perhaps Cambodians are very particular about their teeth.

There were also notices and reminders about sexual exploitations or abuses of children.

It was also disturbing to see many young child beggars and labourers around.

Everything went smoothly on the holiday until we were about to leave. We weren’t told about the US$25 (RM83) departure tax. Luckily I hadn’t spent all my money at Central Market.

I certainly enjoyed my Phnom Penh visit tremendously and would love to visit the country again.

Nazreen, Mersing

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