Cambodia: First impressions of Phenom Penh
Phenom Penh is a city I was told I would dislike; co-workers and acquaintances here in Hanoi told me that once I had seen the killing fields, there would be nothing else to see so I might as well head south to party hotspot Sihanoukville or tourist hotspot Siem Riep.
Phenom Penh was wonderful. Its pace is slower than that of Hanoi; drivers actually waved me across the street rather than dodging me by mere inches. People smiled gorgeous big smiles, were friendly and gentle, a stark contrast to Hanoi’s aggressive, often cold, capitol city mentality.
The city is by no means paradise, however. After the Khmer Rouge, secret bombings by the USA and thirty years of war that left the country so riddled with mines that Cambodians are still being harmed, how could the country not face the immense problems associated with reconciling and rebuilding? I plan to post many pictures–I took close to 700–but I would like to start with some that are more positive, rather than just focus on genocide and the Khmer Rouge. Additionally, I’ve read quite a lot about Cambodia so I will post a list of books, films and online resources so you can learn more if you’re interested.
We were never allowed to play like this as kids. One of the things I love most about living in Asia is that while people really do value their kids, risk is more tolerated. Kids play in the street or, like these children, on a bridge to nowhere over a river. When you don’t have monkey bars and balance beams, you make your own.
Cambodia has a large Chinese population so Chinese New Year is celebrated by many, much the way it is celebrated in Vietnam. I was fortunate to stumble upon a dragon/lion dance while I was wandering around the city.
Life is art and Cambodia was filled with it, from graffiti to palaces to dance and the ancient temples of Angkor.
This boat (I think it was a houseboat) was tethered to the bank of the river as this little girl pretended to row upstream toward the Mekong.
Homes and shops in Cambodia frequently have spirit houses in front of them. Offerings are made and incense sticks are lit each morning to keep the spirits happy and bring good luck. Sometimes, even the ancestors need a doughnut.