if you haven't been to Cambodia, go! It is a great vacation (Siem Reap) for anyone. There's something there for everyone and you don't even need to be particularly adventurous. I didn't see dog on the menu once! Although I did eat cow tongue off a street vendor for my last meal of 2009- delicious! and so tender.
Brian and I arrive via boat at 2 in the afternoon in Phnom Phen. We had been anxious to see what it was all about. Meh is my only word. It was like Saigon but dirtier and more sketchy if you will. There was tons of motorbike traffic, as in Saigon, but there was no identifiable system of how to cross the street. In Saigon as long as you walk in a straight line at a consistent speed they will get out of you way. The mentality in PP seemed to be, I'm bigger, I can kill you, get out my way! We took a tuk tuk (motorbike pulling a cart of sorts) and got a hotel and exchanged some money for Riel, which turned out to be stupid because everywhere preferred American dollars. Prices were listed in dollars and the ATMs would only give you $$. It was odd. Then when our driver asked if he could take us around the city we gave him a dollar, said nah we're hungry and went on our way. I guess he expected to be our tour guide for the day because he snatched the dollar and said "you just wasted a lot of my time," and rode away. haha Score one for us. It's usually us that's being taken for a ride (ha Im funny) by the drivers.
Anyway, we go to a market and get an OK lunch ($3 for both of us and we're feeling ripped off after Vietnam, ohhh how your perspective changes), then decide to go out to the killing fields. We didn't know what they were bu they came highly recommended by my friend Liz who had been to Cambodia a few years back. She also suggested the pumpkin curry which is to die for!!! We took probably the slowest tuk tuk in PP and finally made our way out there. Wow! For someone who knows NOTHING about Asian history, or even contemporary history, this was eye opening. In the 1970s-80s Pol Pot came into power and basically had his troops go around Cambodia killing all of his opposition. He killed millions of people. At this particular field, located close to the biggest prison, they killed 8,000+ people in cold blood. They didn't shoot the people. They bashed their heads in with sticks, on trees, using hoes, and all sorts of other torturous devices. Truly disgusting that this kind of genocide went on in my lifetime!!
After we went and showered up back at our $12/night hotel (it's getting pricey! this ain't no $9 joint!) we went out in search of pumpkin curry. PP by night is a different beast. It's shady. There are lots of middle aged white men with teen aged Cambodian girls. Gross. There are "hostess bars" where you go to pick out your escort for the evening. Brian and I accidentally went into one of these joints for a drink. I was sitting there wondering why there were no men only women sitting around. On the way out it clicked. We found dinner and then decided in order to save money we would go to the liquor store get some local rice wine and drink while we sought out a new bar. We're taking swigs in the street when some nice woman just off work approached us. She told us we shouldn't just be hanging out in the streets, we should get to where we're going, it was dangerous here at night as a foreigner. Oh good. I have NEVER felt afraid to be alone (and I wasn't, I was with Brian) anywhere in my Asian travels, and the fact that a local woman was telling us to watch out kind of freaked me out. Not a fan PP. Not a fan.
The weirdest thing was walking by the market outside our hotel. During the day it was bustling. In all of the markets I have seen throughout Asia, they're always open late into the night. Ive actually never seen one closed. Until now. The market come 8pm was shut down. I'm talking not a soul in sight. There were metal doors pulled over all of the booths and all of the garbage, all of it, was pushed into the middle of the street. It was gross. Brian and I looked around and said to each other, what a shit hole!
So basically that was my last impression of PP. We left early the next morning for another 5+ hour bus ride (AC this time woohoo!!!) up to Siem Reap, the best little city ever.