Holiday in Cambodia

So we went to Cambodia last week, and things have been hectic since we got back and we haven’t put up pictures, so now I am trying to catch up. So here is what happened, in semi-loving detail.

First, we flew from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, which takes about an hour. Harriet has a new-found interest in airline safety brochures, and Cambodian Angkor Air has a particularly nice sequence that seemed to illustrated the dangers of smoking in the bathroom (first a bunch of people are having a fine time smoking in the bathroom, next a fellow is screaming with terror in front of a window full of flames as the airplane has caught fire & he is ready to jump to his death) which Harriet was extremely interested in. We failed to get a picture of this, which is going to be a common refrain of this post. Maybe Kim got real photos of things on her real camera, but I don’t know. But anyway then we figured out that the poor man was actually meant to be inside the airplane and the outside of the plane was full of flames, and the point of the picture was that you are not supposed to go out the emergency door is everything is on fire. There is a message in here somewhere but I am not sure what it is.

Now. We got to Phnom Penh and after making our way through the airport (visas, SIM cards for the phones, fish pond), we went to our hotel via the Cambodian version of a tuk-tuk, which is a remork, which made Harriet extremely pleased. The remork isn’t quite a tuk-tuk (which is a three-wheeled contraption that goes tuk-tuk-tuk), it’s actually a scooter with a tiny two-seat trailer attached to the end of it. You can find an introduction here because we failed to get a nice establishing shot. But the drivers decorate them nicely, and you could make a fine coffee-table book of the different remorks of Cambodia which would probably find an extremely limited market though Harriet would buy a number of copies. Remorks are slightly more pleasant to ride in than tuk-tuks if you are not two years old. They are a fairly recent invention; historically the foreign visitor got around Phnom Penh via cyclopousse (basically a stroller for old people pedaled by a driver, as can be seen here) but that seemed a little weird and colonialist.

I didn’t get a lot of pictures of our first hotel in Phnom Penh, but it was basically a verdant wonderland with cats which is all Harriet cares about:


It was also notable for being opposite the North Korean embassy, which meant that it had a great deal of security. I imagine that this car with Arkansas plates belongs to a spy:


Some background: Norodom Sihanouk, the two-time ex-king of Cambodia (Wikipedia strains to keep up) had warm relations with Kim Il Sung, and spent a lot of time in Pyongyang after the military coup removed him from power. Possibly the North Korean government still operates a restaurant in Phnom Penh? We did not make it there, which is a shame.

But. After lazing in the hotel, we arranged for a taxi to take us to the town of Kep, which is on the coast very close to the Vietnamese border. It was a resort town when Cambodia was a French protectorate; it is famous for its crabs, which we ate, and its burnt-out French villas, which we saw. Kep is fairly spread out and there’s not much of a center; we were staying off in the hills in a pepper plantation. Cambodia is full of enormous statues of things; Kep has a crab to be proud of:


The horizon in Kep is not tilted, this was taken from the back of a remork going as fast as a remork can go. These photos are terrible, I’m sorry. I didn’t get a lot of pictures of the place we were staying at, but it has a lovely pool and fields growing pepper and it was out in the middle of nowhere. We had a fine time there but you will basically have to imagine it. Extrapolate from this picture of a broken-down remork trailer:


Maybe Kim took better pictures. The next day we went to Koh Tonsay, which is a tiny island off the coast of Kep. We took one of these boats:


which take you out to the island, which is maybe ten miles off the coast. It’s not a big island; there’s no electricity, and basically there’s a beach with a handful of restaurants and cabanas that you can stay the night in. Also chickens. And you can get massages. But we had a fine time. The beach was extremely shallow and it went out a long way:


And Harriet had a fine time until she didn’t any more:


Again, Kim took better pictures of things but she has not put up a blog post so I have to tell you about these things with my terrible pictures. The next day we went from Kep to Kampot, which is famous for its pepper, which they also grow in Kep, and its durian, which we did not see. Kampot has an enormous statue of a durian, which is a fine thing to see but which you will have to imagine. You can google “Kampot durian statue” if you are curious. Why do we bother taking pictures at all? Who knows.

But on the way to Kampot we took an extremely rickety remork ride – probably the most rickety of all of them – to one of the local caves, Phnom Chhnork. (“Phnom” means hill in Khmer. Now you are as educated as I am.) There was some nice statuary at the entrance:


This particular cave has a large stalagmite that looks like an elephant, hence these, and is the site of an ancient Hindu shrine. There are a lot of stairs going up, which Harriet was pleased by:


And inside it was a cave, which of course it is lunacy to attempt to photograph on my telephone:


Okay. Now. After the rickety ride to the cave and back and on the way to the next place we were staying the remork broke down:


Fortunately it broke down next to a puddle and so Harriet had a fine time. The only documentation I have of the next place we stayed is this picture of Harriet with a cow:


That’s basically how it was. And now I have to stop apologizing for not photographing things very well and start apologizing for not photographing at all because the next day I forgot my phone at home, which is a shame because you are missing out on photographs of some amazing things. We took a taxi up to the Bokor Hill Station, which was a French outpost at the top of a small mountain; a winding road goes up to the top, which made Harriet carsick and she threw up all over Kim, to our driver’s considerable entertainment. But again, you need to use your imagination. At the top of the hill are a bunch of creepy abandoned buildings and a waterfall, and an immense housing complex being designed by a Korean conglomerate. Should you like to have some idea, you could look at this film by Norodom Sihanouk, former king of Cambodia; in the 1960s, he decided that his country would be better served if he took up film-making, which he did. The Khmer Rouge then showed these films to their young recruits as examples of the decadence of the ruling class, and that ended badly for everyone, but I am not here to teach you about Cambodian history.

After that we went back to Phnom Penh, which is kind of great. As previously noted, Harriet had a tarantula (not particularly delicious) and the National Museum is very nice. The National Palace is infested with monkeys and also cats. There are a lot of playgrounds and Harriet had a fine time with the Cambodian children:

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And then we left Cambodia and Harriet was sad to go.


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