Seeing as Alex was flying on the Monday and we arrived on Sunday, it meant we only really had dinner together and then a slow morning before heading to the airport. We did make the most of our last dinner though and went to a place I'd found online called Friends. The restaurant is an NGO run establishment and programme that takes homeless youths off the street and teaches them catering, service and hygiene, as well as supporting them through rehab if necessary and providing education. Every one who works at the restaurant used to be homeless. The food there is great and the atmosphere was really quaint and sweet! Luckily, we'd decided to get ere early as, by the time we were finished with our meal at 7.30pm, there was a queue of about 10 people waiting for a space. We then wandered back towards our hotel, stopping off at a bar with live music for a $3 cocktail for me and a $1.50 beer for Alex…imagine getting those prices in London! I think not!
Needless to say, the following day wasn't as lovely. It was time for Alex to leave for the UK, to go back to work for 5 weeks. It's amazing how quickly the 5 weeks we'd spent here in Asia had gone. It had kind if snuck up on me and suddenly we were in a taxi on the way to the airport. It broke my heart watching him go through those doors, and having to turn around and get back into the waiting taxi.
The day after Alex left, I took myself off to the killing fields, just outside Phnom Penh…because, you know, what better to do when your boyfriend has gone away and you're on the verge of tears constantly than to go look at where thousands of people, including whole families, were murdered? Cheery stuff. In fact, it was really interesting. The audio guide they give you on arrival is really informative and has first hand accounts from victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, Khmer Rouge guards and charity workers who are trying to rebuild Cambodia. It was definitely worth going to see. Also, I managed to be picked up by what must have been the most ostentatious tuk tuk in the whole of Cambodia! This guy had potted plants, hanging plants and vegetables all over his vehicle…I felt like the queen of Sheba as we drove out of the city with everyone stopping to stare or wave. Surreal stuff! I wish I had taken a photo of this chariot…but sadly I didn't think of it at the time!
The following day, I got an early bus down to Kampot, which is on the west of the country, on the small Cambodian coastline. It took 6 hours to drive 150km. The road quality in SE Asia is generally appalling; however, the time is takes to do such short journeys never ceases to amaze me! I had had such high hopes for Kampot; thinking I was going to be heading to a relaxed and interesting small town with lots of people to chat to. However, on arrival, I realised that the town was a bit of a dump, with very little to do unless you like hiking (I don't) or smoking weed (again, I really don't). The place I'd checked into had really good reviews on tripadvisor and I had prepared myself for a rustic, basic bit of accommodation (reed bungalows and a shared bathroom etc)…I had not prepared myself for squalor and being surrounded by French people who sat around smoking, drinking and talking amongst themselves all day. No one really responded to my hellos.
(Doesn't look too bad, does it? …it really was.)
This is where this post takes a bit of a positivity nosedive. I was miserable. I was lonely, pretty disgusted, tired and a little scared by the lack of security and the noises outside. As no one would give me the time of day there, I decided to go into town, for dinner, to a place I'd read about online as a favourite for expats, hoping to see a friendly face. All that actually happened was I spoke to my dad and wept. Then I facetimed my mum and wept. Solidly. For 2 hours. And then again later on when Alex managed to FaceTime me from Norway. I had to make a plan; there was no way I was staying in that place or town longer than one night. So, I had a good long think, toyed with the idea of flying to Hong Kong for a few days (and going to Disney!) but decided to go back to Phnom Penh and explore the city. At least there I would have activities to keep me occupied and maybe make some friends.
So here I am! Back in Phnom Penh, after a 6 1/2 hour bus journey yesterday, ensconced in a hotel with my own bathroom, a pool, no scurrying noises and what appears to be the most comfortable bed in the whole of SE Asia! 🙂 I've also made myself a nice itinerary of things to do, which has perked me up no end!
Today, I went to the genocide museum. Again, not a very cheerful place to go but I think these places are interesting and important. The museum is actually an old school that was converted, by the Khmer Rouge, into a prison and torture location, as well as a place where people were executed. There isn't much in terms of text to read or information to absorb, but there are hundreds upon hundreds of photos of the people who were arrested and brought to this hell. It becomes mind numbing, seeing face after face and knowing they all died. The thing I really found interesting was that, although they looked hardened, angry and sometimes shocked, only one photo showed evidence of tears from these people. There was even one photo where the inmate was smiling at the camera.
There are also rooms dedicated to the torture methods employed by the Khmer Rouge to force false confessions from their hostages. To think that people endured what they did there is horrible. I won't describe the methods they use because, frankly, I am horrified that one human being can come up with such awful physical torments to inflict on another.
So that brings us up to date. Tomorrow, I have booked to go to the Tamao wildlife park…in an open top jeep….should be fun! It's a trip that needs 2 people minimum so, by definition, I'll be with at least one other person all day tomorrow. Fingers crossed they are nice…and we speak the same language!