Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Phnom Phen cont'- Oct 12

My second day in Phnom Phen was less eventful. I started the day up at Wat Phnom, a temple in the center of town with an interesting story. Its atop a hill (a small one) and houses 4 Buddha statutes that a woman named Phen found floating in the Mekong. The word "Phenom" translates to hill, so this city was literally named after "Phen's Hill". The story was more interesting than the temple, but a visit here is supposed to bring good luck.

I moved on to see the Central Market which was supposed to be spectacular, and even though I was not interested in shopping, especially at another market, Phenom Phen was running out of attractions for me. I was able to walk there and was glad that I did. The walk killed some time as the market wasn't nearly as busy as others I've been to, a fraction actually. Still fresh with consumer senses overload from Vietnam, I didn't stay here long. The product was of really poor quality anyhow.

Walking around I saw another girl on her own who seemed to be doing the same thing as me. We crossed paths a few times and eventually we ended up chatting. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called "Friends". Its a training facility for disadvantaged youth and helps keep them off the street. It teaches them service skills, hygiene, food prep and cooking. Once completing the program at Friends, many go on getting jobs at hotels or upscale restaurants. The whole place is run by the kids and their teachers. Pretty cool.

I had the whole afternoon still and on advice of my lunch date, I decided to check out the Russian market. I didn't really want to do yet another market, but as she confirmed (what I was thinking), there really isn't much else to do here.

The market was another bust. Dark, dirty and garage sale quality goods.

Phenom Phen was an interesting place to visit. Its extremely poor and still recovering from an inconceivable past, but a place I'm glad I had the chance to see. Despite an uncomfortable feeling right from the boarder, no one actually did anything that gave me reason to feel unsafe. It was the images, the poverty, the living conditions that you see these people in that you associate with crime and danger. In fact, the people here have been friendly and helpful. I wouldn't call this a "warm" place, I was still on edge and had my wits about me at all times, but I think it was more a matter of me feeling out of my element and in an uncomfortable environment more than there was a issue of concern for my safety.

Nonetheless, two full days was enough and I booked my mini-bus ticket to move on to Siem Reap and Ankor. This is something I have really been looking forward to.

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