We arrived in Phnom Penh from an uneventful 12 hour bus ride - and found a good guesthouse near the Lake. We'd struck gold, as that night we were introduced to Mr. Marp, and Li-nin (more on them later), who looked after us so well that it exceeded all expectations - we'd heard Cambodia was full of hard selling groups of bus companies, guesthouse owners and tuktuk drivers, all working in unison.
Phnom Penh was a pleasant surprise - it has a population of around 1.3 million, and is very relaxed with wide open spaces, greenery, the riverside area and plenty of beautiful old french style colonial buildings.
On our second day, Mr. Marp took us out to the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum, which was pretty sobering. It was hard to imagine the sheer brutality imposed by the Khmer Rouge, and despite the huge number of skulls and remains visible at the Killing Fields, as well has the stories told by our guide, the severity of the atrocities commited didn't really hit home until I'd seen the individual faces of the victims at the Genocide Museum. I found it very hard to connect the dots as it was so far out of my realm as to what humans could inflict on one another. And in very recent history too (1976-1979). We headed home in a sombre mood, very much looking forward to a beer, things got slightly out of hand and between Andy and Rose (some friends from the UK), Lizzie and I, we polished off 3 bottles of cheap ($1.50) Mekong Whiskey.
One of the really cool things about Cambodia - from a tourist point of view, is that most people speak really good english. That may sound kind of like a cop-out, but the beauty with it is that it allows you to really connect with the people - to ask them questions about their lives. Mr. Marp for example, took us to see his family, we joked around, and even had a few drinks with him and the others that hung out around the guesthouse (supposedly working). And on one day we visited an amazing orphanage (SOAC) where we chatted to the kids who were so full of enthusiasm for life, and played football with them also (Man U. vs. Chelsea!).
The Cambodian people have been the only people so far to impart a bit of wit into conversation - they joke with you, telling you that your bill is $100 when it should be $10, only to burst into fits of laughter when they see the initial shock on your face. And you can give it back too. You should have seen the look on the poor tuktuk drivers face when we told him we couldn't pay him, followed by fits of laughter again when he realised what was going on. Its remarkable that they are so positive despite what they've been through, although, I guess they have to be.
We head to Siem Reap today to see the temples of Angkor, but we're glad we'll be passing back through Phnom Penh again on our way to Vietnam.