Flew by prop jet from siem reap to phnom penh this morning. We followed flooded rice fields and mangrove swamps that line the rivers that flow south to phnom penh. Spent morning at royal palace, silver pagoda and national museum. Afternoon relaxing at the Raffles Hotel.
Phnom Penh is a poor city in a poor country. but like much of South East Asia things seem to be looking up and people are beginning to show optimism. With Smithsonian we visited the National Museum of Cambodia (very interesting...but my feet were killing me) and the Royal Palace and related grounds, stupa, and temples. (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/abaesel/collections/72157609130626360/
for photos of Phnom Penh.
The Raffles was a delightful oasis with a peaceful pool in its center where we relaxed in the shade one late afternoon. We ate "in" one night with fruit plates. Read books and regrouped.
One day took a taxi to the "Russian market" a large market located in an area that was once heavily inhabited by Russian expats. It was really fun. It had parts that were "touristy" but people weren't nearly so "persistent" as in Saigon or Hue. And then there were large parts of the market that was the TRUE market for the locals...everything from toothpaste to toys, crabs to pig's feet. Enjoyed our time there.
Later we took a taxi to a restaurant run by a NGO charity that takes street kids and teaches them how to work in a restaurant. it was a delight. It is called Friends (or Good Friends) Mith Samlanh restaurant. Good food, good cause, great price. Here is a review with info: http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/asia/cambodia/phnom-penh/restaurant-detail.html?vid=1154654644894
we walked back about a mile to the hotel...the only caucasians for blocks (if not miles). but we felt safe and unbothered. Again, like in much of SE Asis we walked in the streets because the sidewalks were full of parked scooters, tables for outside cafes, or people selling clams, or lotto tickets, or cigarettes.
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