Phnom Penh, Cambodia
March - 2013
We flew to Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city in Cambodia, for a long weekend. The flight was only two hours. We had a wonderful time, eating, sightseeing, and just relaxing.
We toured the Royal Palace, a complex with several buildings, built in 1866. The buildings, with their beautiful towering spires, are a great example of the classic Khmer architecture found in Cambodia.
The current King, Norodom Sihamoni, lives here. The King of Cambodia is an elected monarch, making Cambodia one of the few elected monarchies in the world. The King's role is a symbolic figurehead; he does not have any power. His father, a king the people really loved, passed away earlier this year.
We were not allowed to tour the royal residency, but we did see the Throne, the Silver Pagoda where the floors are all silver, and a few other buildings. The current King is 60 years old and he never married.
Wat Ounalom, built in 1443 is the most important Wat in Phnom Penh. They say it has a hair from the Buddha’s eyebrow. It consists of 44 structures. Many which were damaged during the Khmer Rouge but have since been restored.
Isn't this Buddha interesting adorned in make-up and jewelry? We saw several like this.
Look closely to the right of the Buddha below, worshippers left nail polish as an offering. Must be the Buddha of beauty.
I was intrigued with the miniature temples outside of the main temples. They are approximately three to four feet tall. I could not find any information about what they are used for... maybe to burn incense?
We also visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a heart-breaking site, as over 20,000 prisoners were killed there. Originally a high school, it was used by the Khmer Rouge as a Security Prison called 21 (S-21) from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979.
Our guide lived through this horrific event and he shared his story with us. As a child, he was sent out to the countryside where he worked as a slave from sunrise to sunset without any food or water. He lost most of his family members during the Khmer Rouge era.
We also met Chum Mey, one of only twelve known survivors of the Khmer Rouge S-21 Tuol Sleng camp. He survived two years in the death camp but unfortunately he lost his wife (she was pregnant) and his first-born child. They were murdered right in front of him. We purchased a copy of his book and he offered to let us take his photo. He is now 83 years old.
This was the room where he was imprisoned. He probably survived because he was a trained auto mechanic and had valuable machinery skills.
This unusual flower grows on the Cannonball Tree also called the "Buddha tree". They possess antibiotic, anti fungal, antiseptic and analgesic qualities. The trees are also used to cure colds and stomach aches.
Below is a flowering banana tree. In Asia, the banana flower is considered a vegetable and it is edible. If you take away the hard outer leaves, the inside is very tender. It can be eaten raw, but many recipes require cooking. I have never tasted it - but will now be on the hunt to give it a try.
We enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant next to our hotel. Two bowls of noodles, spring rolls, and a coke for $3. It was very good, as was all of the food we ate during the trip.
A visit to the market...
Must have been a good day!
This little piggy really went to market!
????? I am guessing these rings on his back are from cupping, an ancient Chinese practice that balances the Chi in the body. It relaxes muscles and is said to have similar effects of a massage.
A gas station -
Notice the chickens for sale in the cage next to her... and the gas!
Look how the mound of veggies and the motorbike is leaning one way and he is leaning the other way to balance it.
We really had a fun time in Phnom Penh. Our hotel was beautiful and the people of Cambodia are happy, friendly people. Quite an achievement considering the past 35 years of history in their country.