Phnom Penh and beyond

After Siem Reap we headed to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. We decided to stay at Eighty8 Backpackers, mainly because it had a pool, and it turned out great – lovely staff, clean heebie-jeebie free room (no bugs), great bar and of course the aforementioned pool to have a dip in when it gets too hot. Here’s a photo of the hostel:

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Once again, Jack will be blogging about the more serious side to our stay in Phnom Penh – the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields – and I’ll be talking about the sillier side. What an airhead.

Phnom Penh was surprisingly HUGE. It was also pretty hard to get a sense of different areas, you would have a few things here and a few things there with large distances in between. On our first night we made the error of following the Lonely Planet recommendations and ended up on a girlie bar street, not quite what we had in mind! Despite the bad start, we had some brilliant nights in Phnom Penh. One was pretty random, it started with some drinks with a Danish guy called Morten in the hostel where we ended up playing pool with a bigger group of people, some Dutch, some English (North London in fact). We even randomly discovered we were chatting to the son of the lady who owns the flat we used to rent in Clapham – odd! We were already pretty tipsy when Jack and I decided to go and have a ‘happy’ pizza for dinner. Happy restaurants are all over Cambodia as marijuana is traditionally used in their cooking. We only asked for our pizza medium-happy, and Jack and I shared one, but within an hour the effects had kicked in and I was barely able to move. We were sat in an upstairs bar with a load of people as we slowly descended into a bit of a coma that was randomly interrupted by fits of giggles. My whole world was spinning and I didn’t think I could get up let alone walk in a straight line. Finally we decided we needed to leave as we were NOT fit for socialising but we also needed to haggle a tuk-tuk price and direct a driver home, thank goodness Morten was also ready to call it a night and played the role of responsible adult. Lesson learned – once you have eaten happy pizza do not socialise with people who have NOT eaten happy pizza.

On another more sedate night we went for a great meal at a restaurant called Friends. This restaurant is run by an NGO and does a brilliant job training street children as serving staff, kitchen staff and managers. The prices are a little higher than your usual Cambodian restaurant but the food was excellent and the staff were brilliant. Here’s a bit of food porn for you…
My Dory fish with potatoes – POTATOES (I miss them):

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Jack’s barbecue chicken pitta:

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Our greek salad with real feta (I am also missing CHEESE!):

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The training board – a great restaurant doing great things:

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On our last night at Eight8 Backpackers they had their monthly First Friday party, apparently these are quite famous in Phnom Penh and sometimes draw crowds of up to 500 people. We decided that there was no point having an early night if it was going to be noisy anyway so we joined in. My last memory from that night is Jack buying us some ridiculously big tequila shots. We were then woken up at 7.30am the next day by reception telling us our bus pickup was half an hour early. We threw everything into bags and ran. It was not a pleasant 5 hour trip to Sihanoukville (where we are now).

So now we’re back on the coast and it’s SO nice to be beside the seaside. Sihanoukville is named after King Sihanouk who ruled back before the 1970s as apparently this was the royal’s holiday destination of choice. There is a huge area called Serendipity beach which used to be quite nice, but is now what I imagine Pattaya to be like – really busy, hundreds of bars and promoters everywhere and quite a lot of old men carrying a beer belly up front and a Cambodian prostitute on their arm. We were there last night to watch another depressing Arsenal match as it was the only place with TVs. Anyway, we opted to stay on Otres beach which is lovely, much quieter but with just the right amount of chilled out beach bars, and the beach itself is stunning. Here are a couple of snaps for you.

The beach:

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Night time:

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We’re here for another few days before setting off towards Vietnam. Jack will be online soon to talk about the more serious side to Cambodia.

Love to all,

Debbie xxx

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