On a recent visit to Cambodia I spotted the old Hotel International Phnom Penh from my own hotel’s balcony. Obviously this old girl has seen much better days and must have been an elegant hotel in its heyday. Sadly though, I couldn’t locate any old photos of the Hotel International Phnom Penh in prime condition, it would have been great to sit the images side by side for a comparison.
If you look closely at the old building (click image for larger version), it’s been divided up into tiny apartments and even more squalid living quarters have been built (I use the term built fairly loosely), on the roof. The only thing remaining of the original hotel facade is the once elegant old domed column with its faded sign and rusty awning over what must have been the “grand entrance” at the front.
No doubt this relic from the past would have many tales and some dark secrets lurking amongst the dust and vermin within its framework.
…which oddly grows directly from the tree trunk. This one is in the grounds of the Cambodian Royal Palace, Phnom Penh.
After having lived outside of Australia for many years, I find myself becoming nostalgic for certain things Australian and nothing brings a lump to my throat or a tear to my eye quicker than Australian country music, a genre I was never all that fond of when I lived back there. One singer who, to me, epitomises Aussie country/folk music is John Williamson and I have a couple of his albums in my collection for those times I’m feeling homesick and want to become maudlin, or when I have an Aussie mate staying. When I watched the memorial service for The Crocodile Man, Steve Irwin on YouTube and Williamson sang “True Blue”, I had to sit back from my laptop for fear the tears dripping from my chin would short out the system. True story. “So what’s that got to do with eating breakfast in Kampot?” I hear you ask. Well I’ll tell you…
We were eating breakfast outside our guesthouse, a newly renovated and very charming old French villa, and here’s a picture of me above doing just that. The breakfast too was very French, fruit juice, fresh baguettes with butter and jam, coffee and fresh fruit, delicious. A very French breakfast outside a French villa in the deep south of Cambodia. Imagine my surprise then when I suddenly heard the dulcet tones of John Williamson singing “Give Me A Home Among The Gumtrees” booming out from the small Cambodian rice shop on the opposite pavement, (picture below).
The music certainly stopped me in my tracks and when I realised they were playing a complete John Williamson album I had to go and investigate, this was just too weird. I got up and walked over and the music drew me around the corner like a hungry fish to a well baited hook. There I found a small car with the doors wide open and the stereo blaring, I’d located the source. The Cambodian guy who owned the car is shown below sitting eating breakfast and sharing Williamson with the whole neighbourhood. I didn’t hear any complaints though, in fact everybody looked happy and seemed to be nodding along to it. I asked him where he got the album and he replied, “G’day mate, bloody good music eh!”
Yep, we Aussies get around a bit leaving dollops of culture wherever we go. Or should that be spelt “kulcha”?
We recently took a trip to Cambodia for a break from this city and to explore the south of that country, something I’d never done before. After being there I have to ask myself why haven’t I done this before?? It was just so good.
Originally we were going to travel first to Phnom Penh and then down to Sihanoukville, but ultimately we decided to go in completely the opposite direction. We flew from Sai Gon to the southern Vietnamese city of Rach Gia, caught a taxi into the market/bus depot and boarded a 25 seater local bus that eventually had around 35 persons on board. However, it was comfortable enough and for the 3 hour trip to Ha Tien on the border the princely sum of 38,000 VND (US$1.80) each was very reasonable.
The bus dropped us outside of Ha Tien and still 7 klms short of the border leaving us at the not too tender mercy of the local motorbike taxi drivers. Eventually we settled on 50,000VND each for them to take us to the border, which didn’t turn out to be a bad proposition really as they stuck with us and walked our bags through for nearly an hour in the very hot sun as we left VN and purchased a visa etc on the Cambodian side.
We paid them off on the other side and were besieged with individuals offering to take us to Kep for outrageous sums but Lan began talking to one guy in Vietnamese and he offered to take us in his car for $15. We accepted and he became our driver for the rest of the trip only ever scaring me once when, on the road to Phnom Penh he tried to overtake 3 trucks on a blind corner that was cresting a hill and we met an oncoming car half way. After a couple of expletives I asked him not to do that again.
From Kep we drove to Kampot, then to Sihanoukville and on to Phnom Penh. From there to Sai Gon we caught a bus which is a manageable 6 hour drive. So actually we did a large circle with many pleasant stops on the way.
The pick of the places we stayed we both agreed was Kep closely followed by Kampot. Sihanoukville has better beaches but it also has a seedy feel to the place and too many children trying to sell stuff which turned me off. Phnom Penh of course is Phnom Penh, hasn’t changed too much over the years and I always enjoy being there.
I’ve put a lot of images up on galleries divided into 4 sets, Kep, Kampot, Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh for your viewing pleasure. Please click on the images below to go to the galleries.
500 metres into Cambodia and the paved highway of Viet Nam is but a fond memory