Dave in Thailand
Phnom Penh
- for the Cambodia TESOL (=CamTESOL) Conference, Feb 24-5 2007
Day 1, arriving at Phnom Penh

Always have to start somewhere - our good friend Bee taking us to the Hat Yai airport - she does a great job fixing my motorcycle too, has for 10 years (sure wish I had ever had a car in Canada that lasted 10 years!! - or had a mechanic as reliable and honest and inexpensive as Bee!!!) Bee dropping us at the Hat Yai airport

- - we had to overnight in BKK, mostly an uneventful time, I spent some time in a bookstore as usual (found a new one, the Dasa Book Cafe (very good, fair prices for tradeins unike most others in the Big Mango, at least that I have dealt with in the past, very helpful etc), and we took in the newish Undersea World aquarium at Siam Square, which was a bit pricy but very well done overall - here are some sand eels, which I had never seen before, with a couple of anemones - sand eels at the new BKK aquarium
- - and then the next morning, early, we arrived in Phnom Penh, after a 5:30 am adventure with a taxi driver in BKK who apparently planned to take the stupid foreigner on a tour of the BKK expressway system before heading for the airport (a common scam they do to those who know no better, evidently thinking they're quite clever) - at least we could not figure any other reason he was heading directly east on the highway that went west to the airport when there was an entrance to the west lane directly across from the hotel, with very little traffic at 5+ am, so we shouted at him until he stopped, and then walked back and crossed over the road and got another taxi - who said he couldn't give me a receipt at the airport - one of the problems of living here, the taxi drivers are generally a bad bunch, and scamming / thieving from foreigners is somewhat of a national pasttime with most people in the travel business ("Golly!! Imagine that! A $3 fare, and you only have a $20 bill - and poor me with not a bit of change for the bill after driving a taxi all day and as a job!!! (usually done mostly in a small handful of English words plus sign language and facial expressions, hand waving, etc) so obviously you have to give me the whole $20 heh heh!!)" - you really want to scream at them or worse sometimes in utter frustration at the stupidity of it all - but they're all so predictable that you learn to watch for them once you've been here awhile - sure doesn't do much for the reputation of the country though, I better not get started, that's another page (probably a very big one once started))
- arriving at Phnom Penh Phnom Penh airport

- our guest house, the place on the corner with the arrow pointing to our room, called The Hope and Anchor (highly recommended, comfortable room, hot water with decent water pressure, in-room kettle for boiling hot water, fridge, good view from the balcony of the river and the endless stream of life passing by on the road below most of the day). The Tonle Sap river is just behind and right of where the picture is taken from, and another couple of hundred yards downsteam is the junction of it and the Mekong and a third river called the Bassac - more pics on the website above. And the street is relatively quiet in the photo, but most of the day it is just packed with motorcycles and other vehicles.
the Hope and Anchor

- well, arriving there quite early in the day, we spent some time getting settled in at the guest house, and then decided to do a little orientation tour around the place - here's the main street along the riverside, called Sisowath Quay, kind of quiet here early in the day, but nice, with the row of mostly hotels along it, and the park that runs all along it for a mile or so. Phnom Penh was apparently once known as the most beautiful city in southeast Asia, and it is still quite evident why along the river here, regardless of the horrors it has experienced since, and all of the building and reconstruction going on elsewhere in the city -
the road along the river, Sisowath Quay
- a couple of our first contacts with the Cambodians, after the visa and immigration people at the airport, the taxi driver and guest house people - we would see much more of these young kids, and many others, as they spent the evenings walking up and down the street trying to sell various things - these four sold books (all photocopies of various popular books on Camobodia for $3-5 US, or a bit less if you could talk them down - and it's quite evident they are all enjoying life, as kids should everywhere, regardless that they don't live in America or Disneyland. The young girl on the right was apparently of a different sort of group, just begging - I never knew exactly what to think of it all, if they were 'controlled' by some person (as most beggars in Bangkok apparently are), or if they were actually truly poor people who had come to the city and had no contacts yet to work on the more common 'offer some service or good' gang. I felt a lot of sympathy or pity for them, and bought things or gave them money when I could, but you have to be careful, you could easily give all your money away in a day - and I fight my own fight on their behalf when I rage on about international capitalism and try to educate people about it, and (along with many others, of course) try to loosen its stranglehold on the entire world, which is the root of their problem, and everyone else's. Something else not to get into here, though. The young women in the other pic were in front of one of the hotels, ready to give anyone a room, or some food at the small sidewalk restaurant in front of the hotel - one of the nice things, this whole street is lined with sidewalk restaurants, which I am quite partial to. Not to mention the young women, but that too is a story for another time and place.
bookseller girls young women in front of hotel

- and here we are, sitting down at our first restaurant, which proved to be our favorite, a Thai restaurant that had very good prices and food, just a block or so down from the Hope and Anchor - and the Cambodian beer, Angkor, is almost as good as Beer Laos, as I recalled from our trip to Siam Reap / Angkor Wat a couple of years ago - so even though it was only lunch time, I thought I would sample one. Not the last. first meal at Thai restaurant
Well, after that we just sort of wandered around the area for a bit, getting our bearings as it were, one of us feeling the need for some new shoes - fortunately there was a sidewalk table nearby where one could sit and sip on a beer whilst the other was trying on various shoes -
Ann tries on some shoes

Another shot of the Quay later in the afternoon - the traffic is starting to build up - there are no stop lights along here, the traffic never stops - it's one of those things you have to see to believe, but everyone in it seemed to understand what was happening, and although it was very anarchistic, it all seemed to work well. And you would not hear too much in a negative sense about actual anarchism in practice from this observer of things in the world (anything the capitalists hate so much and try to demonise as they do ararchism you can sort of figure, a priori, is probably good for the rest of us...). But it was interesting trying to cross the street between our guest house and the park along the river ....
traffic building along the quay
Later in the afternoon, sitting in front of the bank of the Tonle Sap River -
sitting in front of the Tonle Sap River
And of course, with all of those boats in the background, you just know somebody is going to be offering you a ride, and there were many - we finally got this one, just the two of us, $4 per person for a trip out to the Mekong and a look around, as the sun was going down over Phnom Penh -
boarding our ride for the short tour of the Tonle Sap - Mekong Rivers Junction
- and looking back at the Quay from the river - you get an impression again of the river being quite low right now, in the hot and dry season - the top of these boats would be several feet underwater later in the year, August and September, when the Mekong is flooding, and the Tonle Sap is flowing north into the lake rather than south to meet the Mekong - I hope to see this soon -
looking up at Phnom Penh from the river

- a couple of pics from the boat - I thought it was very neat that the owner had this growing little tree on the back of the boat -
Ann on the boat Dave on the boat with the tree
- and sunset over the city was quite beautiful -
sunset from the Tonle Sap River

And that was most of the first day in Phnom Penh, the short sort of version, anyway. Back to our 'home away from home' at the Hope and Anchor, and supper at one of the sidewalk cafes, and to bed early - it had been a long couple of days already, and I had to get up early for the CamTESOL conference that was the actual reason for our visit here -

the other Phnom Penh pages in this little photo album are
Day 2, the CamTESOL conference
Day 3, the Killing Fields and S-21
and Days 4-6, touring around a bit

Other Dave in Thailand stuff:

Wien Tien
PSU AG Fair 2004
Loy Gratong at PSU 2004
Kuching 2004
Luang Prabang page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4

this site is mostly sort of a photo album for some friends and family, but if you have stumbled across it somehow on the net and want to contact me, siamdave at yahoo dot ca should get to me ....