Roo, the tuk-tuk driver, chauffeured me all over town today. He arrived within 10 minutes of my call. First we ran a couple of errands (I need to get a Visa for entry into Vietnam), and then he took me to the sites.
The Royal Palace is still used as the King’s residence, and a blue flag signaled that he was at home. Entry cost $3 USD, but I declined the $10 USD private tour. As soon as I entered the grounds and looked at my map, I regretted my decision to forgo the tour. The map barely named every building, and definitely did not provide any information. As I was wondering what to do, I noticed a guide giving a tour in English to a single woman. I invited myself to join them, and they were happy to let me in.
My new companion is American and is traveling South-East Asia on her own. She hasn’t visited since the late ’90s when she was an English teacher in Taiwan and Thailand (her preference). We had a remarkable number of things in common, including silent mediation, and ended up spending a good part of the day together.
Cambodia has different colours for each day of the week. The dancers entertaining the King would change their skirt colour, and our guide also wears different color shirt each day.
This is working temple, and there were many people there to pray. For good luck, you can buy and release a bird. My Siem Reap guide said the birds are recaptured, and resold.
We thought this was an odd looking Buddha, but it’s actually Lady Penh, the person said to have built the temple.
Time for a break and rest from the heat. We asked Roo to take us somewhere with Khmer food, and he brought us to a small restaurant on a touristy street. Very tasty, just how it looks, and really familiar to me.
Tuol Sleng Museum (S-21)
This former high school became a prison and torture centre during the Khmer Rouge reign. There are rows and rows of mug shots of the dead. Men, women, and children were all sent here. Descriptions and artist renditions of the horrific conditions and awful torture give just a glimpse of the atrocities.
What is most difficult for me is knowing that anyone who is older than me lived through this, and anyone younger was born into a broken country. Cambodia has a high level of PTSD, suicide, and illiteracy. And the people are so kind.
Back near the apartment, I had to check out the mall. It’s a very busy place. Entering the parking lot is like going to a hockey game. Security guards direct you, people are honking, and there are few parking spots left. Luckily the tuk-tuks can just sneak in.
I’ve heard things are cheap, so I go to check out the prices. Havaiana flip flops and Clarks shoes are just as expensive as at home. I check out their version of a dollar store. It’s actually a $1.90 store, which is a $2.44 CAD store. They have all sorts of things we have and things we don’t have. I was particularly intrigued by the double eye-lid creating gel, and the multitudes of whitening lotions.