Thursday, September 1, 2011

Phnom Penh Post

Central Market
By Kathleen Broadhurst

For those who have been eagerly awaiting our next installment, I apologize for the delay. This week marks the beginning of our life as TESOL teachers, our incubation you could say. We have been spending 8 hours a day in a classroom cramming our minds full of grammar and syntax, lesson planning and teaching technique. In three more weeks we will be allowed to teach, amazing.

This, needless to say hasn’t given us a lot of time to go about Phnom Penh to explore. We dashed through the main sights on the first day and have been spending the rest of the time cart wheeling around the city on tuk tuks, going to class or going to eat.
Phnom Penh is not the gastronomic dream that Vietnam was, though there are some solid offerings ( like the great Indian restaurant Phnom Penh India or Cantina, one of the only Mexican restaurants in this part of the world).

The Cambodian people continue to be friendly, especially the children, but also the adults and when they see us out in about, especially in traffic, will smile, wave, say hello or honk their horns to get our attention. We have been shown many babies.

We did get a chance to explore three sights of note, the Central market, the Grand Palace and Wat Phnom.

Stingrays it's whats for dinner.
The central market is bursting with color, it looks like a giant yellow custard pie from the outside and inside the architecture allows for natural breezes to circulate, making for a cool shady getaway. The vendors are so–so, mostly tacky jewelry and some cheap clothing inside. Outside the food market is exciting, with stingrays and giant blue armed prawns.  People were pretty cool with me taking photos too.

The Grand Palace, alas, is hardly worth a look if you’ve been to see the Grand Palace in Bangkok. About half the size the Phnom Penh Grand Palace is also mostly a recent reconstruction. It’s beautiful but feels mostly like a concrete EPCOT Cambodia. The museum was full of what appeared to be random old stuff without labels and the Silver Pagoda, so named because of the many silver tiles on the floor, which were covered almost completely by rugs… cheap rugs.

The beauty of the Wat Phnom Altar
Wat Phnom however, stands alone amongst the sights of Phnom Pehn, in that it was the only sight to not have been destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. It retains its historic and architectural integrity and is a peaceful place of worship amongst the crazed hustle and bustle of the city.

It was a great place to see some scenes of religious life, with parents bringing young children to the Wat and teaching them how to pray and bow and give alms. It was very moving and I wish I had had a chance to spend more time there.

The other major sights are of course the Killing fields and S-21 a school turned torture chamber. I’m not sure I care to see either, despite their important history. I may have had enough for graphic photos and dark energy for the moment, but we shall see. I may head out to the Killing fields, if only to pay respects.

Tomorrow we leave for Siem Reap, home of the famous Angkor Wat. Super excited.


  1. I liked your observation of the children learning to pray. That sounded like a peaceful place to be. Hope the school work is going well and that you are enjoying it.

  2. Sounds like a full-on crash course, cramming session. Luckily, both of your are intelligent, and have English as a first language so it shouldn't be too hard, other than 8 hours in a cramped, hot room.

    Did it seem more of a Cambodian Las Vegas?

    I would be excited as hell to see Angkor Wat in person. I've only seen it in pictures and documentaries.