Phnom Penh

We were all awake by 8am and slowly repacked our gear. We have arranged a taxi to Phnom Penh and it will cost us 60 dollars. We did consider going on the bus but as it would have cost 40 dollars and take quite a lot longer we opted for the easier option. The road is ok, a very good road that has been surfaced and only has a few potholes. This makes a huge difference to the comfort of the journey and the 4 hours it takes seems to fly by. It gives us a really good opportunity to look at the Cambodian countryside.

As we had heard such mixed reports about Cambodia I was perhaps expecting it to be obviously poverty stricken and dirty but nothing could be further from the truth. It is a beautiful place. The wide, flat , straight roads are lined with trees and palms and hidden behind are small wooden houses on stilts. I think this is because the land is prone to flooding in the wet season. The land is very flat and we pass rice fields. In front of the houses are huge hay mounds and I see people wading through the waters of the massive Mekong River.

I listen to The Rolling Stones on the way and gaze out over the fields. We also pass lots of roadside sellers with little carts and tables piled high with mangoes, pineapples and a type of flat prickly fruit that looks like a cactus. As we get nearer to Phnom Penh the road traffic increases. The driver is fairly careful and I feel reasonably safe as we all have our seatbelts on, however the law of the road here seems to be that everyone uses the entire road and dodges what ever is coming. I worry about this as the decision on who will move is often left until the last moment and it feels like we are in some crazy arcade game at times.

At last we are here and drive along the riverfront looking for our guesthouse. Its really gorgeous here, not what I expected at all and we agree there is an almost continental feel to the area with pavement cafes and French style architecture. The Okay Guesthouse is a large friendly place and our room has 4 single beds in it. With aircon, electric shower and TV we agree 12 dollars is a bargain. We have some food as we’re starving and the chicken and rice soup I choose is really great. Simon and the kids watch some film and I finish my latest book.

Tomorrow we are going to visit the infamous S-21 prison and The Killing Fields. We are all feeling apprehensive about this but have decided that if we didn’t go, in some way we would be ignoring Cambodia’s terrible history. We have agreed that it s important to us that this doesn’t happen. We have spoken to a lot of people about going, some have advised not to take the kids and some say we definitely should. We want Ali and Maisie to form their own opinions but I don’t want to give them nightmares or upset them.

It’s a hard thing to make up your mind about and we have given it a lot of thought and maybe after tomorrows visit I’ll wish we never went. But at the moment hard as may be, for us we definitely feel it’s the right thing to do.