At last, we arrived on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. We had been looking for a decent gas station for the last two hours and finally, Dave pulled into a station that looked modern and clean. It also had a connected store so we were happy to buy some snacks. Every time we went some place, I had to remind Dave to lock up the car. We had a lot of expensive equipment and I couldn’t understand why he didn’t automatically lock the car up. I remember several times we stopped at a gas station and he would go off leaving the car unlocked. Anyway, we got back into the car after checking out the store but when Dave tried to start the car – it wouldn’t start. That had already happened at least three times. There was a car maintenance man there so between the two of them they figured out the problem and got the car started. The drive into the city was totally unbelievable. There was a huge dividing line down the middle of the road which looked like they were doing construction work. The traffic was horrendous – no rhyme or reason – motorcycles crossing behind, in front, all over the place. I should have taken a video.
Here are some of the photos I managed to get as we crawled toward our hotel – White Mansions.
It seemed to take forever getting through the traffic. We finally arrived at the hotel. It was behind a huge wall but you could see it from the street. We gathered our luggage and had some help from the hotel. We went inside, met the manager and gave him our passports. The manager was an older British guy. He seemed very nice and very talkative. The hotel had a cafe and a pastry corner. I must say that the Cambodians do know how to make pastries -I imagine it is the French influence. We were showed to our room and were surprised that it was so huge. Quite a difference from most of the other hotels although, the bathroom vanity was very small and no place to put our toiletries. I guess one can’t have everything! It was about 1pm and Dave was coming to pick us up around 2:30. We were going to the Royal Palace and then to the Central Market. I ordered tea and some French bread and we had a short rest before going down to meet Dave and our guide.
We met Dave and the guide. The guide was a young guy in his late 20s. His parents, and brother and sister died during the Khmer Rouge revolution. He was very knowledgable about Cambodian history and especially the Khmer Rouge regime. The Royal Palace was built in 1866 by King Norodom. It was the home of King Sihanouk who died in October 2012. Queen Sihanouk still resides there.
Buddhism is now the state religion of Cambodia. Many of Cambodia’s monks were killed by the Khmer Rouge and nearly all the temples were damaged or destroyed (more than 3,000). Today, young monks are a common sight throughout the country. I didn’t realize this but every Buddhist male is expected to become a monk for a short period of their life. Every town and many villages have a local temple (wat). I was surprised at how ornate and elaborate they were. I couldn’t help but think if they put as much effort into the welfare of the people as they did in their religion – life would be a lot better for the Cambodians. It is hard to relate the philosophy of Buddhism with the elaborate and spectacular temples that appear throughout the country.