Four things from Phnom Penh to never forget
The capital of Cambodia is chaotic, it is ultra polluted, it is uncomfortable, noisy, traffic is hellish as it can only be in Asia and despite everything it is an exciting, charming and possessing city of that beauty that is born among the dirt and that when you manage to find, it stays with you forever.
Not everything is cochambre, Clear; the new Thai-style shopping centers, the luxury hotels, the Molongu coffee shops and the craft and fair trade stores proliferate giving a new air to the city, but that is not what makes it unique or what we will remember, but the things that we list here.
1. The walk to the river bank: yes, walking quietly through the city is practically impossible mission: the sidewalks, when there are any, are invaded by motorcycles and parked cars or by the restaurant tables; there are also so many chipping and irregularities on the asphalt that walking a hundred meters down a street becomes an obstacle course. Peeero, in return the capital offers one of the riverbanks most pleasant in all of Southeast Asia: at the confluence of the Mekong and the Sap There is a wide promenade lined with restaurants and bars where the locals flock when the sun goes down to walk, eat, sit in the fresh air or watch out, do aerobics like if tomorrow does not exist.
The spectacle of middle-aged women evolving rhythmically to the rhythm of music or teenagers waiting to be able to play a more modern song and perform a perfectly millimeter choreography It's hypnotic, and they want to join leaving behind the concept of Western ridiculous.
2. Colonial architecture: the traces of when Phnom Penh It was the pearl of Asia are there, preserved in better or worse condition. In the area closest to the royal palace there are numbers colonial mansions in uneven state of conservation. The visit to the FCC, the bar with high ceilings and old fans frequented by foreign correspondents who covered the war, is mandatory. Contemplating the views and having a drink in shirt sleeves you can't help feeling a little like Mel Gibson when I was young and beautiful in the The year we live dangerously (film that speaks of Indonesia, but the spirit serves us).
Interior of the Central Market of Phnom Penh © Corbis
3. The past: Cambodia has a tormented recent history - even compared to that of its neighboring countries - that almost borders the horror movie and makes it obligatory to visit the S-21 (the Tuol Sleng Museum, a prison and detention and torture center located in a former institute) and approach the outskirts of the extermination camp of Choeung ek, one of the killing fields of the dark three years of the Khmer Rouge. Between the torture rooms and the mass graves, an attempt is made to explain how the Cambodian cultural elite tried to end the members of that same elite to create an entirely rural communist society until it resulted in a genocide that ended the 30% of the population and ended up devouring himself.
It should not be forgotten that the Khmer Rouge remained the official government of Cambodia until the 90s, with representation at the UN, which opted for a national reconciliation policy that chose to ignore what happened, which Pol Pot He died quietly as an old man in the jungle of the Thai border and that many current political leaders belonged to the Khmer Rouge government, of which only in recent years some of its most emblematic leaders are being tried for crimes against humanity.
Tuol Sleng Museum, memory of terror © Corbis
4. Eat on the street: yes in Phnom Pehn There are great restaurants where you can drink from French specialties, international cuisine or Cambodian classic dishes such as amok (fish stew served in banana leaves), but eating at one of the street stalls is an experience of those so required by the traveler who boasts of not being a tourist. During the day, you can eat - and taste insects - in the central Market or in the russian market between suffocating and appetizing stalls, but at nightfall it is necessary to approach one of the streets full of wooden tables and portable kitchens that abound in the streets near the riverwalk, but which unlike it are almost devoid of tourists.
You have to choose a place with enough seats sitting, share a table (any problem with it? Well that is done in the modernuquis bars), order some Angkor beers and, as it is understood as part of the experience, basically saying yes to everything they offer: they may not have what they want at that moment with a little luck they will enjoy a delicious fried rice with shrimp or of caramelized fish at the height of any restaurant postín. And the same way along the way, very intense and passionate friendships are formed for those that only last five minutes but are remembered for a lifetime.
The culinary feast is served in the streets of Phnom Penh © Corbis