Travel

Cambodia's assault on senses

Cambodia's mix of modernity and ancient tradition is a sight to behold.
Cambodia's mix of modernity and ancient tradition is a sight to behold.

THE river reminds me of cabbage stew.

Whiffs of fermented fish for making fish sauce assault my nostrils every now and then.

Fishing boats dot the expansive river and on them, families huddle at the back napping.

I am on a speed boat travelling from Chau Doc in Vietnam to Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

It is a pleasant five-hour journey cruising through the soup that is the Mekong River.

The Mekong Delta is enormous. The scenery of poorly built wooden houses on stilts, where sights of children bathing in the river next to women doing their washing at the beginning of the journey transform to paddy fields towards the end.

As the boat approaches Phnom Penh, the horizon changes again - it is now occupied by rising skyscrapers.

Evidently, foreign money is pouring into this former French colony that sits on the banks of three major rivers, once known as the "Pearl of Asia".

I walk through the streets that hug the riverfront and observe my surroundings.

A tuk-tuk driver dries his vehicle of rain water before soliciting new customers.

Girls, no more than six-years-old, carry baskets of hand-woven bracelets and CDs, looking for purchasers.

A mix of locals and tourists walk along the promenade chatting, laughing and taking photos.

It's hard to fathom that behind this vibrant waterfront is a city steeped in unspeakable pain.

Former Khmer Rouge leaders are today still awaiting trial at a UN-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh for their violence and inconceivable brutality.

The Pol Pot regimen of cleansing those who posed a threat to their party (notably those who were successful, educated, skilled or opinionated) saw a quarter of the country's population exterminated in a matter of days with tens of thousands more tortured and killed over the years.

The scene today is of locals living the best way they know how, but memories of anguish remain raw and very much alive.

The faces around tell a story of the unshakable sorrow and misery they once had to endure.

From the gloom of Cambodia's past, I head into the maze that is Central Market where a treasure or ten can be found. Clothes, accessories, gadgets and gizmos, fresh food and kitchenware occupy the many isles that form the market.

High-pitched calls of "you buy something?" become the theme song as I stroll through.

As a visit here should be equipped with energy, good bargaining skills and patience, all of which I left back at the hotel, I go on a leisurely cyclo tour to visit the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, Wat Ounalom Pagoda and the Post Office.

Not only is this the best way to get oriented, it keeps this traditional mode of transportation alive.

Faced with competition from tuk-tuks and taxis, cyclo riders are being phased out, which is a great shame as they contribute to the city's romantic charm.

For great sunset views, I head to the FCC.

The French Correspondent Club may be overpriced and food less than average, but it is airy, clean and home to an amazing collection by celebrated photographers of yesteryear.

It is here that I mingle with others and continue my education on Cambodia's dark past, progressive present and bright future.

 

IF YOU GO

Footsteps in Asia is a specialist Indochina and South East Asia tour operator, featuring some of the best and knowledgeable local tour guides around.

Visit www.footstepsinasia.com or call 1300 664 331.

Award winning low cost carrier, AirAsia X offers cheap flights to Phnom Penh via Kuala Lumpur.. For more inforamtion visit www.airasia.com.

 

>> To read more travel stories

Topics:  cambodia destinations french travel



Date nights under $50

ACCORDING to The Bachelor falling in love involves helicopter rides, private jets, shopping trips, and we mustn’t forget the hot tubs.

Brisbane's arts and culture events centre stage

You loved the film, now you're about to love the musical. Don't miss The Bodyguard The Musical in Brisbane this July.

THE arts and culture events you don't want to miss.

Homewares stores to fulfil your Instagram dreams

No Caption

You too can become an Insta-star with these fab stores.

Top 10 Brisbane experiences to cross off your bucket list

Do yourself a favour and get amongst the food truck scene. Eat Street is a great place to start.

A GOOD bucket list doesn’t have to span continents or cost millions.

Six mega sporting events you need to be at this year

Don't miss all the action trackside this season.

IF THERE is one thing Brisbane does damn well, it’s play host.

Insider’s guide to the best rooftop bars

Eleven Rooftop Bar is one to put on your hit list.

SEE the world from a different perspective...

Where to get your hands on the best wings

Try out these bad boys at Buffalo Bar.

IS THERE anything better than a wicked bowl of chicken wings? Nope.

Doctor's pregnancy comments cause outrage

South-west health directer doctor Chris Buck.

A DARLING Downs doctor has come under fire for a Facebook post

Warwick company vehicle stolen in brazen theft

Generic police sign  Photo Contributed

A distinctive vehicle has been stolen from a Warwick address.

Warwick drivers' worst road habits

stress girl in a car

From poor signalling to mobile phone use

Local Partners

Casual Keanu says fame is ‘cool’

NOBODY expected much of Keanu Reeves' action thriller John Wick when it was released in 2014.

19 dead, 59 injured after nail blast: Ariana Grande concert

There have been multiple confirmed deaths after 'explosions' heard at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester

"We saw blood on people when we got outside."

Ariana Grande breaks her silence after fatal blast

According to reports quoting witnesses, a mass emergency evacuation was prompted after explosions were heard at the end of US singer Ariana Grande's concert in the arena.

The entertainment industry is in shock after attack on concert

Pitch Perfect star suing Woman’s Day over ‘liar’ articles

Actor Rebel Wilson outside court on Friday.

REBEL Wilson's career destroyed by grubby campaign, court hears.

Seven Year Switch: The boner to end all boners

Johnny’s outraged over claims he has a cracked boner.

She gulps. Her face says it all.

Bay to star in Hollywood shark thriller ‘Cage Dive’

Cage Dive, written and directed by Gerald Rascionato, is now screening in the United States of America. It had scenes filmed in Hervey Bay.

And our visiting humpback whales also make appearance.

Celebrity sex tapes: Where does all that money go?

Basically, did Paris and Kim earn fortunes from their videos?

One of Maryborough's most historic homes is still for sale

FULL OF HISTORY: Trisha Moulds is owner of the historic Tinana state known as Rosehill. The beautiful home is currently for sale.

It has been the scene of both joy and tragedies over the years.

The face of the Sunshine Coast's overpriced rental crisis

Alyx Wilson had to rent a $385 unit in Currimundi because the market was too competitive for cheaper rental housing. She is now renting a room from friends who own a house in Currimundi, and says its much more affordable.

Young people feel the strain in competitive, expensive rental market

WATCH: Take a tour of a tradie's dream home

5a Bruce Hiskens Court, Norman Gardens, going for $720,000. INSET: Lea Taylor.

Huge block with potential for anything

Deputy Premier makes massive call on controversial sand mine

Aerial view of the proposed Forest Glen sand mine.

BREAKING: State Government makes huge call on Coast sand mine plans

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!