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



How to do Eat Street the right way

EVERYTHING you need to know to get the most out of your Eat Street experience and to avoid a food coma when you’re only one stall deep.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls…find them on these drives!

The Scenic Rim is just one place nearby that you'll love.

BRISBANE isn’t all bright lights and city slickers.

Science Festival seriously awesome

Don't miss the World Science Festival Brisbane!

CALLING everyone who wants to see something totally cool.

Drink where the cool kids do this summer

There are a bunch of new bars open in Brisbane, make sure you're there!

CHECK out these new funky bars.

Discover Brisbane’s laneway gems

Brisbane's laneways will surprise you.

NOT all of Brisbane City is as it seems…

Top five things to experience this summer in Brisbane

Tangalooma is amazing if you're keen for a dive, kayak or swim.

THIS summer get out and explore your capital city.

Your boots are made for walking these tours

Brisbane Greeters tours are a great way to learn the local history of the city.

YOU don’t need a bike or bus for a seriously good tour of Brisbane.

Unions take to streets as Sunday penalty rates cut

Retail workers will be among those hit by the changes.

Thousands of lowest paid workers to be hit by changes to pay rates

'Time to move on' after council complaints probed: CEO

Southern Downs Regional Council CEO David Keenan.

Complaints against the council's CEO and other staff were not upheld

GoFundMe started for Warwick's giving grandma

Sandra Smith has to make countless trips a day given she has five children to look after, and no seven seater.

Now, all those wishing to donate to her cause can do so online.

Local Partners

Wet weekend to end hottest month

The hottest month in Southern Downs history will end with the region being doused in showers.


REVIEW: Under the Gun doco looks at right to bear arms

ARMED: A still from the 2016 documentary film Under the Gun by Stephanie Soechtig.

An in-depth look into America's gun culture.

Collegians to kick off footy season next week

Collegians coaches (from left) Deb Scanlan, Garth Miller, Ben Brownlie, Matt Collins (U9 assistant), David Hallman, Kerry Scanlan, Josh Williams, Bob Bell, Craig Frattini and Scott Morton.

Plenty of experience in Collegians coaching ranks

Messing with your head

MIND BLOWN: What could be weirder than the realisation that we have another completely separate brain and nervous system than the one originating in our heads?

Fascinating connection between your gut and your brain

Buderim dad rejects gay son's emotional plea for second time

Bride and Prejudice: Son’s emotional plea rejected again by unmoved father

What's on the big screen this week

Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller in a scene from the movie T2: Trainspotting.

This week's new releases offer plenty of variety for movie buffs.

REVIEW: Under the Gun doco looks at right to bear arms

ARMED: A still from the 2016 documentary film Under the Gun by Stephanie Soechtig.

An in-depth look into America's gun culture.

Hodges proud to be part of first channel dedicated to NRL

Justin Hodges is gearing up for his new gig on Fox League.

Footy star hopes to provide a voice for players on new NRL channel

Selling Houses renovate for Salvos in 100th episode

Charlie Albone, Andrew Winter and Shaynna Blaze return for season 10 of Selling Houses Australia. Supplied by Foxtel.

Selling Houses launch 10th season in volatile property market

Furious Price wants to quit I'm a Celeb after clash with Keira

Steve Price has threatened to quit the jungle.

Will camp ration clash with Keira cause Steve to call it quits?

Novel with lots of heart

The romance in A Quiet Kind of Thunder was only one of the joys of the book.

Book proves to be a gem with layers

$140k damage: landlord says property trashed, contaminated

He had what he calls "the tenants from hell"

Submarine, buses and 3000 tyres removed in $100K clean up

The list of things removed from this property is beyond astonishing

Popular island resort sells to loaded international investor

OUR PICK: Chris Foey's colourful shot of one of Gladstone's great tourism hot spots, Heron Island.

International investor snaps up piece of Gladstone paradise.

Expert: Why renters, home buyers may struggle

Matusik Property Insights director Michael Matusik.

What's next for the city's housing market

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!