Monday, 10 October 2011

Phnom Penh

What a bloody scrum on arrival. The bus terminates on a busy street corner where tuk-tuk & motorbike taxi drivers all but climb over exiting passengers to get to me. All shouting & implying I have already agreed to go with them - I have to physically barge them out of the way just to get off the bus & hands everywhere try to grab my bag. Six to 8 people talk to me at the same time, I say nothing & look around for a taxi but see none. After a few minutes one guy says 'perhaps he doesnt speak English, maybe he's German?' I go into a nearby cafe but realise I have no Cambodian currency but this at least dissapates some of the mob.

I realise I've no option so walk out & accept a tuk-tuk offer. His eyes light up when I say I'm going to Raffles - 'Oh very long way, at least $5'. Sensibly I've checked it on the map & know its just a few blocks away, so I say $2 or I get off, making to stand up. He laughs & I think he gives me a congratulatory smile & says 'OK'.
There's a clear focal area for Phnom Penh's bar & restaurant area - along by the riverside & its less frantic than Saigon. But its a creepy walk from Raffles & I should have taken a tuk-tuk. Its pitch dark at 7 in the evening & street lighting, like the pavements, is intermittent. Suddenly a 6 year old child looms out of the dark & follows me for a hundred yards jabbering away & obviously begging - I speed up. There are quite a few other youngsters hanging around in the shadows & what I take to be hookers. The rain picks up but its fresh & cooling & I'm glad to get to the bright lights of the riverside.

There are some nice comfy bars along the riverside & a couple of beers ($1 each) soon cheer me up. The city is awash with tuk-tuks whereas there were none in Vietnam. Quite a few hippy type Europeans are milling around but the number of Americans easily outnumber all other visitors.

The big hassle is begging, its relentless. If you sit still for a moment beggers approach & a different one comes along every 5 minutes or so - unless you're foolish enough to give some money - then you're surrounded by a clammering hands until you're hounded away. A couple of handicapped beggers are constantly wheeled back & forth along the river front bars. Its not an easy place to be.

I'm hearing constant reports of flooding along my proposed route. Internet reports say Siem Reap is flooded & a group of visitors to Angkor Wat had to be airlifted out. Local TV news says Bangkok is bracing itself for flooding as river water arrives from the heavily flooded northern regions. Not sure whether to stay put or move on - the FCO website is not very informative.

No comments:

Post a Comment