The Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom Penh has a relatively short history on the world stage but for Cambodia it has actually become an icon and has seen a lot in less than 20 years. Based around an open air bar and restaurant with a roof top bar overlooking the Tonle Sap / Mekong River junction, there are also 5 or 8 suites available.
I was expecting to pay about AU$100 for a hotel style room but accepted that we would at least get a great balcony, had a bakery and café on hand and I assumed the air con would be better than the Tonle Sap ferry.
So when we looked at the room and they offered a significant discount, we were pretty happy – until they said that an extra bed and breakfast for Molly would be another US$40, taking it over $100 and suddenly making the room seem a little small.
But then for some reason they offered us the Directors Apartment for US$100 even, I bartered with them to get Molly’s breakfast included and we went to see the room.
We walked back out into the street, down past a souvenir shop, art gallery and restaurant and then up some rather dark and dingy stairs. The door opened onto a long hall and soon we discovered the apartment had two king bedrooms and a lounge and office area, plenty of air-con and a balcony overlooking the rivers with a ceiling fan. Yep, we’ll take that thanks!
Breakfasts were quite elaborate, including eggs benedict and bowls of fresh fruit, whilst along the promenade a little further were competing pizza restaurants, most of which had Happy in their names.
Phnom Penh itself was a really pleasant city. A few over-zealous tuk-tuk and taxi ‘salesmen’ but they were almost always well humoured. In most parts the city seems orderly and clean and the area along the river front is particularly beautiful. Through some of the industrial areas on the way to Kampot there were some particularly over-polluted waterways and swamps but overall Phnom Penh seemed quite charming.
The two main sites we wanted to visit in Phnom Penh were the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (at the old S-21 Prison and Interrogation centre) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. The Khmer Rouge period seems such a part of why Cambodia is as it is today (both in respect of development and more importantly the positive happiness of the people) that these two monuments / memorials deserve international attention and respect.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the Choeung Ek Stupa or Memorial Charnel, containing the remains of over 8,000 victims recovered from mass graves at the site, is that it is just one of hundreds around the country. The Killing Fields were the places the Khmer Rouge took their victims for execution – and there are reportedly over 340 of these sites around Cambodia, many of them fed from interrogation centres like S-21.
Our visits to both sites were sad, chilling and left us quite humble knowing that we had enjoyed our schooling in England and Australia whilst unspeakable horrors befell the nation of Cambodia.
The official web-site is quite detailed and well presented and can be found at the links page.