A Drive to Phnom Penh

 

Woman rides bicycle on the grounds of the Royal Palace in Phnom PenhMy home base in Cambodia is Siem Reap but there is so much more to explore in this country that I need to take short trips every now and then. Phnom Penh, the capital, is the largest city in Cambodia and I took a little time to visit the city with my niece and my friend.

Transportation to Phnom Penh, a little more than 300 kilometers to the south, can take many forms and it accommodates just about any price point you want to hit. At the high end is flying. As a foreigner the short flight will put you back about one hundred dollars for a round trip. At the low end a long bumpy ride in a very crowded bus with a lot of stops can set you back six bucks. Shell out fifteen bucks and you get a bigger, less crowded bus that makes less stops and has wifi.

There are also shared taxis that sit around waiting to fill up before they leave. Filling up means five people in the back seat and two people in the front passenger seat. In case you aren’t good at math that is eight people in a five person Camry. The cost for this little piece of heaven is $6 to $12.I suppose the need for a seatbelt for every person is a moot point since you are wedged so tight that you will hardly move until you arrive in Phnom Penh.

One of the better choices is a private taxi. For about $65 you get to ride in Camry or for another ten bucks you get an SUV for a more comfortable ride with a higher view of your surroundings. For a photographer having your own vehicle is the best choice since you can ask the driver to pull over anytime you want to make some photo stops. If you share the ride with friends then the price per person drops significantly.

There is also the option to take mini buses which while plentiful don’t have the best safety record. If water is your thing you could also take a boat taxi that operates when the Tonle Sap fills up during the rainy season but what you get is a very hot, crowded boat with little attention to safety.

Our choice for the ride to Phnom Penh was an SUV. We were told all of the English speaking drivers were booked so if we wanted an SUV no English would be spoken. With my commanding grasp of Khmer this would not be a problem. I just learned how to say ‘turn right’ and ‘turn left’ and with a little thought I can count to twenty.

Our first stop on the way was the the Kampong Kdei Bridge located just off National Route 6

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A Cambodian woman rides her bicycle across Kampong Kdei Bridge

This bridge which spans the Chi Kreng River was built about one thousand years ago. On all four corners of the bridge are nine headed Nagas. The Naga is worshipped by the Cambodian people to give them love and protection for their life and country.

If you happen to have a 5000 Riel banknote look at the back – the Kampong Kdei Bridge pictured there.

Further down the way we stopped at the market in Skeun. This spot is well known for gourmet delicacies such as tarantula, silkworms, grasshoppers and crickets.

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All of the delicacies you could ever wish for!

As soon as you arrive teenage girls will surround your car each of them asking if you are afraid of spiders. The sinister look on their eyes tells of their evil plans. Soon the live tarantula comes out from its hiding place as they attempt to please it on your arm to see you reaction. As a fully grown man I disregard my desire to scream and run and I remain stoic and uncaring as the tarantula wanders up my arm. Corbin gives it his best also.

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Corbin overcomes his fear of big hairy spiders!

These girls will follow you until you return to your car to leave. At last count I think we were asked thirty-seven times if we wanted to buy fresh pineapple during our short walk around the market. The girls are fun, cheerful and speak English. Although they are there to sell they actually have a lot of useful information. Useful in an arachnid kind of way.Scott_Sharick_Photo__2015_22619

After the market the road to Phnom Penh improves remarkably. Gone are the holes in the road and the dirt and dust that flies around as the cars and motos drive more like they are on an bumper car ride than an actual road. The driving style does not change but in about an hour we arrive at our hotel safe and sound.

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