That’s what I was told. Phnom Penh was a city that I could only spell after I left and I’m still only just learning how to say it right. I planned to only visit “Pnomh Phen” as a means of leaving Cambodia, but it appealed more as I gained interest in Cambodian history. I scheduled time visiting S21 prison, as well as the Royal Palaces.
The first time I arrived in Phnom Penh was during a brief stopover on the Siem Reap to Sihanoukville journey. We walked along the riverside, contemplated a Happy Pizza and walked inside another beautiful temple called Wat Ounalom. The Cambodian temples were my favourite.
The time I spent in Phnom Penh that day didn’t inspire me a lot. I came expecting to write a Defend Phnom Penh post, and left knowing I couldn’t. I spent time in Koh Rong and returned, ready to see the sites.
We took the bus from Sihanoukville when Alessio began feeling weak. He was shivering cold but felt too hot. We arrived to our hotel, where we were offered a “bait and switch” upgrade – they offered us a great price for a better room, which we turned down. Then they replied they actually don’t have the room we booked, and upgraded us for free.
Alessio began to worsen. He lay in bed and the next morning, severe stomach problems began. There was no chance of him moving or becoming well enough to leave the room. He was pale and shivering, with no water to rehydrate himself.
I decided to go out alone on a mission for food and water.
Phnom Penh was loud, chaotic, unforgiving and I began to see the appeal. You had to move at Phnom Penh’s pace or be crushed.
Incidentally, on my way I found a friend I met in Vang Vieng, and we walked together, discussing the direction our travels had taken. Late afternoon began to fall and the riverside promenade came to life. Children came home from school and kicked balls, adults chatted, hawkers were lively and music was playing.
The vibrance made me wonder how anyone could only see the miserable history of a city that had so much life. It was then I knew I had to Defend Phnom Penh.