Phnom Penh, once called the “Pearl of Asia”, is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. It is the richest and most industrialized city in Cambodia, yet I am still in shock over how poor it seems. I thought that my time in Huaihua, China would prepare me for being in an underdeveloped city but the atmosphere of Phnom Penh is very much new for me.
The city itself is fairly small. The house that I’m staying at is on the far end of the city and to get to the other end by tuk tuk, motorized rickshaws that are used as taxis, it only takes fifteen or so minutes.
Here is a picture of a tuk tuk. We get driven around by an adorable guy named Dara who is super fun and also lives with us at our house.
There is not much business and infrastructure where my house is located. I feel like everything revolves around bicycles and motorcycles. All the shops on the streets surrounding our house have something to do with motorcycle maintenance. The main attraction in my area of the city is the Russian Market which is a huge indoor shopping center that carries everything from raw duck to “I love Cambodia” t-shirts. I will definitely devote an upcoming entry to that place. Another group of LanguageCorps members live on the other side of the city near the Riverfront, which has many hotels and Western restaurants. This part of the city is much more friendly to foreigners and I feel very comfortable there. The university that we take our classes at is also near the Riverfront.
Yesterday we took a tour of the city and visited two main attractions: the Royal Palace and Wat Phnom. A “wat” is a monastery temple and literally means “school.” The Cambodian population is predominantly Buddhist and wats are sacred spaces that usually hold a large sculpture of the Buddha that people can worship. Wat Phnom is the tallest religious building in Phnom Penh.
These are the steps that you take to get up to the wat.
It is prohibited to take pictures inside wats and other temples so I don’t have any to share with you guys. But I swear it is really cool and if you want you should google image it.
This is a shrine for Lady Phnom. Apparently all the girls in the city will come up here and leave an offering for her when they have an important event coming up.
When you walk around the park below the Wat Phnom it is common to run into monkeys just chilling in the park….like this cute one!
The next place we visited was the Royal Palace. Before we went Dara told me to change out of my shorts because you aren’t allowed into the Palace if you aren’t wearing appropriate clothing. I’m glad he warned me because another girl in my program had to borrow pants from the Palace because her shorts were deemed too short.
The Royal Palace is a huge complex that houses religious buildings, gardens and museums and serves as the residency for the King of Cambodia. The Palace is decorated with multiple statues of the Buddha and what I’m assuming are bodhisattvas and other Buddhist figures.
Here are some pictures that I took while inside the complex.
Now that I’ve been in the city for almost three days I’m starting to like it a lot more. At first I was a little hesitant about it, but as we continue to explore I’m seeing that is has a lot to offer. It’s also nice now that the entire group is together and the group going to Vietnam seems like a lot of fun so it’s a relief to know that I’ll be around good people this upcoming year. It’s still kind of unbelievable that I’m here but it’s all starting to sink in. Classes have started and I feel like from here on out my time in Cambodia is going to fly by. I hope everything in the states is going well. I missed watching football yesterday but the 49ers lost AGAIN so I guess some things never change, eh?
Well I’m going to go rest before we hit up the Russian Market for dinner. Thanks for reading and look out for a new post coming soon!!!