I leave my hotel early in the morning, there are many rickshaw’s drivers at the main entrance asking “Where are you going?”. But I am not interested in their offer, I know they are not playing fair game and will ask too much money. Following my instinct, I choose who will be my driver today. I go across the street and ask:
“Me: Hello, Tuol Sleng, will you take me there?
Rickshaw driver: ok
Me: how much?
Rickshaw driver: $5
Me: $5?! It’s only 4 kilometres. I’ll give you $2,5. Ok?
Rickshaw driver: <thinking for a while> … ok”.
So I get into rickshaw and that’s how the Phnom Penh’s sightseeing starts.
Bargaining should be a part of your holiday in Asia. Sure, you can pay as much as you want, but frankly speaking, I don’t think any of you have paid 700 euro for a flight to pay for rickshaw the same amount you would pay for the taxi in your home town. The other option might be walking, but in cities such as Phnom Penh you have no chance with kilometers of roads and traffic as crazy as asking a police officer to light up your cannabis. Plus, I reckon you are not a suicide, are you? 😉 I am obviously still walking during my holidays but not to places that are further than 2-3 kilometers from where I stand, just to be clear
Don’t worry if you don’t know how to bargain. Just keep in mind those 3 golden rules:
1. You should always know how far is the place you are heading to.
2. You should know local price per kilometer and estimate the average price for your route.
3. Estimate how much are you willing to pay.
In Phnom Penh the key points are placed far away from city centre. Tuol Sleng is one of them (read my other article here) but a visit in this special place requires also a visit in Choeung Ek (known also as the killing fields), which is 13 kilometres far away from the city centre. I knew that it will be tough to get a rickshaw in a regular price. I am not mingy, but I have allergy for people who think that if you’re a foreigner, you must pay double price. And that’s how our “bacpacker’s” guesthouse has treated us by offering a rickshaw at the cost of – $15 each person. I guess it’s worth to mention here that usually bacpacker’s hostels are really helpful and a staff is always nice, trying to make sure you don’t overpay or waste your time, but our wasn’t like that. So me and my friend have had already other plan in our minds – the plan was to take a local bus till Ta Khmau and then take a rickshaw, which cost us about $6 altogether both ways (plus $3 for entry ticket which in total makes $9).
How’s riding a bus in Asia? Pretty easy, there’s no clear timetable and not every bus stop is marked. Sometimes no one speaks English and sometimes a bus stops in the middle of traffic jam to have a petrol refuel done and you have to change the bus for another one. Even local people are confused. But apart from that, the journey is not that adventurous as it sounds. Usually bus is not as fast as the rickshaw, so you have more time to observe what’s going on outside. I didn’t photograph everything, some things must stay in my memory, but let’s see what did I find.
Safety over fashion or fashion over safety? Why would you choose? Go for both and make yourself happy.
Why would you overpay for transferring a bike with a car trailer when you can ask your “cousine-brother” with a rickshaw to give you a hand? I might have been smiling at first, but it didn’t look so well 2 kilometres later … I don’t know what have been worse, his leg covered with blood or his face full of pain.
No one cares about safety in Asia, but I reckon this is something what makes those people happy. No rules = freedom.
Although Ta Khmao is pretty far away, trust me it’s a good spot to visit for khmer food. I presume those local people don’t see foreigners very often, which makes it even more interesting to me. Other local markets are: Central Market, Old Market and Night Market (here’s also a terminal for city buses). Central market is an obligatory spot if you are looking for some souvenirs as there are no such shops around the city. It’s good to visit local markets in the morning and leave other sightseeing for the evening.
Make sure to visit Royal Palace before sunset. This place might seem little bit too crowded, but it’s worth to take some pictures. During evening it’s good to take a walk along Preah Suramarit Bulvard, where you can see Independence Monument and if you turn to Oknha Suor Srun street you can find the centre of social life. People are having sport classes on the square, couples occupy all the benches, skateboarders show off their skills and families gather in the food court.
But a real discovery for me is on Street 93 in the Lakeside area. My holiday in Cambodia wasn’t really planned, me and my friend were taking up decisions ad hoc. Before my holiday I read a lot of articles and blogs to have an overall knowledge about the country, but I have forgotten about some things that were less important to me. During my search I have come across an article about the lake that was filled in with sand in 2010 due to a development run by a new investor. There was also a sad case about residents, who were mainly kicked out of their homes in 2009. It actually occurred that accidentally me and my friend has booked a room in a guesthouse in this area on our last day in Cambodia. There was no asphalt road when we were heading to the place and it looked very creepy at the beginning but in the middle of Street 93 there is a small square with plenty of backpacker hostels and guesthouses. Children are playing soccer, bacpackers are having a beer and local people simply enjoy the evening. The place I would like to recommend, is a shop called Cool Kids Lakeside, run by a French guy. Although it is a shop, you can also grab a drink or a beer and enjoy company of local people or other backpackers. And maybe a lake is gone forever, but the atmosphere of old lakeside is still kept in this little area.