Ah, lovely Phnom Penh. It doesn’t shy away from its recent history, it’s all there in its horrid colour, and it seems to have been frozen in a time in the 60s and left to crumble ever since but the people are it’s real treasure. It’s full of life and bustle and movement. The roads are a constant buzz of scooters carrying multiple people and goods and produce piled high and wide, and smiles are quick and easily shared and I love it!
The next few photos were taken on our last trip when we stumbled upon the Old Market, a local version of a shopping mall where you can get your hair cut and coloured, top up the crockery and buckets, get an outfit measured and sewn, and gather ingredients for your dinner. If it’s touristy stuff you’re after, you’re best to head over to Russian Market or Central Market.
I’m in love with the architecture, from Chinese shophouses to colonial Indochine, a dash of deco and, my favourite, New Khmer Architect inspired by modernism which flourished from the burst of construction following independence in the 1950s. Here’s a link to an interesting article at Gluckman.com if you’re interested.
This is our third visit to Phnom Penh so it came as quite the surprise to discover the festival of Pchum Ben. And isn’t that the best bit about travel, stumbling across wonderful new things that you didn’t know existed. I love chatting with people and learning about a different culture and way of life to my own. And picking up new phrases to add to my small talk repertoire! Shop keepers, bar staff and tuk tuk drivers are a constant source of wonder and learning.
Pchum Ben, or Ancestors Day, is a 15 day Buddhist festival honouring deceased relatives. Everybody returns to their home province to be with family and visit the pagoda to dedicate food and offerings. Many people travel far crammed in busses or riding 3, 4 or 5 people on a scooter for hundreds of miles across terrible roads to be with families, and the result is an eerily quiet capital with most businesses closed and hardly any traffic on the street. The closest thing I can think of in my own culture is Easter. Imagine you didn’t know anything about Easter and arrived in Melbourne for a 4 day holiday on Holy Thursday none the wiser. You would wake up on Good Friday and wonder why no cafés where open, why there were so many people travelling out of town. It was wonderful to witness this amazing festival first hand.
On this visit, we went to Wat Phnom, built in 1373 (!!!!) and surrounded by a beautiful leafy park for city workers to take a lunch break.
Ah, Phnom Penh, I do love visiting you. You can see more photos over at
Flickr if you like.