Grand Queen Hotel. Phnom Penh. 18th October. 2016

We’ve just checked out and paid our bill.

It seems the free bottles of water that we have been using to clean our teeth as well as drink was not free at all.

The two bottles of luke warm undrinkable water sat on the desk for the last three day’s was apparently free but the cold water in the fridge was not and at $5 for a small bottle of water, that has cost us over $20.

I could have had a clean and de scale for that.

WE even picked up two bottles this morning to take with us and that cost an extra $10. I tried to give them back but they said we had been charged for them now.

So, do not use the bottled water in the fridge, walk across the road to the shop opposite (3 metres away) and buy a gallon for $2.

So what of the Hotel.

Its been absolutely fine really, most of the problems have been simple things that could have gone wrong in any country.

Its clean, comfortable, everything works, though its not always as advertised.

There is no Spa for example and the swimming pool is at best a dipping pool but it is refreshing and the views from the roof are pleasant especially at night.

Phnom Penh has been a great experience.

When we arrived off the bus we took a Tuk-Tuk to the Hotel and got stuck in the traffic I did wonder if this would be a bit of a challenge especially as Georgia disliked it so much when she was here earlier in the year.

In reality it has been fine, getting around hasn’t been a problem, the traffic has some pinch points , best avoided but the other roads are reasonably clear and relaxed with wide free flowing roads. There are well laid out parks and the area along the river is pretty but at night it is busy with stalls and produce of all descriptions for sale, and it is a popular place for locals to stroll.

We were warned about the Tuk-Tuk drivers before we came but they have been great, well except one who called himself John Wayne this morning. He tried to get us to take a ride to the Russian Market to buy souvenirs and when we said no he started saying his family would starve if he didn’t get work. This might be true but laying a guilt trip on us is hardly likely to make me change my mind.

The Drivers who regularly ply their trade outside the Hotel were friendly, helpful and good fun.

We were also told horror stories about bag snatch and phone robberies but weve seen none of that.

There are a range of bars, shops and restaurants in the local area and we walked to them most nights without any concerns.

Last night we went to a Local restaurant that sold traditional food the Mer Khmer had live music and was full of locals. We had the best meal Ive had to date.

Fried Beef in Ginger, fried Morning Glory (fast becoming my favourite veg, though you cant grow it at home as its invasive and will choke any lake or river it settles in) with garlic and fragrant rice. It was amazing and very good for us, low in fat, high in fibre.

Fried morning glory

We also used the Indian restaurant just across the road.

Sher-E-Punjab served Indian Nepalese food and it was very good though you just cant explain that we want our food spicy. They think because were European they have to remove every bit of heat and this does tend to spoil it a bit. Though we have found even in India the food isnt particularly hot. Spicy maybe, but not hot.

At the end of the street there is a bar run by an American called the Lazy Gecko which offered a selection of Cocktails, beer and wine (though sadly they kept the white wine on the shelf not in the fridge), had a happy hour deal on beers. Did good food and had a Basket Ball hoop on the wall so you could ‘Shoot some Hoops’.

We took a ride to a Huge shopping Mall yesterday but it was just like any shopping Mall anywhere in the world and it didn’t hold our attention for long.

WE did a few trips from here. The Kings palace was at best Underwhelming. Pretty gardens, some rather attractive architecture but there was nothing there. It had no soul. It was empty, sterile and unless you’r really into Kings and palaces, a bit dull.

You couldn’t say that about the Killing Fields.

This was a must do on my bucket list and although it isn’t very dramatic when you get there, its all the more poignant for that.

The actual Killing Field

The story of the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge (Red Khmer) is amazingly simple.

Pol Pot was a teacher and one day decided he was going to set up a communist party and take over the country ( I para-Phrase). Which he did.

He then set about destroying (Smashing was the phrase used) anyone who he perceived to be an enemy of the revolution. People who wore glasses, who had soft hands or an education were targeted and killed. Anyone who lived in a town, killed. Spoke out, Killed.


However, the reign of the Khmer Rouge was short (thankfully) but in that time they killed 1/4 of the population.

The Killing Fields is one of the places people were taken for execution after they had confessed their crimes under torture at S 21 and they were then buried in mass graves where they fell. The place looks too pretty today to be the site of this horror but the Killing Tree on which soldier beat the heads of children is still there as are the bones and skulls of some of the victims who have been dug up, documented and preserved.

The Killing Tree

When you pay your entrance fee you are given a head set and a tape machine which tells the full story. You walk to point one, press button one and the story starts. Evidence from Guards, soldiers and victim’s is there for all to hear.

S 21 was worse.

We paid to go in and got the head set. We were taken to the first building (Building A) and encouraged to go inside where there was a metal bed, leg Irons and on the wall a photograph of a victim.

The stain’s on the tiled floor, blood and shit, are all that remain of the prisoners who were tortured there. When the guards fled, bodies were left in situ but their throats were cut so they couldn’t give evidence..

After the second room I was overcome by a feeling of Nausea, the smell, the dim light, the reality of the metal bed’s was too much and I had to go outside. I really didn’t like it.

Jaki is made of sterner stuff and continued to do the full tour whilst I sat in the pretty little garden and listened to the full story on my head phones.

When we reached the end we came across a small stall and some advertising. It was a stall selling the book written by one of only three survivors. Chum Mey was an Engineer and he knew how to mend type writers so they kept him alive. The man himself was there and I asked if I could shake his hand. He is now 85 years old. His eyes sparkled and he signed his book for me.


To get the full story you only need do a minimum of research on the internet.

What is so shocking is how relevant the story is today.

Whole sections of Khmer history could be cut and pasted into todays world. The abuse of small countries by big countries, the ignoring of events because its’ expedient to do so.  The brain washing of young, often vulnerable people who are poorly educated and need to believe that some one is to blame for their plight is  a familiar tale.And perhaps the most shocking of all is the knowledge that Pol Pot lived to a ripe old age, saw his grand children grow up and was never held accountable for his actions. He was even given a seat at the Un and the Khmer Rouge were given funding by the USA whilst committing these atrocities.

Its a crazy old world.


More pictures to follow.


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