Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cambodia's Third City

Monks out and about in Kampong Cham
Kampong Cham
So on Sunday 12th we took the 2pm Capital Bus from Phnom Penh to the city Kampong Cham. If you have a look at Patrick’s notes you can read about what Kampong Cham has to offer. The journey was on a 1980's circa bus which was fully booked with out group has the only non-Asians. The journey took about 3hrs which included a 30 min stop for the bus to be re-watered. The country-side between PP and KC is exactly what you would expect from the movies, largely flat, green forests and paddy fields with small villages through out.

One of the fun things to do is count how many people you see on a motorbike or moped as it speeds by so far I have spotted 6 although the most impressive sight was the man with a huge block of ice on the front and statue on the back.
Lazy Mekong Daze a curry and drink for $3 how bad?
We arrived promptly at 5pm and hopped onto the waiting tuk-tuks to our accommodation which is in the Mekong hotel which over looks the mighty Mekong River. That evening we went for a meal in the Lazy Mekong and had a good (both in terms of quality and quantity) chicken curry with rice for $3 I also had a couple of mike shakes bringing the bill to $6 and then we played some pool.
Andre, Ingrain and Dave playing pool in Lazy Mekong
Kampong Cham is the provincial capital of the Kampong Cham province and is the third biggest city in Cambodia with just under 65,000 people.  A quick note on the government structure here in Cambodia. The government is highly centralised which is also a feature of the power structures within Cambodian society. However since 1991 the constitution as established local and regional government structures so that it should work as follow:

Central (National) Gov. in Phnom Penh with Prime Minister in charge.
Provincial Government (Provencal offices of Gov. Departments and an elected Governor in each province)
Districts Government (district offices of Gov. Dep.)
Commune Councils (elected forum at community level similar to Town Councils)
Village Phum's (in rural areas)
Up and over Kizuna
Kizuna Close up
Kizuna Bridge 1.5km long

Anyway Kampong Cham sits right on the Mekong which truly dominates the city along with the Kizuna Bridge which was built in 2001 and was the first bridge across the Mekong in Cambodia and measures 1,500 meters across. Ingram and Dave to of my fellow travellers decided to go for jog over the bridge needless to say they are both in good shape and adjusting well to the climate. I declined the run and instead had a beer on the bank of the river and watched the small low boats motor up and down. 
The VSO gang enjoying the more relaxed and cheap life in Kampong Cham
KC is considerable cheaper than PP and has a lot less tourist although there were a number of Intrepid tours also staying at our accommodation on their way north-east to Vietnam or south to PP. While the Lazy Mekong is a nice spot the numerous small Khmer restaurants and food stall offer a good size meal from $1.50 upwards. There is a particular good street for restaurants just before the bridge. There is also a street full of laundrys where you can get 1kg of washing (cleaned, ironed and smelling lovely) for 5,000 Riel.

All in all KC offers a very different take on life to PP but I guess one could say that of any when comparing the wider country to the capital city. It is certainly a very friendly city where the locals are delighted to let you try your Khemer but will laugh when you get it wrong.

On the last couple of evenings after Language class I have gone running and this has had three effects on me-1. I felt much better after some exercise (but I was sweated at least litre of body fluid) 2. I was stuck by all the keep fit and dancing classes/groups. There are at least three along the river in Kampong Cham doing their work-out dance to three different types of music. 3. It was when I was running along the Mekong that it final hit me that my home for the next two years is Cambodia.

Me and my trusted Bike number 159.
One final note is that much to my surprise I am not only enjoying language classes but am actually managing to learn but more on that in the next issue.

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