I visited Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh, for the first time recently. With a population of around 1.5 million, Phnom Penh is relatively small compared to other Southeast Asian capitals like Hanoi, Bangkok, and Manila. I walked around and did some tourist stuff, the centerpiece of which was a visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Formerly a middle school, the Khmer Rouge converted the place into a “security” prison after they entered the Phnom Penh in 1975. Political prisoners and many others who displeased the Khmer Rouge for any reason whatsoever or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time were brought to the prison where they were tortured and murdered. Or tortured and then sent to rural killing fields where they were murdered. There were a few survivors whose horrifying stories are memorialized at Tuol Sleng. This was a disturbing way to spend a morning, and that is an understatement. I am glad I went; I took no photos. Otherwise, I found Phnom Penh appealing and relatively quiet compared to the bustle and congestion of larger and obviously more prosperous but also appealing Saigon or Hanoi. I might find myself there again, but Phnom Penh is not a place I will make into a destination.
Some chili for breakfast? Lao food is delicious, but a lot of it is loaded with chili – fiery, set-your-mouth-on-fire hot chili. Delicate palettes beware. This morning street market had plenty of several varieties of chili available.
Those tracks running off to the northeast of the nearby Hanoi railway station appear well maintained and in use, though I have to admit I have never seen a train passing on the several occasions I have walked by this location. As I recall, the first time I visited Hanoi in 2015, there were no cafes lining the sides of the tracks. Somebody decided, rightly it seems, that this location would appeal to foreign tourists visiting Hanoi. If you happen to be a train buff, you have probably noticed that Vietnam uses very narrow gauge tracks.