A month and a half ago I went for a walk, on a Sunday, and wrote about it here. Today after writing my last piece I went somewhere local for lunch, got a tuk-tuk and headed to the station.
After my last walk I had determined I would do another one and this time would start from Phnom Penh Station. The few things I had found about it were that it was the starting point for Phnom Penh Hash House Harriers on their outings around the city and its outer reaches, which I had not summoned the courage or foolhardiness to join them on. The other thing I have discovered of the railway was that it is a joint project by the Asia Development Bank and Australian Government to rehabilitate the railway.(Here is a recent report of their activities) Although most attention has focused upon the plight of the families moved to redevelop the railway. I have to admit to being a sad bastard about rail travel and would jump at the chance of seeing this country by rail but I am not holding my breath.
Opposite the station was a Buddhist shrine which, according to a US website, “In April 1989 Radio Phnom Penh reported that Hun Sen, Heng Samrin, and other officials attended a ceremony at which a relic of the Buddha was enshrined at a temple in front of the Phnom Penh railway station.” I have seen it referred to as faces of Buddha and google maps refers to it as former Buddha stupa.
Anyway I walked up to the station and there was a guard there in uniform. I said hello to him in Khmer and asked through figurative language if I could walk around and look around. He said no. He had a gun and a table drawn across the entrance. I was not going to argue. It was clear this was not a railway which had a great deal of passengers and a great deal of passenger interaction.
So, I took what picture i could through the gap and walked on around the square in front of the station and imagined it with a regular schedule across the country, full of people being dropped off by tuk-tuks, Lexis’ and other SUV’s as well as people who came here under their own steam and then headed off across the country. What a shame. As a sad bastard who had travelled around the Balkans, part of the Baltics, France, Australia, Spain, Italy. Russia, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic Slovakia and Hungary amongst others and had dreamed of travelling others by rail it is sad not to be able to. Like many other former communist countries there is the stream train monument at the front of the station.
Having been refused entrance to the station by the functionary, whose job it was to do so, I walked around to see if there were ways I could get a picture of the other side and any trains they might have. I assure you now I am not a trainspotter but someone interested in transport. I walked around the corner and there was a cafe with a car park which seemed shared with something official to do with the railways. There was a car leaving and someone there I asked if I could take a picture of the station from there and was told I could not.
By now I was walking down Russian Boulevard. The main route out of town to the airport. There was the massive building above, which, as architects of massive architecture could tell you was only the central part of a building which had east and west wings only partially seen in this picture. I don’t know what the buildings are for as there were no signs and google maps is silent. I cannot imagine what buildings might be next to the Ministry of Defence, which was next along the road, but cannot be mentioned. They are certainly large and impressive.
Anyway, walking back from the large buildings I saw that the chap was missing from the car park so I walked in and took the following pictures of the reverse of the station and the trains on it, hardly national security it seemed to me:
Could you imagine leaving from there to head off into the interior of Cambodia, how romantic? What a beautiful place to leave from and what a shame trains do not run from it. I understand rebuilding the economy has meant deciding priorities and working on them first but I would pay to be on a passenger train leaving from this station and would love to be doing so as part of a bustling service heading all over the country.
So, anyway I left the pictures of the trains and crossed the Russian Boulevard and, in doing so discovered that I was doing so at the time they were watering the area in the middle of the road and I had to make my way between the upraised spouts watering the grass (you can just see in the picture right.) and, in places the areas where the water had gathered. I did not succeed in avoiding them and got wet feet. I took a picture of people trying to sell pleasant smelling flowers by the roadside and their male boss got upset with me but it is not interesting enough to post up here. I crossed the road and there was the a statue of Ganesha.
Apparently this area is a park and was dedicated to Ganesha because, “The special and uniqueness of Sen Monorom Park is containing a statue of Ganesha, a Hindu God symbolizes intellect, wisdom, and good fortune. The statue is 7.2 m high (including the pedestal), facing west, and was erected in the middle of Sen Monorom Park. The statue is made of pure grey-stone delivered from Preah Vihear province. Ganesha is sculpted in standing with four hands, in the style of Angkorian architecture. Two hands raise up to his ears hold a conch shell and a discus, the other two front hands hold a lotus bud and a bowl of sweet meat, his favorite food. It’s a surprise to the citizen of Phnom Penh to see the statue of Ganesha. There has no any release of the reason why Ganesha was choosen to be in the park. However, it’s believed that God Ganesha will bring good fortune, happiness, and prosperity to Cambodians, especially bring peace for the country. Here I end part one of the story of my walk on Sunday, not having left the Russian Boulevard area.