Travel Diary: Phnom Penh
Once you get past the spelling of this lovely place, it really starts to feel like home. Bustling with action, you are unlikely to move around this place in anything but a tuk tuk for your stay. Filled with culture and smiling faces, it’s criminal to visit Cambodia and not see the capital Phnom Penh.
Must be done online prior to arrival. Have at least 3 printed copies as you will need one before you board a plane to Cambodia, one on arrival and one on departure.
See website: https://www.evisa.gov.kh/application_new
Tuk tuk, pretty much everywhere! Don’t be afraid to barter, most short rides should not be costing more than $3 US. You can also hire a driver for an entire day to get you around to places further out, such as the killing fields. The tuk tuk’s fit six people (a squish but can be done) or you will need two if you have bags.
Getting to Siem Reap (vice versa):
There are many bus companies that can get you either way, we went with a recommended company Giant Ibis buses. They are well know, safe and even offer wifi and food on board. Tickets were about $16 US, we left at about 12pm and arrived 7pm in Siem Reap, with a few stops along the way. Be sure to book online before and print your tickets off. Also arrive early (30-40 mins) as they like to head off early if they have everyone on board!
See website here: http://giantibis.com/
They pretty much exclusively use US currency in all of Cambodia, so be sure to withdraw US at the ATM on arrival or before you arrive. You will often receive change in the form of Cambodian riel, so be sure to know the conversion rate to US and make sure you are getting the correct change!
We stayed at Villa Samnang, which I would highly recommend! The rooms were clean, the staff lovely and extremely helpful! There were always tuk tuk’s outside the accommodation waiting to take us anywhere. As well as having a beautiful pool they also have killer cocktails on happy hour (two for one).
· Royal Palace: dress modestly! You need to cover knees and shoulders. At the entrance you can hire a guide for $10 US, which we chose to do and it added a lot of value to the place! She was able to offer information that otherwise we would never have been aware of. Good choice for a group.
· Killing fields: a lengthy tuk tuk drive away, you may start to feel like you are going into the middle of nowhere, but that is quite literally where the killing fields lay. Words cannot explain the emotions and feelings you get at this place. Use an audio guide to have the best experience.
· S21: located more in town this former school turned torture prison has similar grim and heart wrenching stories to the killing fields. It is good to do them both in one day, but try to break it up with something else to keep spirits up. Also use an audio guide here.
· Russian markets: good for cheap exercise clothes and hippy pants, but if you are also going to Siem Reap I would recommend holding off for their night markets that have a lot more to offer at even cheaper prices!
· Psar Thiem: another market located more centrally in Phnom Penh it also offers an array of fake watches, jewellery and plenty of the newest technology to keep you entertained.
· Mekong Promenade: if you are looking for something to fill in time between temples or cocktails a walk along the promenade offers serenity ‘Asian style’. Be aware that there are many street vendors that capture birds and try to sell them here, which can be confronting.
· National Museum: this place was surprisingly enlightening and provided lots of interesting information about Cambodia’s and Phnom Penh’s history. It is also home to the Guinness world records longest scarf..
· Party patio: for cheap cocktails you cannot go past the quaint little cocktail bar. The staff are beautiful people who will go the extra mile to ensure you enjoy your time. We were even able to order naan bread from the Indian restaurant next door and get it delivered whilst we were there!
· Mad monkey: a hostel bar, if you are looking for some good times with other backpackers this is a great place to visit.
· Friends Café: If you visit Phnom Penh be sure not to miss a trip to Friends Café. Try to visit during off periods such as between lunch and dinner to ensure you get a table at this popular destination. This place employs orphans or former street children and helps them develop skills in hospitality to go on and gain employment elsewhere and build a life for themselves. Bonus: it’s also pretty cheap and the fusion style meals are delicious!
· Malis: we stumbled upon this place our first night after a long flight from Adelaide. Definitely book ahead for dinner, we were just lucky enough to score a table when we arrived. It offers a fine dining experience with delicious Asian fusion dishes.