Top Places To Visit in Phnom Penh
Hotels and Homestays in Phnom Penh
About Phnom Penh
The capital city of the country has lot to offer aprt from party culture. It has vast historical importance. The Pol pot regime was one of the worst period in the history of mankind.It is also the city where the king stays. The Independence Tower, National Museum, Royal palace, Peace Tower, S21 genocide Centre, Killing fields etc are some of the Major attractions in the city.Daily approximately cost for budget traveler :- $25-30Mode of transport:- you can get Tuktuk or can hire a bike for $7-10 a day. Or ride onto moto for $1-3Stay options:- number of hostels for backpackers ranging from $4-12 a night. You can stay in private room or in a dorm.Places to eat:- The central market area, area around Independence monument, Royal palace and the road near riverside.
Best Time To Visit Phnom Penh
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The Khmer Rouge -- led by Pol Pot -- executed nearly one million intellectuals, professionals and foreigners between 1975 and 1979 at various sites around the country that have come to be called killing fields. Choeung Ek, the killing field near Phnom Penh, is the best known of the lot and houses a recently built memorial that stores the skeletal remains of nearly 5000 victims. Several floors of skulls laid side by side may be a chilling sight, but it comes at the end of a nearly hour long audio tour that attempts to bring to life the chilling atrocities that were committed on the very same grounds that now seem so shadowy and tranquil. For the best experience, come early in the morning before the crowds start to flood the place, and drown yourself in the evocative tone of the audio guide as it relates accounts of victims, and spares you no graphic details of what might have occurred where you stand. Through a bringing together of music, poetry and story-telling, it is an experience that will move the most emotionless to tears. Allow the emotion to take over you. There is no time you are more alive than when your heart is breaking.
The central spot of Phnom Penh, the Wat Phnom Temple is a Buddhist temple situated on top of an artificial hill and the tallest in the city, which means that there are a lot of stairs for one to climb. The temple was apparently built by a widow by the name of Penh, affectionately known as Grandmother Penh. Having spent a good amount of time on the hill and observing everything around me, I supposed that the adorable ginger cat continuously circling the shrine had some part of the deceased lady's soul latched onto her. The paintings inside are worth a sight and the entrance fee is 1 USD.
If you are looking for a cure to the overwhelming loss of faith in humanity that you are sure to feel after a visit to Choeung Ek, the nearest one is at the National Museum in Phnom Penh. Located in a graceful red building that whips up all sorts of Oriental dreams, it houses a vast collection of art, sculpture and handicrafts from all periods of Cambodian history. All sorts of Hindu and Buddhist images present themselves in different forms throughout, making us constantly exclaim about the parallels with the heroes in the mythological epics we lapped up in our childhood. The airy, breezy museum is located around a central courtyard with tiny lotus-fringed ponds, pebbled paths and lush greenery, making for a great place to unwind between marathon museum-ing.
The Royal Palace
True to its name, The Royal Palace serves as the residence of the King of Cambodia, his family and foreign dignitaries. The place is a venue for the performance of court ceremony and ritual, and has been a symbol of the Kingdom ever since. The striking structure stands near the riverfront and boasts classic Khmer roofs and ornate gilding. The famous SIlver Pagoda, where the King worshiped, prayed and practiced every Buddhist Silas Day, is also located inside The Royal Palace.
The Independence Monument was built to symbolize Cambodia's independence from France. Standing on the intersection of Norodom Boulevard and Sihanouk Boulevard, the monument comes in the form of a lotus-shaped stupa - a style evident in the great Khmer temple in Angkor Wat and other Khmer historical sites.
Just outside Phnom Penh lies one of the largest mass grave sites in Cambodia, where it is estimated over one million Cambodians were executed during the Khmer Rouge regime. The scale of the site, coupled with the detailed narration over the audio guide, is deeply moving and provides real insight into the country's violent past.
After we had brunch at Sisters, we wandered down the road to the Russian Market which basically sells just about anything and everything! I was most fascinated by the people in the market, those working, those napping, those gossiping....Loads of meat on offer. A friend says it looked very fresh (and she would know) but I was a bit freaked out by all the flies! Lots of hammocks hanging around as you might get a bit tired during your shift...
You must have heard or have seen the Angkor Wat temple right? If not I’ll let you know some stuff about it. Seam Reap is a popular destination to visit where you can find the ruins of the Angkor Watt temple, which was once a Hindu Temple turned Buddhist over Cambodia’s changing pasts. The temple was built somewhere around 1125 and still stands today attracting visitors from all corners of the globe with it’s marvellous architecture. The five towers symbolizes the centre of the universe, surrounded by walls and a moat that was once full of crocodiles. The best time to see this spectacular temple is during the late afternoon at sunset where a large statue of the Hindu God illuminates over the entrance to the temple. Another amazing natural and picturesque architecture is a giant tree with enormous roots surrounding the ancient temple. Almost all visitors stop in Sean Reap to stay, so if you are planning on visiting you won’t be short of any accommodations, do book early though as they can get full!
Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
A ticket to the Royal Palace also grants you entry to the Silver Pagoda. Named after the floor, which is plated in silver and specks of which you can see under the rugs that cover it. It is home to many Buddhist treasures that include an Emerald Buddha. On the Palace grounds is a structure made by the French out of the cast iron used in the construction of the Suez Canal and it stands awkwardly among the steep tile roofs and stupa shaped cupolas. The temple also houses a Buddha statue made out of gold and dotted with around 10,000 diamonds. The Khmer royalty love their bling almost as much as us Indians.
49 Phnom Penh
SIEM REAP We boarded our Air Asia flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap(as there is no direct flight from India). It costs about 2k one way. Siem Reap is home to one of the most majestic structures in the world, the Angkor Wat! Angkor Wat is spread over 200-300 acres. It is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the world. Primarily, it is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Exploring the ruins will take an entire day. Ensure that you have a guide with you to explain everything. Without a guide you will not be able to fully appreciate the Angkor experience! While in Siem Reap, do go for an Apsara dance. One of the finest dance performances I've seen till date! If you love to experience the local Khmer traditions, this is your best bet. Cambodia brews one of finest beers! I JUST LOVED THE BEER! Priced at a dollar for 2 pints, you can't ask for more! Drink drink drink! We stayed at this B&B called Rosy Guest house. Really nice rooms for just 30$ a night was a steal! Tip: Don't shop at Siem Reap as things are expensive. Shop in Pnohm Penn instead. Pnohm Penh:You will need around 2 days here. Finish your sightseeing on the first day and keep the second day just for shopping. There is not much to see here. The city palace is a must see! Built in the traditional Khmer style of architecture, this Palace is one of the iconic buildings of Cambodia. Later you could visit a few temples and take a sunset cruise or just stroll along the Riverside. When in Pnohm Penh, shop. Just shop! Things here are at throw away prices. You get unbelievable deals. I bought t-shirts for a dollar each. Yes you read it right. 1 DOLLAR! The quality? Top notch. There are 2 markets namely the Central Market and Russian Market. Go to the central market if you want variety. You will need at least 2 days to cover this market. From clothes, bags, jewelry to cutlery, you can find everything here! People generally say Bangkok is a shopper's paradise. Trust me, we found Bangkok to be way more expensive than Cambodia. So happy shopping :) Food is never a problem in Cambodia. Vegetarian food is easily available. There are plenty of Indian restaurants too. Personally I would rather try the unique Khmer cuisine. So what are you waiting for? Don't think. Just pack and leave. Go have an Adventure of a Lifetime xD
Tuol Sleng Prison Museum
After having an early breakfast, I left the hotel at 8am and hired a tuktuk to take me to Tuol Sleng Museum and Killing Fields. Killing Fields are located 15km from city centre. Tuktuks charge around USD15 for taking you from central Phnom Penh to Killing Fields, waiting there and coming back. The tuktuk driver agreed to include Tuol Sleng Museum, which is on the way, for the same price.Museum entry fee is USD 2, and another USD 6 for a guide. I decided to do the museum on my own and was able to manage well based on the narrations provided. Tuol Sleng was originally a school converted into Pol Pot's secret prison during his rule from 1975-1979. Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge after taking control of Cambodia in 1975, emptied all cities (including Phnom Penh) within four days and forced the entire population to work in labour camps in countryside. People from nearby camps were brought to Tuol Sleng to be tortured, confess to their supposed crimes and finally sent to Killing Fields to be executed. It is estimated that around 11000-14000 people including 2000 children imprisoned in Tuol Sleng were executed. Inside different rooms of the building, you will see gruesome pictures and outside a few graves of the people who were imprisoned there.Interestingly there is an account of how a Swedish Delegation, in 1978, had visited Cambodia during Pol Pot's rule and basis the doctored version of what they were shown, the delegation gave a glowing account of Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea. They rubbished the horrific tales being told by Cambodian refugees. When Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979 (Cambodians refer to it is 'liberation day'), 7 adult and 4 child survivors were found in Tuol Sleng.
Digby's Grocer & Cafe
BKK1 Street 306 This gourmet grocery store has some great foreign favorites for stocking up on. If you have access to a kitchen they sell organic produce and other cooking supplies and travelers can pick up Coco Khmer coconut oil and healthy snacks here. They also have a full deli and restaurant that could easy fit into an international city like New York.
On our last night, we heading to Romdeng. We had tried to go the night before but it was fully booked, so we headed on over on the Saturday night. It is owned by the same people that own Friends Restaurant, part of the Tree Alliance / Friends International . They have the same ethos, helping ex street kids and the underprivileged get trained and have a chance at a career. Whereas Friends is more "World Tapas", Romdeng is more traditionally Khmer / Cambodian food and it was lovely! I was reminded yet again that Cambodia is between Vietnam and Thailand, and the food reflects that location. Their speciality is a bit freaky..... Deep fried tarantulas with pepper sauce! Yikes!!! I didn't go anywhere near them. One of my friends is super hardcore and just grabbed a whole one and chowed down on it. Yikes! She said it is food, you can't waste food... her Vietnamese origins came through strongly :) This incited N to have to eat a whole one too of course as the title of most hardcore is hers! Some of the others had a few bits / legs etc. But I couldn't! I would totally go back, actually I hope I will! I would love to go back to Phnom Penh and keep exploring this menu. So many more dishes I want to try! And a cocktail, they were out of the one I wanted to try, the frozen lime and black pepper daiquiri, sounds intriguing. I would wholeheartedly recommend going there, just make sure to call ahead and book a table. And don't forget the shop upstairs where the proceeds go to charity also.
Yoga Phnom Penh
In hectic cities like Phnom Penh it’s important to find quiet spaces to recharge. Yoga has always been this space for me, and Phnom Penh has two yoga studios. Yoga Phnom Penh has a variety of class styles offered several times per day including Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga, Hatha, and even Fly Yoga where you practice postures from swings. Krama Yoga is the first nonprofit yoga studio in Cambodia, sharing the healing practice of yoga with underprivileged locals. Class fees fund their programs which teach children physical health, compassion, and self respect, teaches young adults self confidence and leadership skills, and works through trauma with victims of sex slavery. They have three locations and a wide variety of classes including Restorative, Yin, Ashtanga, and Flow.
The Flicks Community Movie Houses
Watch the documentary The Killing Fields or The Breakfast Club while lying down next to fellow backpackers on the mattresses placed on the floor. The Flicks Community Movie House is different from the swanky multiplexes or the crumbling old theatres, it is a communal space for a cinephile. Under 200 rupess you get a tub of homemade popcorn, a drink, sleepy stories of a traveller and a good ol’ movie night. Call to make reservations and arrive 15 minutes before screening to make payments.
Khmer Boran Noodle Restaurant
After the Royal Palace we met with the girls who had been to the Killing Fields. There was a bit of confusion when trying to meet up, their tuktuk driver took them all around town after the first place was closed. Thank goodness for Whatsapp and local SIMs and the ability to share location on there. We ended up close to FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) at Khmer Borane where we had some lovely local Cambodian / Khmer food.
we also heard about the shops on 240 Street which is becoming the boutique shop street and NGO shop area also in Phnom Penh. They have local Cambodian designers and many shoppers which are run for charity which made us very interested so we jumped into a tuktuk and wandered along the street, trying things on an buying things all the way down! I mostly bought things in Daisy, Subtyl and Spicy Green Mango. I bought 4 dresses in Subtyl! Oops ;) Three were the same shape but in different colours as it fit really well which is hard to find, and they cost about 50USD each which was cheap so I couldn't resist. This turquoise striped one is one of them, I wore it the other day. Me being me, and being obsessed with food, I couldn't resist when I spotted little spice jars. I really should have bought these in town for a fraction of the price but I didn't so I just ignored the cost (5 USD a small bottle!) and bought everything :) They had recipes there too so I took them for guidance, though we do have some Cambodian recipes in the Rick Stein Far Eastern Odyssey cookbook.We all loved the amok dishes we had, so I got that spice mix. I bought some lemongrass we have already used. And Cambodia is famous for their Kampot pepper corns so I bought three different colours (black, red and white). I also bought a curry mix and the Lok Lak mix of pepper and salt which we used to store fry some chicken with chillies and onions, very nice.
Sovanna Phum Art Association & Art Gallery
You are ushered into the dimly lit seating area and you realise that your punctuality has interrupted the rehearsals of the artists. The artists will smile gently and let you watch them as they prepare for another shadow puppet show or a contemporary dance performance. The association supports local artists and the performances are in English. While you’re backpacker pocket might complaint about the show prices, the performance, setting and close interaction with artists make it worth every penny.
Street 95 at 348 $5 for entrees This beautiful Khmer restaurant is in the top floor of an old building with high ceilings, and big windows overlooking the trees and flower covered terrace. The open space feels cozy and chic all at once, with delicious Khmer specialties, all with vegan options. The vegetarian amok here was the best I’ve had, steamed perfectly in a banana leaf, and I loved the vegan chocolate orange ice cream.
Along with teachers and monks, most artists were killed during the Khmer Rouge takeover in the 70s. Phnom Penh has done a tremendous job reviving the arts scene in this country and the city has many modern, inspiring galleries featuring local artists. Meta House has three floors of exhibitions from local and international artists, supports local artists in international exhibitions, and works to foster the art community in Cambodia. They host many events including live music and movie screenings. Java Arts is another popular gallery that supports and funds local Cambodian artists through grants and proceeds from Java Café. Read about more contemporary art galleries in Phnom Penh.
The Vegetarian Restaurant
Street 19 off Sihanouk Blvd. $1.50-3 for entrees This is my favorite all around restaurant in Phnom Penh. The menu consists mainly of healthy Khmer food without sugar or MSG and is made with brown rice, a rare treat in Southeast Asia. It’s also considerably cheaper than the other healthy vegetarian restaurants I tried in Phnom Penh. My favorite dish is the Khmer curry with brown rice and the fresh spring rolls are the perfect take away for a long bus ride.
The night market is located along the river front and get rather crowded during the weekends and towards dinner time. The market offers a wide variety of shopping ranging from cheap clothes to handicrafts to souvenirs. There are even food stalls there where you can have your dinner and even mini performances. There is also a large area with carpets placed for people to have their meals purchased from the food stalls.
The Central Market
This market is constructed in a shape of a dome with four arms branching out into vast hallways with countless stalls of goods. The four wings of this gigantic yellow dome are teeming with stalls that sell goods ranging from gold and silver, antique coins, money exchange, men's and women's apparel, clocks, books, flowers, food, fabrics, shoes, souvenirs, fish, seafood, dessert, luggage, and countless other products. It is very prominent and easy to locate with its yellow colour exterior. Put your bargaining skills to the test here!
I also had the opportunity to visit the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and witness mass graves and real human skulls, bones and shreds of cloth which were the result of the extermination. While there are audio tours available and photography was allowed, I was personally heavily distressed to click any pictures. The fields are a little outside of Phnom Penh and Tuk Tuks can get you there for a decent price. Admission charges are around 6 USD which include the audio guides.
From pub street I moved towards the riverside Old Market. Lots and lots of souvenir shops. Then crossed to the other side of the river. Nothing much to see that side, except a few restaurants including Hard Rock Cafe.I made my way back to pub street area to have dinner at Dakshin - an Indian restaurant in a lane off pub-street. It offers both North Indian and South Indian cuisine. Chic ambience and awesome food, one of the best that I have had outside India.Day 14: Siem Reap
Foreign Correspondents Club
After exploring the Russian Market and shopping we were in need of some refreshments, and where better than the world-famous Foreign Correspondents Club on the river in Phnom Penh? Yeah, we couldn't think of anywhere superiour either :) Especially considering how good their happy hour deals are... 1 for 1 between 5 and 7pm. What else could a group of thirsty gals want? They have a pizza oven but we weren't brave enough to try their pizza (who knows, it could have been one of those famous local "happy" pizzas topped with things that are high illegal over here in Singapore) and any way we knew we wanted local food for dinner. So the happy hour deal of one for one applies to beer, cocktails and house wines. I asked whether it was individual cocktails or also the jugs and luckily for us, they would do one for one jugs.... we managed to finish off nearly a jug each ;-)
Across from the National Museum $2-5 for entrees You may find it strange that I should recommend an Indonesian restaurant in Cambodia, but I surprisingly never saw Indonesian cuisine outside of Indonesia and this place is as good as what you’d find in Bali. The owners were extremely hospitable and the place had a very warm, friendly vibe. I ordered the gado gado, veggies with salad, peanut sauce, and boiled egg, and it was very tasty, but I heard that the spicy squid is the best dish on the menu.
Top Banana Guesthouse and Rooftop Bar
Street 278 near the Independence Monument This popular hostel has some of the best parties in the city. They have international DJs and wild parties on the weekends, live music throughout the week, and host Open Mic for travelers who want to share their talents. This is a great place to meet expats, other travelers, and locals.
Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crime
Among one of the 150 interrogation cells/ prisons set up in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge, this high-school turned museum documents the horrors of the Cambodian Genocide. Pictures of terrified prisoners, letters written in panic and instruments of torture dot the dull grey walls of the Tuo Sleng Museum. While leaving the compound you will come across the rules for the prisoners which includes ‘While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.’ 2 of the 11 survivors of Tuo Sleng sell books in the compound and smile for photographs with immense sorrow in their eyes.
Tuol Sleng genocide Centre infamously known as S21. In 1976, the Khmer Rouge renamed the high school s21 and turned it into a torture, interrogation and execution centre. Of the 14,000 people known to have entered ,only 7 survived. You can get the details of how the killings had taken place and other info on wikipedia.On this place the guided tours/audio tours are available so that one can take more time and understand what had happened there.