We arrived in Cambodia sometime in December 2013. I had just got married and was looking to run away from all that an Indian wedding process stands for. Phnom Penh was the first point of escape. It is a great city to relax and stroll around. Cambodians are also very fond of monuments and you would see a number of them in the city. In addition, Phnom Penh has the palace, the pagodas and the riverside (for when you have seen too much and done too much for a day).
The Royal Palace of Cambodia is a comparatively new construction, built in mid 19th century. It is a beautiful example of Khmer architecture, with a lot of gold, green and white in the colour scheme. While the living quarters of the king are closed to the visitors, the palace grounds are beautiful. The throne room (where the ceremonies are carried out) and the Silver Pagoda (the official worship place of the palace) are specially stunning. The palace is full of treasures, including life-sized gold statue of Buddha, decorated with diamonds. Our guide was quick to point that the size of the diamonds in the palace has caused a number of marital woes among the tourists!
The best thing about the city is its food (being a bit of foodie myself, everything seems to boil down to food). Posh restaurants to street food. Everything was great and everything was cheap. The staple food of the country is rice which will be served to you with everything beef to fish (being the two most common meats in the country).
Snails and Eels, cooked on the street for you and they were yummy! Snails were steamed and served with spices and lemon. While it was not the easiest meal to eat (the snails were in their shells and instrument for getting them out was a toothpick), the taste of sea and the lemon was really fresh. It was served with a portion of rice which I have not yet figured out how to eat with snails. This however did not take away from the flavour of the snails.
For a non-vegetarian, it is a heaven of experiences (though we stayed away from the more exotic looking snakes, bugs and crocodiles). Fish amok is a must try for anyone looking to try authentic Cambodian cuisine. This mild coconut cream with fish dish was a treat that we went back for again and again.
We finished the day with a walk on the riverside. Quiet (by Mumbai standards), muted lights and windy- that is the perfect end of the day. The riverside is also lined up with a number of good restaurants for the more discerning. We had surprisingly great pizzas in a little tucked away, unassuming restaurant along the riverside.
On the practical side of the trip, there are numerous boutique hotels in the city that provide awesome accommodation and service. I would recommend Villa Paradiso to anyone staying in Phnom Penh. Tuk-tuks, aka, motorbikes with a cabin for the passengers attached at the back, are the most common mode of transport.
We quickly discovered that we need to live by our negotiation skills as far as local transport is concerned. There is no standard fare and it would serve you well to check the average fare from your hotel before stepping out. It is also a pleasant city to walk. Being fond of walking and used to the heat, we chose to walk around quite a bit of the city. Getting lost turned out to be the best way of discovering the city!
The next day was the trip to Choeung Ek killing fields that evoked the sadness and emotions completely different from this day but more on that later!
This post was originally published on Travel diaries and more.