We’d already booked our flights, via Air Asia, from Bangkok, before leaving the UK (as apparently we may have been refused boarding at Heathrow without proof of onward journey). Our flights cost £40 each & flying time took 1 hour.
So with that organised, all we had to do is plan what to do in the capital city whilst we were there.
Activities, Sites & History
A Guardian article lists some of the top things to do here:
* Wat Phnom
* The Killing Fields &
* Genocide Museum
* National Museum
* Royal Palace
* Quay & Riverside walk
Wat Phnom is a Buddhist temple, in the middle of what is now, a roundabout, central to the city.
It was built in 1373, and stands at 27 metres above the ground. It is the tallest religious structure in the city. The pagoda was given the name of Wat Preah Chedey Borapaut.
Legend has it, that a wealthy widow called Penh, found a large tree in the river. Inside the tree she found four bronze statues of the Buddha. Penh constructed a small shrine on an artificial hill which is the origins of the temple.
The River & Waterfront
Phnom Penh is situated on the Tonle Sap River (which joins The Mekong just outside the city). It is great just to walk along, watching the locals in their daily life, washing & fishing in the river. There are also a large number of restaurants & bars at one end. If you enjoy nightime river cruises, you can take a sunset trip up to the Mekong, taking in a floating village en route.
Around the City
If you’ve visited Bangkok, you’ll think you’re prepared for the traffic, noise & pollution of Phnom Penh. However, it is an assault on the senses & far more manic. Traffic is mainly 2 wheeled or tuk tuks, with no regard for pedestrians! They drive the wrong way up the road & on the pavements. Crossing the road is like taking your life in your hands. Fumes are visible, with black exhausts pumping out everywhere. The locals, as in Thailand, wear surgical masks everywhere.
As a less developed country than Thailand, be prepared for piles of rubbish everywhere.
There is a huge variety of Western food available; especially French with their historical links. However, contrary to what we were told, it appeared more expensive than Thailand (we’ll see if this is true outside the Capital when we move on).
We continued to eat with locals, mainly street food places. However, our experiences varied in direct comparison with the amount of English spoken. Many have picture menus, but most you have to go up to the cooking area & just point at something that looks appealing.
Our favourite meal in Phnom Penh was Amok, which is a Cambodian curry popular with Westerners. We also had a different curry another night, which was good (but no name available). Our strangest meal was a pile of grated ginger, topped with a meat we could not identity (we’d asked for chicken, but it was lost in translation). However, the vegetable dishes are an amazing fresh mixture (better than Thailand – if in doubt go vegetarian).
We stayed in two places here. The Artist Guesthouse by the National Museum, but loved The Blue Corner which offers amazing value for money including breakfast, a pool, large rooms, restaurant on site & … a free welcome cocktail! We paid £22 a night via booking.com.