A Short Guide to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Phnom Penh is the crazy capital of Cambodia. Once known as the pearl of Asia, the capital still maintains a certain charm. The previous French rule is still clear to see with many of the streets lined with French colonial style buildings, amidst later Khmer Angkorian style architecture. Along with many of South East Asia’s cities, the streets are filled with not so healthy looking motorbikes whizzing about, markets which sell everything you can imagine and of course cheap cheap beer!
The city and country may have been permanently scarred from the horrendous Khmer Rouge reign, but Phnom Penh is a signal of Cambodia desire to build for the future and move on from the terrors brought by Pol Pot, but never to forget the victims.
Phnom Penh Accommodation
If you’ve ever been to Cambodia or are planning to head there, it’s more than likely you will have heard things (whether it be good or bad) about Mad Monkey Hostels. In my opinion, they were brilliant, but I understand they may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
If you’re thinking of staying at Mad Monkey while you’re in Phnom Penh, I’d recommend booking in advance. We did exactly that, but we saw plenty of people get turned away from the hostel, due to it being full. Showing exactly how popular the hostel is amongst backpackers!
A double room with air con and a shared bathroom will set you back $18.90, whilst a bed in a dorm can cost you $7.35. In truth, the rooms are basic and this might not be the cheapest hostel around, but the atmosphere of the hostel is well worth the price. The hostel bar is packed every night, when it closes at 11:30pm, Mad Monkey lay on free tuks tuks for everyone to head to a close by bar.
Things to do in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh has tons of things that can be done around the city. Some are free, some aren’t. You won’t find yourself bored and wandering what to do with your time while you’re in the Cambodian capital though.
The Cambodian Independence Monument
Built in 1958 to commemorate Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953, the Independence Monument stands firmly on the intersection of Norodom Boulevard and Sihanouk Boulevard.
I’d definitely recommend taking a stroll to the Independence Monument, then head down Sihanouk Boulevard, until you reach Sothearos Boulevard.
On Sothearos Boulevard you will find…
Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument
Built in the late 1970’s the Friendship Monument was built to celebrate the friends between Cambodia and Vietnam. The monument is located in a beautiful area of the city, surrounded by plenty of greenery on the boulevard which leads right up to the fantastic Royal Palace.
The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
A few minutes walk away from the Friendship Monument on Sothearos Boulevard, ending a leisurely stroll through the boulevards lining the centre of Phnom Penh, lies the grandeur of Cambodia’s Royal Palace.
The Cambodian Royal Family still reside in the palace and have done since the 1860’s. Obviously the area where the family live is closed off from the public, but it’s still possible to explore areas of the grounds. There is an entrance fee of $6.
**Make sure you have shorts than reach your knees and your shoulders covered or you’ll have to rent some clothing to get in**.
The buildings within the palace are absolutely amazing, including the Silver Pagoda. It’s clear to see that the royal family in Cambodia are hardly slumming it. The buildings within the Royal Palace are very similar to those within the Royal Palace in Bangkok. It’s advisable to stay clear of the palace on Sundays, when Cambodian’s from the countryside come to pay their respects.
The opening hours of the palace are: 7:30-11am & 2-5pm. Be prepared for plenty of crowds if you’re not heading there first thing.
Definitely one of the better markets we visited while we were in South East Asia.
As with every other market, you will find anything and everything here, ranging from cheap rip off Ray Bans, gold and silver, clothes and shoes, souvenirs, all the worst smelling fruit going, Durian and countless other products.
Opened in 1935, the unique building is a landmark in Phnom Penh. The market is open from 7am-5pm.
The Killing Fields
Although Cambodia’s capital is an exciting, bustling city, a little out of town is the Killing Fields.
Like I mentioned earlier, Phnom Penh is making strides into the future, but the country will never forget what happened during the Khmer Rouge era. The Killing Fields is now a museum where the victims of the terrible doings from Khmer Rouge. Now a museum and remembrance monument, The Killing Fields was once one of the sites throughout Cambodia where collectively more than a million people were brutally killed.
I admit I knew very little about the horrors Cambodians endured during these years, before I actually visited the country and in particular the Killing Fields. I would say though if you are in Cambodia, make sure you visit The Killing Fields or at least another one of the remembrance areas across the country!! I feel that it’s incredibly important to learn about the disgusting things that were done by Khmer Rouge and remember and pay respects to the victims.
On entry you receive equipment for an audio tour, where you walk around the fields listening to spine chilling stories at each of the signposted areas dotted around. The final stop on the audio tour is at the infamous memorial for the victims of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, containing the bones and skulls of those found in mass graves at the Killing Fields site – Choeung Ek.
We caught a tuk tuk from our hostel for $15 return and entry was $6 each.
Happy Herb Pizza
If you haven’t already guessed… Happy Herb Pizza is basically a pizza shop which infamously tops its pizza with lets say a special topping. There’s plenty of copy cat restaurants around, but if you want to visit the original, then get yourself to Happy Herb Pizza.
A large ‘happy’ pizza will cost you $11.
Phnom Penh is a brilliant city. If there was a city in South East Asia, which was really driving a country ahead into a better future, it would be Phnom Penh. It is still clear to see that Cambodia is recovering from the devastation Khmer Rouge caused, but this really is a city which is moving forward, whilst keeping one eye on the past. What are your views on Phnom Penh, if you’ve been? Anything else you’d recommend to do in the city?