A couple of days in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

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shrine by the river

I arrived in Phnom Penh before lunch after a 2 hour trip from Kampong Cham in a minibus that seated 14 people, and thank goodness they did not squeeze anyone else in as they had done on my previous journeys. I had been to Phnom Penh ten years earlier and had taken the tour of the Killing Fields, Tuol Sleng (torture building), Russian Market, the Royal Palace, the National Museum etc so i had no reason to visit them again, but i certainly advise you to do so when you are in the capital. I checked into the Velkommen Backpackers where i was greeted by one of the Scottish owners who had recently purchased the business from a Norwegian fellow.

shrine by the river
The room was tiny with a fan and table, but who cares, i would only sleep there.The GH sold a few basic snacks and drinks, but that was about it.

I took a stroll along the promenade by the river and ended up at the small shrine by the river in front of the Royal Palace where people come to give offerings and pray. It was much busier than ten years earlier and there were also musicians playing. I don't know is this is an everyday occurrence or there was some significant religious ceremony taking place. People were buying birds that vendors kept in cages and they believe they would gain merit by doing so. I am told that the birds are trained to fly back to the cage in the evening. Afterwards i made my way to Wat Botum Park at the center of which was the Cambodia/Vietnam Friendship Monument.

shrine by the river
At the end of the park i turned right and there before me was the statue of King Norodom Sihanouk, and a couple of hundred meters ahead was the Independence Monument which was situated in the middle of a busy roundabout. I did not take a close look at the monument as i did not want to risk death by crossing the road as there were so many vehicles whizzing round the roundabout. 

Next stop was to explore the Prayuvong Buddha factories, just a couple of blocks from the Independence Monument. This area was a series of alleys where stonemasons were hard at work making cement Buddha figures and other religious items to replace the ones that were destroyed by the Khmar Rouge. I did not see too many people working but it was early afternoon and tempertures reached about 40C.

shrine by the river
 

I intended to visit the Russian market to buy some souvenirs but the tuktuk driver wanted too much money and told me that my offer was even lower than what the Cambodians paid for the three kilometer ride. In the end i found a motorbike rider to take me there for a dollar. As he raced down the street, swerving in and out of traffic i began to regret not taking the tuktuk, and eventually the motorbike rider was nowhere near the Russian market. I knew roughly the route as i had studied the map and had been there twice before.The motorcyclist stopped and asked another local where it was located and immediately he turned back and started going back down the street that he had just come from. A few more minutes of turning here and there he stopped again and it turned out that the market was just at the next corner.

shrine by the river
He was actually unfamiliar with the name "Russian Market" as it was known as "Psar Tuol Tom Pong" in Cambodian so that explained why he could not find it. The market was so called as all the foreigners would come here and shop, and in the eighties the only foreigners were Russian. The Russian market is the place to come to buy souvenirs and every tourist should come here and try and catch a bargain but beware as you hace to do some hard bargaining. Here you canbuy fake DVD's, silk shirts, T-shirts, dresses, fridge magnets, miniature Buddhas, wood carvings, paintings, jewelry, musical instruments and just about anything else a tourist would want. I ended up buying t-shirts, silk shirts, fridge magnets and bottle openers as souvenirs for friends and family. By this time i was absolutely sweltering from the heat so i took a tuktuk back to my guesthouse and rested in the room until darkness fell.
Cambodia Vietnam friendship monument
 

In the evening i strolled along the riverside stopping here and there for Happy Hour Beers at 50 cents a draft, chatted to other tourists before heading to the night market where i ordered two fesh spring rolls that filled me up. The night market was just a couple of blocks north of my guest house and after eating i wandered back and had an early night. 

The next morning i was up by 6.30 and explored the Psar Kandal (another market) which was one block away from my guest house. The locals were busy purchasing meat, fruit and vegetables for their meals that day. I found a rather modern looking coffee shop and went in and ordered a ham and cheese sandwich with hot chocolate for my breakfast and discovered that the prices were a little cheaper than the restaurants that lined the riverside.

Cambodia Vietnam friendship monument
I wandered down to Wat Ounalom and took a quick look, but the doors to the wat were closed. 

Next stop was the Central Market which was in a magnificent building that the French had built a century before. Outside vendors were selling t-shirts, bags, paintings , copied books, and many other items. Inside there were many stalls selling silver, gold, jade and other precious stones. 

I then moved on to Wat Phnom, just next to the American Embassy. This wat is famous as a girl called Penh found four Buddha images on this spot which happened to be the highest point in the capital, 27 m high. The first pagoda was erected soon after , in 1373 and Penh gave her name to the present day city. I paid my one dollar entrance fee and climbed the steps to the Wat at the top, but the most interesting aspect for me was watching the locals make offerings to three lion-like creatures.

Norodom Sihanouk statue
First they would buy a plate with fake money and burn it in the small furnace and then they would be blessed by another local who would wave a bundle of papers at them and mutter tik tik , tak tak repeatedly and ended up banging the head of the devotee with the papers. Then they would buy 3 pork chops and three eggs and place a pork chop in each of the lions' mouths, then an egg in each, sometimes breaking the egg on the lions open mouth. The chops and eggs were quickly collected by a woman who would then sell them to the next worshiper. Also locals were buying birds and setting them free, same as at the riverside , the day before.

I wandered down to the riverside where i had a 2 pm appointment with the Hash harriers Club and found i had plenty time to spare so i popped into a Lebanese restaurant called Hummus where i enjoyed a chicken Shawarma, admittedly not as good as the ones i had eaten frequently during my five year stay in Jordan four decades earlier, but they were passable.

Independence Monument
At 2 pm i went to the riverside and found the Hash Harriers runners and immediately i was told to help carry the beer to the boat. For those who are not familiar with the Hash Harriers they are a running and drinking group that meet once a week and are transported out of Phnom Penh to the countryside where you have the choice of running 10 kms or walking 5 kms. During the race and at the end of the race you can drink as much beer as you can, $5 for foreigners and $3 for locals. The meeting place is at 2 pm outside Phnom Penh Station but today we had to meet but the boat landing as we would go by boat to an island 90 minutes downstream for the run. Everyone was very friendly and soon we were engaged in conversation with cold beers in our hands. The boat anchored by the island, a few speeches and instructions were made and then the runners and walkers started their afternoon exercise in the heat of Phnom Penh.
stone masons
I guess we were back at the boat in about an hour, but the villagers and farmers on the island were happy to see 40 mad foreigners jogging in the heat. Friendly smiles and waves greeted us throughout the journey. Beside the boat we drank a few more beers while several speeches were made and details of new runners and ones who had not attended were announced. Soon it was dark and everyone returned to the boat for the return trip to Phnom Penh. An afternoon well spent and don't be afraid to join in as everyone is welcome. Just google Phnom Penh Hash Harriers and you will see details of upcoming runs. We docked by the riverside at 7.30, and i made my way back to the guest house, chatted to a few other tourists before retiring for the night. Tomorrow i would be trveling to Battambang.
stone masons

Next is A couple of days in Battambang

davejo says:
Thanks for visiting Sylvia
Posted on: Apr 27, 2017
starship1 says:
A very interesting and enjoyable read about your time in Phnom Penh. Boy, you sure do get around! enjoyed the photos too.
Posted on: Apr 27, 2017
vicIII says:
Thanks for your amazing story, David!:)
Posted on: Apr 25, 2017
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shrine by the river
shrine by the river
shrine by the river
shrine by the river
shrine by the river
shrine by the river
shrine by the river
shrine by the river
shrine by the river
shrine by the river
Cambodia Vietnam friendship monume…
Cambodia Vietnam friendship monum…
Cambodia Vietnam friendship monume…
Cambodia Vietnam friendship monum…
Norodom Sihanouk statue
Norodom Sihanouk statue
Independence Monument
Independence Monument
stone masons
stone masons
stone masons
stone masons
stone masons
stone masons
stone masons
stone masons
stone masons
stone masons
Russian Market
Russian Market
Russian Market
Russian Market
Russian Market
Russian Market
Russian Market
Russian Market
Night market
Night market
Night market
Night market
Night market
Night market
Happy Hour
Happy Hour
Happy Hour
Happy Hour
Happy Hour
Happy Hour
Psar Kandal
Psar Kandal
Psar Kandal
Psar Kandal
Psar Kandal
Psar Kandal
Psar Kandal
Psar Kandal
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Wat Ounalom
Central Market
Central Market
Central Market
Central Market
Central Market
Central Market
Central Market
Central Market
Central Market
Central Market
Central Market
Central Market
Central Market
Central Market
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom
Hummus, Lebanese restaurant
Hummus, Lebanese restaurant
Hummus, Lebanese restaurant
Hummus, Lebanese restaurant
Hummus, Lebanese restaurant
Hummus, Lebanese restaurant
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
Hash Harriers Sunday Run
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Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk