Cambodia

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

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The national museum Phnom Penh

Our stay here is a little different to the rest of our trip as we have the luxury of staying with Dean and Kirsten, friends from Melbourne, who have lived in Phnom Penh for over 3 years.  Kirsten is actually away visiting her family in NZ when we arrive.  One of the things we need to do in Phnom Penh is arrange visas for Vietnam and China and Dean generously offers to sort this out. We expect they may take a few days to arrange especially for China.

With a couple of days free we set off to discover the city, starting with the National Museum and the Grand Palace.  The palace is impressive set in beautiful gardens but is not actually that old.  The Silver Pagoda next door houses an Emerald Budda and a life size golden budda as many other valuable relics.

The Grand Palace
  The pagoda is named afer the silver floor tiles, though most are covered up so are easily missed.

The river area of Phnom Penh to me is the highlight of the city and the road by the river home to many of the cities best bars and cafes.  The FCC bar terrace is a great place to sip a cocktail and recall the days when foreign correspondents probably were the main visitors.  On Saturday night we eat Tapas at the Friends restaurant.  Friends is quite a Phnom Penh institution; they teach street kids how to work in hotels and restaurants and have been very successful in getting kids off the street.  It is very noticeable here how many kids there are on the street selling items for 1 dollar.  Later that evening Dean picks us up from Friends and takes us to the Cambodiana hotel for a nightcap.

The Silver Padoga
  The hotel bar has the Billy Haynes Band playing and Billy puts on a good show.

On Sunday we go to Phnom Udong two small hills about 40km north of the city.  The site is a popular weekend pilgrimage for Khmers.  There is a path of about 400 steps leading to the temples on the top and the hot humid weather makes this more a challenge than it looks from the bottom.  The steps are lines with beggars, you can buy a block of small denomination notes from women at the bottom and give one to each as you walk up.  Near the bottom of the steps there is a small memorial to the dead from the Khmer Rouge but this seems to be virtually ignored.

I can't recall ever visiting a country where the local currency is not in common use, but Cambodia seems to be such a place.

Temples at Phnom Udong
  Riel is only used as small change and cashpoints only dispense US dollars.  The driving here is chaotic, and the roads, though obviously much improved in recent years still patchy.  Particularly amusing are the tuk-tuk drivers who have no idea of where anywhere is.  I carry a good map with me and quickly learn some basic geography of the city so I can direct the tuk-tuk drivers the way back to Dean's house.

The other "must-do" visit is to the Killing Fields just outside Phnom Penh, though we decide to miss a tour of S21 the Khmer Rouge prison in Phnom Penh.  The Killing Fields memorial is a strong reminder of the horrors that happened under the Khmer Rouge but even more powerful is to hear people tell their own story.  Deano our driver tells us that both his father and mother were killed by the Khmer Rouge and this relly brings home to me just how recent these events are.

Our Vietnam visa arrives and we book a bus to Siem Reap.  We will return to Phnom Penh in 3 or 4 days on our way to Saigon and hopefully our Chinese visas should be ready by then.  

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The national museum Phnom Penh
The national museum Phnom Penh
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace
The Silver Padoga
The Silver Padoga
Temples at Phnom Udong
Temples at Phnom Udong
The Killing Fields memorial
The Killing Fields memorial
The Killing Fields memorial
The Killing Fields memorial
Phnom Penh central market
Phnom Penh central market
Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk