The ‘Pearl of Asia’ as it was once known, Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh is a true colonial gem. With its wide, tree-lined boulevards and serene riverfront, it’s no wonder the city is considered among the most beautiful in Indochina. If you only have a short time in this vibrant Asian city, read up on our top tips to get the most out of your stay:
Dine on the riverfront
Tempting as it is to eat close by to your hotel, take a short remork (tuk tuk) ride to the riverfront where you’ll find stylish eateries and bustling cafes. Sisowath Quay has a thriving restaurant scene, and is conveniently situated close to the Royal Palace, making it an ideal spot for a post-sightseeing or shopping dinner.
Insider tip: seek out the Foreign Correspondents Club and enjoy its stunning rooftop bar!
Hit the shops
The Psar Thmei, known as the Central Market, is a great place to pick up souvenirs. Selling everything from jewellery to textiles, shoes, scarves and trinkets, this is the place to go for all your shopping needs. Don’t be afraid to haggle – a 50% discount on the asking price is generally considered a good deal here. Daytime temperatures are high, so alternatively try a night market and shop when it’s cooler. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays you will find an excellent night market at Sisowath Quay.
Insider tip: shop around and get a feel for prices before you buy anything! Many stalls will sell identical products.
Take time to understand the past
No visit to Phnom Penh is complete without taking time to absorb the city’s recent tragic history. In 1975, the entire population was forcibly evacuated by the Khmer Rouge, and the local high school turned into the infamous S21 prison. The site is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and, while harrowing, is certainly worth visiting while in Phnom Penh. A short remork ride away is Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields), which now houses a museum and memorial. Taking time to explore these locations is intensely rewarding, and both sites are a must-see while in the Cambodian capital.
Take a trip to the coast
Phnom Penh is perfectly situated for excursions to Cambodia’s up-and-coming beach resort, Sihanoukville. The journey takes only around 2 hours, and is reachable easily by air, bus or taxi. Sihanoukville is famous for its excellent fresh seafood and laid-back beach vibes. Given the short distance, it’s certainly possible to visit Sihanoukville for one night, making it an ideal way to break up a visit to Phnom Penh or relax after your stay.
Insider tip: if taking the bus to Sihanoukville, you’ll need to buy tickets a day in advance
Brave the local delicacy!
The rumours are true, deep friend tarantulas are indeed considered a delicacy in Phnom Penh! If you’re nervous about trying them from a roadside stall, head to Romdeng restaurant on where they serve them in a more civilised fashion with a tangy lime dip. Enjoy! We guarantee its an experience you won’t forget.
By Ellena Johnstone