Discovery of Southeast Asia has yet to disappoint me and Phnom Penh was no different. Inhibited by continuous lockdowns, it felt fab to stretch my wings to Cambodia’s capital and experience its hub of historical reminders, ornate religious temples and buzzing traditional markets.
Not to forget the added bonus of a walkable riverfront streamed with a variety of restaurants and bars to satisfy your pallet, quench your thirst and soak up the scenery.
Firstly, like anyone travelling post-covid now, I was excited but still nervous about crossing the border. I didn’t need to be. The journey was very smooth, and we felt welcomed at Phnom Penh International Airport.
We stayed at Marriott hotel The Courtyard Phnom Penh. This decision was placed more on our membership perks than hotel research. We found the beds very comfortable, the breakfast good, the staff super welcoming and the location convenient.
Day 1 – markets and a sunset Mekong river cruise
Once settled, we headed straight for the Central Market. Definitely worth a visit to take in bustling vendors and customers. There is plenty to be seen and purchased from local delicacies, a variety of clothes to the usual tourist trinkets. You can make some nice deals here, if you’re willing to engage in a good old barter. We purchased some Asian art for a good price (thanks to the negotiating skills of my husband!) that we plan to adorn the walls of our home with.
At lunchtime, we tried a tiny tucked away venue, Thai Kitchen in Chamkar Mon, in the south of Phnom Penh. We absolutely loved the chilled vibes and welcoming owner. The food was divine and freshly prepared in their little kitchen area in full view.
For the evening, we booked a sunset cruise via Viator for an hour and a half. This was plenty of time in my opinion. We were able to see all the landmarks along the river, a beautiful sunset and the settlement on the other side of the river. Our tour guide was awesome – clearly spoken, knowledgeable and entertaining. I would recommend doing your research before you book, as there are many tours to choose from.
Our cruise finished near the Phnom Penh night market, so we scooted there to check it out. It was a lovely little market with some live music playing. Worth a quick visit, but it will not fill your evening.
Day 2 – Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields
Today saw some educational enlightenment. It was not an exciting day to say the least, but I have come away from these experiences feeling humbled. This was absolutely worth a visit. For us, with two teens ( a 14-year-old who has studied this era and a 13-year-old yet to), this was fascinating and realising for them, as well as for us.
At Tuol Sleng I thoroughly recommend paying for the tour guide ($10). You have the option of an audio tour and yes, you will probably get more facts from this. But our guide lived through it. She was nine years old at the time and her passion for wanting to enlighten others to the plight that was experienced was heart wrenching and so brave. Survivors of the prison can also be met in person and they can be found selling their books for $10 each.
The Killing Fields is quite a journey from the Museum (about half an hour), and there are many drivers willing to take you there and back. An audio tour can also be purchased on arrival ($3 pp).
Would I go back to Phnom Penh?
There is so much to see in Asia, that one trip to Cambodia’s capital is enough. I only personally wish I found time to explore Silk Island and experience the art to silk making. Yes, I could go back for this and to see more temples plus the royal palace, which was unfortunately closed on my visit.
Good to know
- A one-month visa can be applied for online, but must be done at least a week in advance. Not to worry though, as the process for the tourist Visa on arrival was very smooth. You need to pay in cash (U.S. Dollar) and each visa was USD 40. If you do not have the cash, there is an ATM by the visa counter.
- Grab works in Phnom Penh and can be used to gauge costs of tuk-tuks, if that’s how you prefer to get around.
- Currency can be a little confusing in Phnom Penh, as you can use U.S. dollars or the local Riel and these often get combined in your change from a purchase.
- A holiday in Phnom Penh is better with older kids, there is not much for little ones.
Thinking to take the kids elsewhere in Cambodia? Check out our post here about Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat.
This article was written by Carina Burgoyne.