What to do in Phnom Penh
Here I compiled a photo list of what to do in Phnom Penh in 2 or 3 days. I suggest spending about 3 days in Siem Reap, a few days on the coast and the remaining days in Phnom Penh. Within 8 – 10 days you get a good first introduction to this amazing SE-Asian country.
1) Explore the Khmer History
If you are interested to learn more about the tragic history of Cambodia, and I really encourage you to explore this, then Phnom Penh should be on your list to visit while in Cambodia. Head over to the Genocide Museum (Tuol Sleng / S21) and the Killing Fields (afterwards) to learn about the shocking past the Khmer suffered under the Khmer Rouge regime.
We explored both sites in one day – it took us a while to digest what we had seen – but we are glad we did it. We also met one of the only survivors of the the Tuol Sleng prison, Chum Mey. I encourage you to buy his book when you are there – he is there every day. After all, this is how he makes his living today.
2) Watch movies ‘old-style’
Phnom Penh is famous for its funky cinemas. During our four days in Phnom Penh, we went to the cinema every day, sometimes twice a day. The cinemas are nothing like back at home. There are comfortable sofas and ‘beds’ to lounge on, you can drink whatever you fancy and even eat lunch or dinner which is freshly prepared for you and brought to you on a tray (how’s that for a cinema experience, hey?).
3) Visit the Russian Market
Our favourite market was the Russian market (also the biggest). There is nothing you can’t find – honestly. I bought some really nice clothes and a few DVD’s. You can try different Khmer dishes at a really cheap price, buy fresh ingredients (if you fancy cooking something for yourself and have a self-contained studio) or simply wander around and take photographs of the hustle and bustle. I even had one of my dresses shortened – for a really good price.
Factor in at least half a day for the market – it is very big!
4) Visit ‘Sugar & Spice’ at Daughters of Cambodia
My favourite cafe was ‘Sugar & Spice’ over at ‘Daughters of Cambodia’. A project that was founded to support women who have just escaped the sex trade – many of them victims of trafficking. There is a room inside of the shop where you watch a film about the women’s past and how the project helped them, not only escape their horrible past, but also help them gain valuable skills for employment.
All accessories you see in the shop have been hand-made by those women.
Please, if you have time, head over there for a cup of tea or buy some souvenirs for your loved ones (or for yourself).
Here a few impressions of this beautiful place:
5) Dine in the Dark
We concluded our stay in Cambodia, and Phnom Penh, with dining at ‘Dine in the Dark’. I think the name says it all – food is served to you in a room that is pitch black, by blind members of the society. It’s a fantastic concept and really helps those who would otherwise struggle to find employment.
You can chose between an international or Khmer menu (Ben chose both so we could taste it all) – after the meal, back outside, the friendly staff reveals to you what you had just been eating. Or should I say: tried to eat…because the simplest of tasks…like putting a fork into your mouth seems like the hardest thing in the world!
Note: Before you’re shocked at the ‘little’ clothes I’m wearing on these photos: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are really relaxed when it comes to how women dress. Many local girls wear substantially less than I did – it’a not frowned upon anymore. Maybe in the country side – but certainly not in the bigger cities. However, covering up in temples etc. is still an absolute must!
Have you been to Cambodia? Planning on going? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.