From the little peaceful town of Siem Reap we hopped on one of the many daily flights to the capital of the country – and what a change of scenery this was! As soon as we left the airport we found ourselves on over-congested roads and sidewalks, and faced an invasion of all of our senses: constant honking of cars and motorbikes, the loud noise of trucks and buses cruising the city, the smell of open air food markets, and people literally everywhere! It took us more than one hour to cross the city to get to our hotel, which felt like such an oasis of peace and quiet.
What did we visit?
Phnom Penh is a city which bursts with history but also reminiscing of the dark and cruel years that Cambodia went through when it was taken over by the Khmer Rouge. The most horrific testimony of these dark times is definitely the S21 prison, which used to be an extermination camp of the Khmer Rouge. What at first sight seems like a normal peaceful high school with blossoming trees in the courtyard is actually one of the largest detention and torture camps of the Khmer Rouge and has been kept in almost the exact same state as when it was found after the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia to free the people from this communist regime. It was an absolutely shocking visit demonstrating the darkest side of human kind. The stories, pictures and relicks do not leave any detail out, to make sure the people of Cambodia remember what happened, so that it may never happen again…
On a lighter note, we also visited the Royal palace, home to the King and his family but also to one of the largest diamonds ever shown to public (50 karats) – which Camille immediately noticed, is kept under surprisingly little security 🙂
National Museum of Cambodia
Another thing to see is the National Museum of Cambodia, home to thousands of Khmer scuptures, some of wich were retrieved from Angkor Wat itself! It’s nice to spend an hour walking around here but we wouldn’t recommend staying much longer.
The Russian market
Not sure why they call this place the Russian market but if you are looking for new shoes, bags, clothes, belts, spices, fresh food, etc. this is the place to be. It’s great to walk around here and look for good deals in the little stalls!
Where to sleep?
- Tea House hotel: an oasis of peace and quiet in the centre of Phonmh Penh at very affordabe price! Luxurious rooms, beautiful setting and to top it of, an amazing pool to cool down after a day of sightseeing. We absolutely loved this place!
Where to eat / drink?
We spent our evenings on the banks of the Me Kong river which is full of colonial cafes or restaurants, with beautiful views over the river.
- FCC: this restaurant is an institution in Phnom Penh and used to be the restaurant where all foreigners would hang out during the colonial times. It has an incredible collection of photographs hanging on the wall explaining the history of Cambodia. The food is great and the bar is even better 🙂
- Friends Restaurant: amazing food in this little restaurant which hires and trains unemployed or marginalized youngsters to give them a second chance in society!