Prior to arrival, we expected Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia to be just another big city with all the traffic congestion and crowdedness of a typical large Asian city. Yes, it is a big city, but seems to have an organized craziness with a small city feel. We are genuinely welcomed wherever we go by the locals. They are extremely polite, warm, and gracious.
The city has a nice feel to it and navigating is easy by tuk-tuk, a motorcycle with a passenger wagon. The wagon is attached to the motorcycle much like a 5th wheel. At $1 to $3 per ride, it is comfortable and convenient.
With a limited number of must sees – the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, National Museum, Killing Fields, and numerous markets. All these can be seen comfortably in two days. However, one can easily spend more time in this city, soaking in the culture, sampling great food and enjoying meeting the locals.
The palace was built in 1866 and is the royal residence of King Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and his wife, her Majesty Preah Reach Akka-Mohesey Norodom Monineath. A large section of the grounds is open to the public. The gardens are immaculate and the temples ornate and beautiful.
The pagoda is in the Royal Palace complex and is famous for its floor which has over 5000 silver tiles each weighing 1 kilo. The Buddha is 90 kilograms of solid gold.
Cambodian Living Arts – Traditional Dance Show
We had the opportunity to attend an excellent performance by the Cambodian Living Arts dance troupe.
Cambodian Living Arts was started by Arn Chorn-Pond, a Cambodian refugee, educated in the US. He returned to rebuild traditional performing arts which were in danger of being lost forever. Approximately 2 million Cambodians were killed between 1975-1979 by the Khmer Rouge, including approximately 90% of the master artists. Cambodian Living Arts was able to slowly grow from preserving to now successfully supporting new generations of artists, students, and teachers.
Tips and Recommendations for visiting Phnom Penh
- Stay close to the Royal Palace as the must sees are within walking distance. However, because most sidewalks are used to park motor scooters and vehicles. you will probably prefer to hire a tuk-tuk ($12-$24) for the day. If you hire for the day the driver will wait at each location. Stay in contact with your tuk-tuk driver by cell phone.
- We chose the hotel Villa De La Paix. A great location and budget friendly hotel with only 8 rooms on a quiet side street. Wonderful staff who go out of their way to please and assist. Numerous eats, coffee shops, spas, and laundry service within a block.
- Arrange airport pick-up with the hotel. Driver with a sign will be waiting as you exit the terminal.
- Purchase a local SIM card starting a $4…….voice, text, & data. Our hotel staff assisted us in purchasing ours.
- US dollar is the second currency. Change of less than a dollar will be in Cambodian Riel as they don’t use coins.
- Most local restaurants don’t take credit cards.