In River of Time, Jon Swain writes beautifully of time spent in Cambodia in the most horrific of times, as the Khmer Rouge tighten their grip on the country. The stories of war are as horrific as the tales of the old Indo-China are captivating. A wonderful, haunting book.
A fantastic find but the taxi driver didn’t know where it was so we drove down Street 240 for some time. Look out for a red and white sign saying BOOKS and also a sign for Naturae which is the healthfood shop and café in the same building where you are served a lovely continental breakfast with freshly squeezed juice. We paid $50 which included a $5 per night discount at their suggestion as our room had suffered a leak from above so there was some discolouration on the ceiling. The design throughout the shop and rooms is funky and modern with bright accent colours. Our room was light and spacious with dark wooden furniture, flatscreen TV, free wifi, kettle and a big walk-in shower in the bathroom. We were delighted with the terrace area which was larger than expected especially the promised plunge pool which was a long deep trough easily big enough for two to stretch out and cool off. It felt like a real oasis after a hot day in the busy city. You can also use the pool in the sister hotel, The Pavilion which is just round the corner. This would be more suitable if you want a full hotel service and perhaps reception staff with better English but the 240 is ideal for a city break. The style of the property epitomises the street it is named after which is full of chic and contemporary boutiques and cafes with a real cosmopolitan feel which we were surprised to find existed in Cambodia.
We booked the Mekong Express bus to travel from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. It cost $11 each and was easy to sort out by taking a tuktuk to their office on the riverside. Buses do get booked up so don’t risk just turning up on the day. It was a fairly old coach but had aircon and a toilet and so we travelled in comfort. The journey takes six hours with a 30 minute stop at a nondescript town about halfway which is obviously where all the coaches stop based on the tourist restaurant full of Westerners which served basic local food at inflated prices but was still a better option than walking round a grotty looking town and being hassled by beggars including some with grubby-looking young children which was upsetting. We had been given a bakery box containing a couple of things we didn’t fancy eating and had already had breakfast at the hotel so like many other passengers we gave ours to the people who crowded the coach door asking for money. A cheap way to get from A to B if you want to save money by not paying for an internal flight and popular with all ages not just backpackers. You also pass through plenty of local villages with stilted houses so get a chance to see some Cambodian countryside away from the main tourist hubs and busy cities.
Psar Kandal Market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia:
narrow alleyways full of stalls crammed closely together, this is where the locals of Phnom Penh buy their food, rather than in shops and supermarkets. Cambodia is still a very poor country whose infrastructure has not yet recovered from the devastating Khmer rouge period, yet this open air market supplied food of a freshness and variety that surpasses Western food markets.
Banana flower, mini mangos, herb and spice stalls selling fresh galangal, ginger, chillies, turmeric; fish stalls with live fish in tanks and enormous aluminium basins full of squid and shellfish; egg stalls selling fresh and preserved eggs of all sizes and hues, meat and medicine and drink stalls. Everything was displayed beautifully in large baskets or on rattan mats.
As part of a small group attending a Cambodian cookery class, I was given a tour around and introduced to the ingredients I would be using later in the day, but you don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate the vitality of the place. Finish off by visiting one of the many cafes and small restaurants around the square.
Wonderful little hidden bar, filled with expats, locals and NGO volunteers. There is a lovely little vibe here and they have live music on most nights from an endearing French singer. On Saturdays there is a $20 all you can drink and eat offer. Lots of fun and not the generic bar that you'd encounter in this bustling city.
Just off Street 178, near the FCC by the Riverside
One of better buses going from Phnom Pehn to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam is Mekong Express. Bus takes about seven hours and costs $12.
Bus Office is on corner of street #102 and Sisowath Quay on riverfront. No central bus station in the city - Mekong Express buses to Ho Chi Minh city leave from Orussey Market.
The riverfront area is one of the best places to have a drink as you watch people pass by.
Particularly recommend is the area of Sisowath Quay by Mekong River pub/restaurant at the corner of Sisowath Quay and Street #118.
Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh.
Google map: tinyurl.com/yfdqs27
Very nice restaurant.
Traditional Cambodian food, salads, crepes, BBQ and very good fish amok.
Also has some international dishes such as steak and guinness pie.
Situated on a nice street (street 240) with bars, cafes and boutiques.
Also do Cambodian cooking classes.
Look out for local free guides such as 'The Phnom Penh Visitors Guide' from Canby publications and 'Out and About (O&A)' and 'Drinking Dining (DD)' from Cambodiapocket guides.
You'll pick these up in bars and restaurants such as the Foreign Correspondent's Club. Huge amount of info on pubs, restaurants and things to see as well as invaluable maps.
My friends and I decided to stay at Frangipani Villa for five nights in early December and we had an enjoyable stay.
The small garden was a beautiful, peaceful and relaxing place to sit, chat, eat, or read.
My room had air conditioning, cable tv, internet connection, coffee and tea.
The restaurant served us bread and scrambled eggs, and we could also ask for fried noodles in the morning with no cost at all.
All staff were so polite to guests.
Frangipani Villa is located in the centre and is very convenient to go to the supermarket or other places such as Russian Market, Royal Place etc.
Overall I found this a great stay and would certainly recommend it to other tourists who would like to stay in Phnom Penh.
A sanctuary of calm behind the royal palace, this is a great part of the city to while away a few hours or spend a relaxed evening. Nice artsy shops, a handful of cafes that wouldn't feel out of place in Marylebone and a couple of good restaurants, notably Tamarind with its charming roof terrace.
There's also a Seeing Hands blind massage place nearby which is recommended after an afternoon tramping round the Royal Palace.
Street 240, Phnom Penh
The places by the lake are backpackery, obsessed with drugs and Angkor beer. OK for a chilled-out day drinking and watching the lake, but paper-thin walls and minimal security did not make me feel safe.
I certainly wouldn't recommend it to lone women. If anything goes wrong (and it did with me) you will have absolutely no help whatsoever.
Capitol Guesthouse looks awful from the outside but on the inside it's scrupulously clean, has cable TV, private bathroom, air conditioning, good security (proper walls!) and all for about $8-10.
It also runs buses to Ho Chi Minh City, Siem Reap etc so it's very well located. You'll get off the backpackers trail just that little bit and experience much better levels of comfort, security and hygiene. And it's just round the corner from possibly one of the best and friendliest restaurants in Cambodia - Mama's.
Several locations across Phnom Penh. Well known - ask any moto driver. If you get the bus from HCMC or Siem Reap, chances are you'll be dropped off right outside!
Also named SS21, Tuol Sleng used to be the torture center of Khmer Rouge. More than
10,000 people were killed here during the Pol Pot years. Visiting the centre gives deep insight into the evil forces of man and should be mandatory for every visitor to Phnom Penh.
Great staff makes you feel very welcome. The best selection of drinks I've seen in any hostess bar in Phnom Penh apart from DV8. Now it's the most popular bar on the street.
#25 street 104, Phnom Penh. www.phnomphennightlife.com
Friends is a training restaurant which is training young people who have previously been living on the street a trade - be that catering or waiting. It is open from 11am daily and serves a variety of really good tapas - both western and Cambodian.
Near the national museum, Phnom Penh
We were treated to a fabulous evening's entertainment of mixed media - music, song, traditional dance, shadow puppets and circus.
Since 1994, Sovanna Phum have been reviving some of the treasures of Cambodian culture which were all but lost under the regime of the Khmer Rouge. Artists are now able to earn a living, to provide performances for international audiences and to use their art for educational purposes for the people of Cambodia.
An excellent evening out for only $5.
Performances every Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm.
N°111, St 360 (Corner 105), Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Kambol go-karting track is great fun for a group (maybe a substitute adrenaline-booster if you don't fancy the idea of the shooting range). 10 USD buys 10 to 15 minutes, cars are pretty speedy!
Head out of town, about 10 minutes after the airport, opposite side of the road.
If you're staying for a couple of days, it's worth cultivating a regular moto driver (many guesthouses have a bunch of reputable guys).
Saves hassle, and can be great if you strike up a rapport, even better if they speak a bit of English.
Pay 2000 riel per journey (maybe 3000 at 3am), or negotiate a day rate.
Plus if you're planning on being out late, having a moto driver you trust who you can ring up on a mobile is worth the extra peace of mind.
Ask your guesthouse owner
Far and away the best hostel in Phnom Penh. Run and owned by Cambodians, with a relaxed atmosphere, cool bars and happy pizza next door. The clientele were a nice bunch when I was there.
As the name suggests, the best thing about this place is that it is right on the lakeside - I spent many a happy hour swinging in a hammock watching Cambodian lake-life drift by.
Ask any motorcycle taxi guy to take you there. It'll be in your Lonely Planet too.
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