Trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia - April 2009
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The Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, Tuol Sleng S-21, The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, Silver Pagoda, Foreign Correspondent Club, King Norodom Sihamoni – this is a trip report from Phnom Penh, the capitol of Cambodia.

A short summary
The memorial stupa at the killing fields outside Phnom Penh in CambodiaThis trip report will focus on the short trip that my wife, Nikki, and I took to Phnom Penh in Cambodia in the period from April 14th - 17th, 2009. We decided to visit Phnom Penh as we were in the Cambodia already – having just been to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. This was a part of a round trip in South East Asia that also included Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The trip report is split into sections and this first page will focus on the stay in Phnom Penh and our sightseeing there. On the next pages you will find information about the hotel we stayed at (Raffles Hotel Le Royal), an interactive Google map of Phnom Penh and in the end more photos and videos from our stay in the city.

Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments. All pictures are taken by Nikki and Gard with our Canon EOS 450D, Canon IXUS and Olympus mju 750.

Nikki and I have been to Asia several times before and we have been to places like China, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia etc. But for a while we have been talking about expanding our horizons and visit some new countries. So in connection with a business trip I had to Malaysia, we decided to visit Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Siem Reap/Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Map of Cambodia

Map of Cambodia. Map provided by

Planning the trip
I have to admit that we didn’t plan our trip to Phnom Penh that well. Initially we wanted to go to HCMC, Siem Reap and a beach destination but I convinced Nikki that we should visit Phnom Penh as we were in the region.

Note: For flights in Asia you should check out AirAsia for cheap tickets.

Our hotel in Phnom Penh, Raffles Hotel Le RoyalAlthough we agree that the hotel is simply a storage space for our suitcases/valuables and a place to crash at night, the hotels in Asia afford one more luxury than e.g. most of Europe. In the end we decided to go for Raffles hotel Le Royal as it was rated on top on e.g. TripAdvisor. The hotel cost 165 USD excluding taxes but including breakfast - here is our review of Raffles hotel Le Royal.
We also bought tickets from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh using Bangkok Airways and the ticket cost USD 82 per person.

Note: you can apply for an e-visa in advance (check in order to avoid lines at the airports and border crossings. I paid 25 USD for the e-visa. The site is a bit unstable so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work on the first try.

The trip begins – from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
Arriving at Phnom Penh airportWe started in Siem Reap (see seperate trip report) and after breakfast at the hotel we headed to Siem Reap airport. The taxi to the airport was ordered through our hotel and cost 9 USD. The flight from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh only took about 1 hour with Bangkok Airways in a small ATR 72 plane. We even got a little sandwich on the short flight :-) From our window we got a pretty good view at take off as it was a clear day. We landed at the small Phnom Penh international airport at about 1 PM and just walked over to the small domestic terminal and as I think we were the only plane there we got our suitcases pretty fast. The weather was hot and sunny as you would expect from South East Asia. In order to check what weather to expect, visit Getting a taxi when we got out was not a problem – the price was 9 USD for getting to the hotel.

Note: In Cambodia the currency is known as Riel. Right now 1 USD is about 4125 Riel (KHR). The “problem” is that no one is interested in Riel – basically only US Dollars are in use.

Apartments along the road in Phnom PenhI think the drive to our hotel took about 15-20 minutes and once again our driver took it pretty slow and easy – maybe the driving style reflects the national psyche? I’m not sure how to describe the first impression of Phnom Penh – I guess we were still trying to process the impressions from Vietnam and Siem Reap. What struck me first was that the city seemed to be a bit deserted and later on Gas on sale in bottles in Phnom Penh, CambodiaI read that this was because of the New Year celebrations where many leave the city to go back to their families in more rural areas. The other thing I noticed was that there were quite a lot of garbage around in the streets and it seemed like many of the garbage containers had not been emptied in quite a while. Once again I’m not sure if this is due to the New Year celebration or if there is a garbage handling issue.

We came to Raffles Hotel Le Royal and that seemed to be an oasis in the middle of more chaotic city. The hotel oozes colonial history and tradition but we were actually a bit disappointed by our room – but you can read more about that in our hotel review.

Exploring the city on foot
Local transportation in Phnom PenhAs it was in the middle of the day we decided to start exploring the city right away. The Lonely Planet book had a walking route mapped out that started at Wat Phnom located near our hotel so we just walked over there to get started. Walking over there was not that easy as there were lots of tuk-tuk drivers that were nagging at us as they wanted to drive us. I’m pretty used to this from Bangkok so I have learned to deal with it. So I do try to tell people no and give them a smile – there is no point in getting angry in this part of the world. And besides they are only trying to do their job I guess – but it can be hard staying calm when you get asked for the 30th time where you are going, if you want a ride etc. :-)

Games taking place in connection with New Year celebrationIt was pretty lively at Wat Phnom and it seemed like this was a center of many of the New Year celebration activities but I’ll get back to that. We did not stop by the temple on top of the small hill of Wat Phnom as we were not dressed for the occasion so we kept on following the walking tour. I guess the guidebook set the mood by saying things like “Pray for luck like the locals, or at least pray that you won’t fall into one of Phnom Penh’s open drains on this walking tour” ;-)

Central market in Phnom PenhWe started by walking over to Psar Thmei (Central Market) – the market was actually a huge domed building but it seemed to be closed and I’m not sure if it was due to the renovation work that was taking place or if it was due to the New Year celebration. But there were lots of stalls on the outside and it was fun to browse through this section as they were selling all sorts of stuff or as the guidebook says “anything you can imagine and some things you can’t”. A butcher at a market in Phnom Penh, CambodiaWalking through a wet market like this can be quite a colourful affair. There are certainly lots of different scents in the air as there were everything on sale from chickens that were just slaughtered, meat were hanging on hooks and being chopped up on demand, there were fresh fish and some sort of fermented fish, there were stalls serving food – this combined with about 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) gives you an idea of what it was like. Eating stalls at Central market in Phnom PenhAll of a sudden we also found a huge dead rat lying on the floor of the market with its legs in the air and I guess that shows that you can be surprised by stuff that you see at a market like this. But I think that it the charm of it – it is totally different from back home and that makes it more exotic. Nikki was starting to get a bit freaked out by the area and I’m not sure what it was. I’m a bit on the naïve side so I tend to just see what I want to see and ignore all danger signals. A dead rat at Centrsl Market in Phnom PenhThe area outside of the market didn’t look very nice but I think it was pretty safe but it was a bit chaotic with lots of people, tuk-tuks, mini buses, taxis etc. We decided to “escape” from the madness and headed to the Surya Shopping Center near by – most of the shops were closed but at least the Baskin Robbins ice cream store was open so we could get an ice cream to cool down with.

Tonle Sap riverfront in Phnom Penh, CambodiaWe continued our walk through the city center and when we moved away from the central market the streets got pretty deserted. Some of the things that were on the Walking tour list in the Lonely Planet book (such as a street filled with art shops) did not appear to be open due to the New Year celebrations so we decided to cut the walking tour a bit short and headed towards the Tonlé Sap riverfront instead.

National museum of Cambodia
Entrance to the National Museum in Phnom PenhWe navigated towards the National museum of Cambodia as it was still open in the afternoon. We had to pay 3$ each for the entrance and 5$ for a guided tour in English. Our guide took us for a walk around the museum which is located in a house built in traditional style with a lovely small and peaceful courtyard in the middle. For some reason we were not allowed to take photos inside the museum...WHY? According to our guide and guidebook the museum houses the world’s finest collection of Khmer sculptures and inside the museum there were sculptures dating back toCollection of linga at the National Museum in Phnom Penh the 5th century, various version of the linga (the phallic symbol that we encountered a lot at Angkor Wat), statue of Jayavarman VII (remember the name from the Angkor Wat trip report? ;-) etc. So if you can’t take photos you would think that there is a ban as they want to protect the sculptures. Well, think again. Many of the sculptures were completely out in the open and even if there were signs saying “Do not touch” there were lots of people including kids that were touching them. In the courtyard at the National museum in Phnom PenhI wonder what will happen the day when someone knocks over one of these priceless sculptures. We talked to our guide about Thailand as we had gotten the feeling in Siem Reap that Cambodians have a bit of a grudge towards the Thai...and it seemed to be the same feelings with our guide in the museum...she was not thrilled by Thai’s. The tour didn’t take that long and I have to admit that it was a bit hard to understand the guide. Afterwards we sought some serenity in the courtyard and all of a sudden we saw some movements in the tiny bushes. I think it was a Cambodian hamster...OK, so it was a pretty big rat :-) It was funny to see it hide inside one of the bushes while the entire tail was sticking out.

View to the royal palace in Phnom Penh, CambodiaNext to the museum is the Royal palace and the Silver Pagoda but as it was getting late in the afternoon we decided to save that for another day. There is a square/park in front of the museum and royal palace and this was filled with lots of were playing soccer with their parents and siblings, playing with balloons was such a peaceful afternoon. Getting a tuk-tuk to get back to the hotel was not a problem as they are pretty much everywhere. We had to pay 3 USD to get back and remember that you should always agree on the price in advance in order to avoid problems when you arrive at your destination!

Trying to find a place to eat
Dinner at La Croisette Phnom PenhBeing new to the city we had to rely on our Lonely Planet book to give us some guidance for where to eat at night. We decided to go for Pop Café on Sisowath Quay but when we came there it was so closed that we couldn’t even find the place. So we just had to wing it and try to find a place that was open and we ended up on La Croisette on the Quay as well. Let’s just say that we were tired after a long day and it was not a really culinary adventure. I think we had some fried spring rolls and some chicken wings - at least they had free WiFi :-) While we were walking around looking for a restaurant we got asked a number of times if we needed a tuk-tuk. One of the guys started by offering his tuk-tuk and when I said no thanks he asked if I wanted to buy some marijuana. At first I didn’t understand but then he started listing all of the other drugs that he could offer. Naturally I told him to bugger off.

I have to mention the Cambodian TV. As it was New Year there were lots of TV programs with people dancing - and it was a very structured and organized dance. I think even I could have done it (with a fair bit of training and instructions) despite my two left feet. But it was kind of weird to hear the music and see this dancing on several of the Cambodian TV channels. One night on the way home we past a street where they had brought out the ghetto blaster and were dancing around tree. Anyway, we asked our tuk-tuk driver to stop so that we could have a look. They did the same dance that I saw on TV so I guess it must be some sort of national dance.

Tuol Sleng museum – S-21
Pig noses for sale at a market in Phnom Penh, CambodiaThe following day we started by checking out the central market again. It was still sorta closed but it was still intriguing to just walk around to see all the stuff that was on sale and smell all the scents. On the outside three guys where making crushed ice by chucking ice block into a machine that might date back to the industrial didn’t look like there was that much focus on HSE. I think we were just postponing what was our real destination for the day; the Tuol Sleng genocide museum. On the one hand it is a must see while in Phnom Penh and on the other hand it is not very tempting to check out a place that you know will make you depressed.

The old school and prison Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh, CambodiaBut first a short history lesson and I promise I will make it short - you have to read up on the details yourself :-). The Khmer Rouge was the ruling political party in Cambodia in 1975 to 1979. In connection with the end of the Vietnam War their leader Pol Pot managed to get into power and introduced an extreme form of communism. Old class rooms at Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh, CambodiaFrom what I understand he proclaimed that they would start on year 0, money was not necessary anymore and people in the city were forced to move out to rural area to help in the farming process. During his 4 year reign of terror it is estimated that 1.5 to 2 million people died. Think about this - it is only 40 years back! I still can’t understand how a man like Pol Pot with his education from Paris thought that this would be the best way to rule a country but who knows what he was thinking.

Photos of prisoners taken to Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh, CambodiaWe took a tuk-tuk from the central market area for 3$. The entrance to the museum was 3$ each and we also paid 2$ each for a tour. The Tuol Sleng museum used to be Tuol Svay Prey High School before Khmer Rouge decided to use it as Security Prison 21 (hence the name S-21). It is estimated that about 17.000 people passed through S-21  from 1975 to 1978 and most were killed at the killing fields. Torture instruments at Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh, CambodiaThe school/torture site/museum is located in smack-bang in the centre of the city. In what once was a suburban area - surrounded by houses on all side. We walked into one of the buildings to start with and we were met by lots and lots of black and white photos of girls and boys, men and women - many with fear in their eyes and bruises on their faces. For some reason evil regimes (like the Nazi’s) like to have control over the people they are torturing so all prisoners were photographed upon entry at Tuol Sleng.Drawings of torture methods at Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh, Cambodia We joined the guide after a few minutes and she told us about the place, how prisoners were “welcomed”, how they were locked up at night, how they were questioned etc. But the most moving part was hearing the guides own story. She was only 10 when the Khmer Rouge took over, she was basically separated from her family and had to work on the fields to produce rice from early morning to late night. There are still traces of blood on the floor at Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh, CambodiaShe was not sure what had happened to many of her family members but she knew that her father and some of her brothers had starved to death. No more will you hear us commenting “I’m starving, when’s lunch”. Some of the cells are still intact at the museum and there are still traces of blood on the floor, there are torture instruments on display, drawings of various torture methods, explicit photos etc. This is not the place for the faint hearted!

On the top floor there was an excellent photo exhibition by a Swedish guy named Gunnar Bergström. Back in 1978 he was communist supporter and he was allowed access to Cambodia to document how “well” Cambodia was doing after the revolution. He was of course only shown the stuff that the Khmer Rouge wanted him to see but it was intriguing to see his photos from back then with his comments from 1978 and he comments from present time.

Cells at S-21 (Tuol Sleng) in Phnom Penh, CambodiaA visit to Tuol Sleng is “unfortunately” a must when you are in Phnom Penh but there is no doubt that it is uncomfortable. But as I have said before - hopefully we can learn from our past in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes but the older I get the more I doubt. I hope that they will be able to keep the museum standing – some of the building seems to be falling apart and they had added support beams at various spots.

We walked over to the Russian market (Psar Tuol Tom Pong) after visiting the museum but once again we found everything closed due to the New Year celebration. So we took a taxi over to Sisowath Quay and had a quick lunch at a Spanish tapas place called Pacharan before we moved over to the Royal Palace to check that out.

Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh, CambodiaWe paid 3$ each for entrance to the Royal Palace and another 5$ for a guide. We interrupted the poor guide in the middle of her lunch and in retrospect we should have told her to continued eating as it was very hard to understand her English. The Royal Palace is not open to the public as this is the official home of the King Norodom Sihamoni. We did not get to see the Throne Hall either as at the time the King was supposedly home and it was in use.
Wall paintings at the Silver pagode in Phnom Penh, CambodiaBut we did get to see the Silver Pagoda and the area around it. We started by looking at the walls surrounding the temple and it was filled with images from Buddha’s life if I’m not mistaken. Anyway, if you have been to Bangkok you can compare the Grand Palace with the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. The paintings on the wall were not as well maintained as they are in the Ramakien at Grand Palace in Bangkok. Once again we were not allowed to take photos inside the Stupa at Silver Pagoda in Phnom PenhSilver Pagoda but most of the 5000 silver tiles that give the pagoda its name were covered up - for their own protection. But there are some priceless objects in there like a life size Buddha statue in pure gold covered in 9584 diamonds. I tried to make a joke about the fact that it would probably be easy to steal the Buddha but it seemed to our guide that this was totally unthinkable. But there are lots of treasures in the pagoda itself and the surrounding area. There are also some weird gifts from other monarchs around the world - I wonder what Napolean III had in mind when he gave King Norodom an iron house?

Note: Take the usual temple related attire – cover your bare legs and shoulders and your cap needs to be pocketed.

A model of Angkor Wat at the Silver PagodaAll in all this was like walking around in Grand Palace in Bangkok but only less spectacular I guess. Behind the silver pagoda there was also a large model of Angkor Wat which was fun to look at as we had just been there to see it in real life. But the people that were visiting at the time were far more interested in looking at an eel that was in the small “moat” that surrounds the model :-)
The ruling Cambodian King is in his fifties at the moment and is not married and has no kids. In some monarchies I guess that would be a bit of a problem but it seems like the King is elected by a council in Cambodia so it should not be a problem. It seems like the king’s family is also involved in politics so maybe the family’s power has been spread out?

Trying to find a place to eat – part 2
New Year decorations in Phnom Penh, CambodiaOnce again we relied on our trustworthy Lonely Planet book for restaurant advice and we came to a conclusion to check out La Marmite. But what do you know -it was also closed due to the New Year’s celebrations. We wanted to go for plan B but our tuk-tuk driver informed us that this was also closed but we were suspecting foul play as he was also constantly suggesting a place on the riverfront so we just asked him to drive us to Wat Phnom and we would try to locate the restaurant on foot. At Wat Phnom the celebration was still in process – New Year is celebrated with a bit of water splashing and also by putting talcum powder in the face of the opposite sex. It seems like these celebrations is an excuse for normally affection-shy Cambodians can openly flirt. The party came to a sudden stop when we felt a few rain drops. If you have been to South East Asia you will know that a few rain drops normally means that it will soon start to rain and it will rain hard. So we picked up the pace but we soon understood that we were out of luck and we had to seek shelter at the nearest open place and that was Sunway hotel. The restaurant there was open so we figured that we could eat there while we were waiting for the rain to pass. I can honestly not remember what I had so I guess it was not a culinary highlight and we were the only ones in the restaurant so the waiter just smiled when I asked him if there was a table for two available.

Killing fields of Choeung Ek
The memorial stupa at the killing fields outside Phnom Penh in CambodiaAnother of the must see places in Phnom Penh are the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek located about 15 km out of town. We asked the concierge at the hotel about transportation and he indicated that it would cost 15$ each way with a tuk-tuk but I guess we misunderstood this as a taxi outside wanted 20$ for a return trip. There have been some complaints on TripAdvisor about Raffles Hotel when it comes to pricing of tuk-tuk trips and some claim that the hotel does not help guests against the “tuk-tuk mafia”. But we grabbed a taxi to the killing fields and this is the place where about 17000 prisoners from prison S-21 were taken to be executed. Skulls on display at the Killing Fields outside Phnom PenhOn the way out of town we got to see a bit of everyday life pass by - the guy on a moped with a bunch of chickens, 7 people on one small moped, various markets etc. At Choeung Ek we had to pay 3$ per person for the entrance and we walked around reading the many posters that have been put up to inform about what happened at this place. The center point is a memorial stupa (a traditional tower structure). There were 129 mass graves here and many of them have been exhumed and more then 8000 skulls have been found. Some of them are on display in the Memorial Stupa and it feels a bit morbid. Bone fragments at Killing fields outside Phnom PenhAround the peaceful area there were posters reminding people to keep quiet and show some respect – I guess the neighbor had not seen these signs as the music was blasting at top volume. The area is huge and it is hard to imagine that such horrible events took place here only 40 years ago. Along the walk there are fences that show where some of the graves were, there were bone fragments etc. Along the outer fence a young girl asked me to take a photo of her and at first I said no. A young girl outside the fence at the killing fields outside Phnom Penh in CambodiaBut she kept nagging and I thought maybe it was like in Bolivia where the kids wanted to see their image once the shot was taken. But once I took a photo of her she was like “1 dollar Mister”. Normally Nikki carries the money when we travel so when I checked my pocket I only had a 100 Riel note – so I told the girl she could have that but she just looked at me in disbelief. Well, 100 Riel is basically next to nothing I guess but it must be better than nothing.

Inside the FCC in Phnom PenhOur taxi was waiting for us when we came out and we headed back to Phnom Penh. The taxi driver was good at selling his services because when we told him that we were leaving the next day he informed us that he could come and pick us up. He dropped us of in front of the Royal Palace and we went over to Foreign Correspondent Club (aka FCC) to grab some lunch with a view – the club sandwich and the pizza was not bad at all but getting access to the WiFi was not that easy as they had to bring a specific password for me on a piece of paper. Rather refreshing drinks and the menu had some variety.

Games at Wat Phnom
A monkey searching the trash for food in Phnom PenhWe walked over to Wat Phnom from FCC and that took us along Sisowath Quay. You don’t see that much of the river as there are some areas with big posters and in some places it seems like there is a levy between the river and the houses on the river front maybe because the river rises during the rainy season? There also seemed to be a lot of construction going on - maybe plans to improve the quay area?
There is a lot of variation as you walk along Sisowath Quay – there are nice restaurants but in the next moment you walk past a garage where cars are being fixed – and all of a sudden you can reach areas where there is basically nothing. And we also came across stray dogs and a monkey sitting on top of a pile of garbage. The monkey just looked at us when we walked past like he was saying “Why are you looking at me? Can I help you with something?” The dog on the other hand was snarling and encouraging us to take another road back to the hotel. We didn’t argue.

Young girls celebrating New Year at Wat PhnomWat Phnom was sizzling with activities as all the other days when we were there. There was an amazing mix of kids, youths and adults taking part in games, having a picnic etc. Again we saw lots of examples of girls and boys flirting by placing talcum powder on other people’s faces – I wonder a bit what the origin of this custom is. Gard getting dragged into games at Wat PhnomI wanted to take lots of photos of course but I do feel that this is invading too much into people’s privacy – maybe I should get a huge zoom lens for the camera :-) I did gather enough courage to ask to take a photo eventually and it turned out to be quite a nice shot. All of a sudden I also got a bit of talcum powder in the face and I was dragged along to participate in a game.

The game was guys standing in a ring and with a girl sitting in front. The girl in front of me was my “new wife” and the object was to hold on to her. I leaned over my “new wife” and asked her if she could elaborate on the rules of the games and she just replied “No English!". Right there and then I understood that this would be a difficult marriage ;-) I tried to grab a hold of my new wife before the game got started and that brought a lot of laughter amongst the other participants. There was a lot of discussion and a lot of involvement from the participants and it took forever to get the game started. It didn’t take long before my new wife ran away and I was placed in the center of the ring. Luckily the discussions started again so I was able to crawl out of the game unnoticed, back to my real wife.

We also walked around the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship monument one day and also there we found lots of kids involved in various games. It reminded me a bit of the celebration of our Constitution Day (17th of May) where the kids are the focus.

Last night in Phnom Penh – trying to find a place to eat part 3
Starter at the Riverhouse Restaurant in Phnom PenhAfter the previous night’s adventures of trying to find a place to eat we just caved in and followed the recommendations given to us by the tuk-tuk driver the night before – Riverhouse Restaurant and Lounge on Sisowath Quay. The place was very modern and it seemed to be run by an American/Cambodian couple. The dessert at Riverhouse restaurant in Phnom Penh was excellentEven if it was getting late there were lots of family and friends of the managers with kids running around but I guess it is allowed when it is a New Year’s. We were both pleasantly surprised by the meal at the Riverhouse. It really was quite good - with a EuroAsian flare. We had prawns with chorizo, prawns with tamarind sauce, trout and duck breast. But the best was the dessert which was three varieties of chocolate mousse. All in all the meal was 55$ including drinks.

Wat Phnom
Money donations at Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh, CambodiaOn our last day in Phnom Penh we decided to check out the temple at Wat Phnom again. When we came there it looked pretty deserted compared to the days before – I guess the New Year celebrations were over. We climbed the 27 meter summit to visit the temple and a lot of people had been to pray and had left money for good luck. It is amazing how "tacky" some of these temples can be. On the one hand you have the admirable statues, the scented incense etc. but at Wat Phnom there was also a psychedelic, Inside Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh, Cambodiahippie spiral rotating behind one of the Buddha statue. Pretty strange from our perspective. On the way down we walked past an old lady and her scale – as in Ho Chi Minh City it was possible to pay to get weighed. We also ran into a young boy that was begging for money and he kept on following us and he was repeating something. It is heart wrenching to experience something like this and I honestly don’t really know what to do in situations like that. It is said that you should not give money to children begging as that will encourage begging but maybe there is something else that can be done?

Time to go
On April 17th it was time for us to move on. We checked out of the hotel and got picked up by a taxi that took us to the airport for 10 USD.

Note: ATM’s do provide you with US dollars.

Check in area at Phnom Penh airportCheck in on AirAsia was slow as there were only two counters open and the queues were long. And after check in we had to get into a new line to pay airport tax of 25 USD per person before we were allowed to proceed through security and immigration. Our flight out of Phnom Penh was with AirAsia to Bangkok at 4.30 PM and the flight was just over an hour. Coming back to Bangkok was a bit weird - after being in Vietnam and Cambodia, Thailand felt like a real modern country.

A lady offering service with a scale at Wat PhnomStopping by Phnom Penh was the right choice to make - important to experience cities of this magnitude before if gets overrun by tourists. Cambodia and Phnom Penh seem to be in the early stages of encouraging tourists to visit, so it didn’t seem as organized as e.g. some of their more infamous neighbours. It is not modern, there are no over the top hotels and shopping malls etc.Russian market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Instead we found a quiet city that has a lot of potential when it comes to accommodating tourists coming to town. We came there in the middle of the Kmer New Year celebration and I think this is one of the reasons why it was so quiet and the reason why a lot of the restaurants were closed. But it also gave us a great opportunity to see some of the traditional New Year’s celebrations and games. I hope that Cambodia can shake off its tragic past.

Was this trip report useful? Please give me feedback if you have comments or questions or I have made factual mistakes, I can be reached on . Below are some more tips that you might find useful.

Some “useful” tips
So what do you need to bring to Phnom Penh? And how do you plan a trip? Here are some useful tips:

  • Wondering about the weather in Phnom Penh? Check out to get some weather stats so you know what to expect. This is southeast Asia so it will be hot and humid (by European standard at least) most of the year.
  • As it is hot and the sun is strong you should take some precautions – bring water (or buy it) when you are walking around in the temple area and remember sun screen to avoid getting fried.
  • A good guidebook: yes, you can find a lot of useful info on the internet. But get a good guidebook with a comprehensive street map. Which one to buy is up to you :-) We bought the Lonely Planet book and we found this to contain a lot of useful info about Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
  • Which forums to ask questions?: Try TripAdvisor, Fodor’s, SlowTalk, Frommer’s and Travelers to Go!
  • Are you bringing a laptop? We did and it was great to use this to check out attractions and opening times, maps etc. We did have an option for internet at our hotel but it was not for free but there were some bars and restaurants in Phnom Penh that had free WiFi.
  • Do you wonder how far it is from one place to another in Phnom Penh? Why not use Google Earth/Google Maps to measure? I find this to be a great tool.
  • Here is a interactive Google map where I have highlighted some of the places that we went to
  • Remember to dress “properly”. In this region they are a bit more modest so it is recommend to try to dress with respect when visiting e.g. temples.
  • Remember that monks are not supposed to touch women.

Feel free to check out the next section of this trip report: Phnom Penh Google map.



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