Welcome to Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh

A short-ish and relatively easy bus ride saw us make our way from Siem Reap to the capital city of Phnom Penh. With only a few days to spare, we managed to fill up our time quite easily.

Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located on the banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong river , Phnom Penh has been the national capital since French colonization of Cambodia, and has grown to become the nation’s center of economic and industrial activities, as well as the center of security, politics, Cultural heritage, and diplomacy of Cambodia.

Once known as the “Pearl of Asia,” it was considered one of the loveliest French-built cities in Indochina in the 1920s. Phnom Penh, along with Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, are significant global and domestic tourist destinations for Cambodia. Founded in 1434, the city is noted for its beautiful and historical architecture and attractions. There are a number of surviving French colonial buildings scattered along the grand boulevards.

Situated on the banks of the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac rivers, the Phnom Penh metropolitan area  is home to about 2.2 million of Cambodia’s population of over 14.8 million, up from about 1.9 million in 2008. The city is the wealthiest and most populous city in Cambodia and is the country’s political hub.

The city itself is a little strange – a bizarre mixture of old and new, under-developed and super-modernised. And with bewildering traffic consisting mainly of 2 wheelers, crossing the roads was at times more interesting than in India – and somewhat more dangerous as we witnessed 3 accidents in the space of 2 days as opposed to none in 2 months! Oh and we also witnessed a “run-by stoning” – in other words, a very angry looking man zooming down the narrow street down which we were walking throwing a rock at someone else”s very smart and new 4 by 4!!

Anyway, having got the hang of the road crossing pretty quickly, we spent quite a bit of time just ambling around – seemingly not something a lot of people do in Phnom Penh! But it enabled us to get more of a feeling of the city and got us from one place to another.

An interesting sign in our hotelimportant place, we thought it would be interesting to visit the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum – set inside the Tuol Svey Prey High School which the Khmer Rouges turned into the rather infamous S-21 prison. And interesting it was, if not absolutely horrifying. Set in the school itself with everything still in place and stains on the walls and floors together with the wealth of photos and documentation, it didn”t leave much to the imagination and made one think about the atrocities suffered. Not for the faint hearted!

On a more light-hearted note, we also visited both the Russian and Central markets, bustling places selling everything you might possibly need from rip off watches and sunglasses to fish, meat, fruit and vegetables via clothes, CDs and souvenirs. A stark contrast to the neighbouring AC malls offering some amazing entertainment such as roller-skating rinks on the rooftop and – get ready – karaoke lounges where you book into a private room and sing to your heart”s content!

Despite the suffocating heat, we donned our long skirts and long-sleeved shirts in order to visit the Royal Palace. Similar to its Thai counterpart in Bangkok, it was somehow more pleasant –
A busy mall!less cramped and busy, more gardens and prettily laid out. However, the big monkeys running around were a little scary, especially considering the chocolate cookies in our bag!

And finally, you know us, there rarely is a blog entry without mention of food – we definitely made the most of the French gastronomical heritage and ate ourselves silly!

Unfortunately – due to technical difficulties – we are not currently able to upload any pictures so stay tuned!