My Trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Part 1

Thinking of what to do during the Deepavali holiday here in Singapore last year, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to go out of the country again. As it was a last minute decision I searched for the cheapest flight within Asean  and Phonm Penh came out on top of the list. So without much preparation I embarked on a short weekend trip. I have little expectation about the city and was just looking forward to see firsthand how is the city like in an ordinary weekend. The trip turned out as my last holiday trip outside Singapore for year 2012.

Cambodia time is one hour behind Singapore so when I left Singapore minutes after 12:00 noon, I arrived Phonm Penh just after 2:00 in the afternoon, so the travel time is about 3 hours. Just like in Siem Reap, US dollars is the common currency in this capital city. Everything is priced and paid by dollars and the local currency is reduced to as a loose change. The taxi fare from the airport to the city is USD9 if you book it from the the taxi counter inside the terminal, if not and you opted to take outside the terminal the rate is much higher. The motorcycle fare around the city is USD2, and tuktuk charge USD1.5 for a short distance. So if you are on holiday to Phonm Penh or any place in Cambodia, it would be convenient for you to bring in US dollars in smaller denominations.

I stayed with a Pinoy friend I met in Battambang Cambodia so I was spared of the accommodation expense. I started to explore the city right after I arrived. Since the weather seems bearable though the sun still up I opted to just walk and proceeded to the Independence Monument which is few blocks away from my place. It seems that while I was walking, the tuk-tuk and moto taxi drivers sensed that I am not a local because they keep asking me if I want a ride or where I was going and offered me a ride. It was entertaining at first and I have to smile and politely says no, but as I keep walking the offer for a ride becomes annoying so after a while I just ignored them until I reached the roundabout where the Independence Monument stood majestically in the middle of two intersecting main boulevards. One of the important landmarks in the capital is this Independence Monument that also referred to as the National Monument. The monument looks grand in actual as compared to when seeing it in picture. The structure is hallowed and has each opening  at all the four sides with honor guards standing at the entrance. The monument is designed in Khmer architecture patterned after the structures in Angkor, with each tiers has naga heads (multi-headed cobras) protruding at each corner. My regret was that when I was there I was not able to check and see up-close the structure as I was hesitant to cross over the roundabout  because I haven't seen anyone doing so, so I just contend myself admiring it from across the road.

A street scene

The Independence Monument

From the monument I took a tuk tuk to the riverfront for USD2. I ended my day 1 here just leisurely walking and observing the locals doing their thing at the promenade. The place was crowded that afternoon, people strolling along the riverfront, older ladies setting in group right in the middle of the open space. One thing I have noticed was that the place is dusty as also the roads. So instead of setting for a while and observe the  going-ons, I decided to keep walking until I reached where I want to be next, at the FCC Cafe. Pubs, restaurants, and shops sit along the opposite side of the riverbank.  Before I reached the FCC I spotted a stall with an open kitchen right in front of it. I got intrigued with what is being cooked so I ordered one. It appear's like a rice cake but stuffed with leafy vegetables which I don't have an idea what type of. It was prepared and cooked similar to  a burger. I don't find it tasty enough and it was greasy so I ordered another food, a local flavored dried noodles which I liked, the taste was good and has a distinct  local flavor. I ended my first day at FCC Cafe with a coffee and dessert while minding the passersby outside.

As it was Saturday, I went out to experience nightlife in Phnom Penh. In visiting a new city or place, there are three things I usually do, explore the city of its attractions, feel the vibes of the locals, and experience the nightlife. In Phnom Penh the best place to experience nightlife is at the riverfront for the  pubs and restaurants and at Golden Sorya Street 51 and nearby streets for the bars and clubs. That saturday I went to Street 51 as most backpackers, tourists and locals I read crowded the area on Saturdays. True enough the area was teemed with people mostly tourists especially after midnight. I left the place past 2:00 in the morning happy and bit drunk.

Cambodia's local transpo, the Tuk tuk

view of the city streets

Outside the  Royal Palace 

Passing by the Sisowath Quay, opposite the Roayal Palace grounds

Mobile vendors  is a common sight

view of the river