We visited Phnom Penh twice on our trip through Cambodia, there’s lots to see and it’s a great place to stopover from or to Siem Reap or if you enter Cambodia from the Vietnam boarder. As the capital of Cambodia Phnom Penh it is a bustling city with lots of history as well as fantastic markets and highly rated restaurants for food and drink.
1. Visit S-21 Prison and the Killing Fields
Cambodia has a wealth of history with the most famous perhaps the genocide of the Cambodian people by the Khmer Rouge. What makes the history so horrific is not only the 3 million people rumoured to have lost their lives during this horrific time, but the fact that this happened so recently – it certainly makes it harder to stomach. One of the hardest places to visit but also one of the top things to do in Cambodia is visit S-21 and the killing fields. S-21 prison is a former high school, that was taken over by the Khmer Rougue and became home to many Cambodian prison of war inmates. Of the 12,000 people who entered S-21 prison only 7 people are known to have survived. We were honoured to meet one of the survivors, Chum Mey and you can see myself and James in a photograph with him and his book ‘Survivor’. Chum Mey lost his beautiful wife and his children in the genocide but he remains so positive and is genuinely thrilled to meet tourists who are visiting S-21, his main goal is to share the story of the genocide and be grateful for surviving the prison when so few did.
“I think about it every night, how lucky I was to survive. Why did I survive?” Chum Mey, S-21 Prison survivor.
Choeung Ek or also known as one of the killing fields is a location in Cambodia where there are mass graves from the genocide. This one of the most famous killing locations of the Khmer Rougue with over 1 million murders taking place at this location.
2. Sunset cruise on the Mekong river
If you’re visiting Phnom Penh, you like river boats and cocktails then a sunset cruise on the Mekong river is for you. As part of our Gecko’s Adventure trip our guide arranged a private boat tour so we were really lucky to have the boat to ourselves for the evening. As this trip was booking on our behalf I can’t say how busy the boat would be if you booked privately, but I’m sure the views and experience would still be well worth it.
3. Walking around the city
To me, an important part of visiting any new destination is to get amongst the neighbourhoods and explore as you simply walk around your surroundings. There are so many temples and beautiful hidden gems in Phnom Penh that I discovered when walking around the city.
4. Have breakfast at the Vibe cafe
The smoothie bowls at Vibe cafe are so good that I bought all of the ingredients since getting back to the UK to try and recreate this fantastic breakfast. The staff are friendly, the food is deliciously healthy, vegan and fresh & to top it off Vibe cafe is probably one of the most ‘instagramable’ places to eat in Phnom Penh.
5. Explore the many food and shopping markets
There is a vast range of food and shopping markets in Phnom Penh, what better way to get the real Cambodian experience. I personally wouldn’t eat too much from the food markets, but if you do then make sure they cut any fresh fruit or cook the food in front of you. In Phnom Penh I tried these gorgeous pancakes with marshmallow spread, they were divine!
6. Stroll along the Mekong river
The Mekong river bankside is a focal point in Phnom Penh. It’s a great place to people watch, take a nice stroll or as a good meeting point to see friends or your group. There are also some good places to eat and drink near the Mekong river with live music, good views and a great atmosphere.
7. Get a Tuk Tuk around the city
On our first night in Phnom Penh we had a group tour of the city by night in Tuk Tuk’s. It was a great way to see the big monuments in a really short space of time and compared to London rickshaws it is a reasonably priced way to get around the city.
8. Find some time to relax
Everyone is different and find different ways to relax, whether that’s book in for a massage, reading a book or catching up with your family and friends back home it’s important to find time to relax. For me one of my top things to relax is sunbathing (don’t worry Mum I don’t forget my sunscreen) or swimming in a pool. Our hotel in Phnom Penh had a lovely rooftop pool so I seized a couple of opportunities to relax and take in the views.
9. Independent Monument
This beautiful monument celebrates Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953 and is one of the countries most well known landmarks.
10. Visit the Kyung Yu Fun Fair
Not far from the Independent monument is the Kyung Yu Fun Fair, which is a crazy fun fair with neon lights aplenty and loud music blaring. This is one to visit purely for the experience, it’s one of a kind & you whether for good or bad reasons I’m sure you won’t forget it!
Phnom Penh is a fantastic city with the right balance of night life, history, good food and shopping. I’d love to hear what you get up to on your visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Katie Travels x