Phnom Penh – Good Food, Crazy Traffic, and a Beautiful Royal Palace

February 3, 2018

The City

Cambodia’s capital is its most developed city, and it brought us some comforts that we really appreciated after the time we spent in Battambang: good food and a decent hotel. The quality and diversity of the restaurants in Phnom Penh was a nice surprise for us: we had really good local, Morrocan and Indian food, and – very important for me – good coffee in a cafe just across the street from our hotel. Traffic in Phnom Penh is just as bad as in other cities of similar size, made worse by the number of scooters and tuk-tuks on the streets, and by the very bad state of most roads. Here are some photos from the city, both of its more manicured parts and of its normal streets, plus a short video shot during one of our tuk-tuk rides.

The most important touristic points in Phnom Penh are (apart from the 2 genocide memorial sites that I wrote about in the previous post) the Royal Palace, a Buddhist temple, and the National Museum.

The National Museum

The National Museum was a big disappointment. It’s the only museum I’ve seen so far where birds come into the building, shit on the displayed works, and no one cares! The museum building is beautiful from the outside, but badly maintained on the inside. There are almost no explanations to the displayed artifacts. You can get an audio guide at the entrance (for extra cost, of course!), which has lots of information, most of it perfectly boring and uninteresting. After having seen the museum in Siem Reap, which was just a delight and super informative, the National Museum in Phnom Penh just seemed like a waste of money. Here are photos of the museum building – inside it was not allowed to take photos, although neither other tourists nor the guards seemed to care at all.

The Ounalom Temple

Wat Ounalom is right next to the Royal Palace, so really easy to get to if you visit the palace. Plus, entrance is free! It’s the headquarters of Cambodian Buddhism and – what we found the most interesting – this temple is clearly actually in use and not set up especially for tourists, so it feels more authentic than visiting other temples, which hide their day-to-day working quarters from visitors.

The Royal Palace

The Cambodian Royal Palace is very similar to the royal palace in Bangkok. Whether that’s coincidence or not, I can’t say for sure. The king of Cambodia actually lives here, so parts of the palace are not accessible to tourists. But the palace, its grounds and gardens are very well maintained and don’t get the crazy tourist numbers that Bangkok’s royal palace does, so it’s definitely worth a visit.

Highs and Lows

My “highs” in Phnom Penh centered around small physical comforts, like having a hotel with a hot shower again, and some good food and coffee.

The “lows” were the lowest ones I’ve had so far on this trip, due to everything we found out about the genocide performed by the Khmer Rouge, which I wrote about in the previous post. Those lows overpowered everything else in Phnom Penh for me, and it took me a while to get back to a balanced state of mind again. If you travel to Phnom Penh and visit the S21 prison and the Killing Fields, you should plan enough time on your journey to allow yourself to process that information and get back on track afterwards.

Next Stop: The Beach!

We’re now heading south to Sihanoukville, on Cambodia’s seaside, to also see that side of the country. We’ve read that Cambodia has beautiful and not-yet-overly-touristic beaches, so we’re hoping to get some beach, sun and sea time in a beautiful natural setting.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Go top