Corny and cheesy title, I know! But holy moly baloney, the food there is fantastic! Three years ago when I first went to Cambodia I was in uber tourist mode. It was my fourth SE Asian country to explore. I already had Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand stamped in my passport; so that trip was all about hitting up the major tourist sites in the 5 days that I had there.
I covered PP in 2 days then journeyed onward to Siem Reap. FYI, either fly it there or take a chartered bus. I took the public bus for 5 bucks and had an “interesting” experience along the bumpy and winding roads!
This time though I went on a more professional adventure. As I stated in my packing vlog, I went to work at my company’s new language centre at a university in Phnom Penh. That was a great experience as I had to get out of my shell. I am so used to working with young’uns, so uni was a drastic change.
We had two shifts, either morning or afternoon. I opted for the afternoon shift. This allowed me the opportunity to trek around PP and visits all these wee nooks and crannies that I overlooked on my last journey. Last time I just stayed along the river, or tuk-tukked over to the Killing fields and Toul Seng Genocide Museum. This time around though, I pretty much walked everywhere! Yay for my Vibram shoes (which received a lot of stares). Thankfully they were well broken into, so I had no problem walking all those kilometres around town.
The sun rises early in Cambodia, so by 7am I was pretty much up and about. Places generally opened by 9am, but most smaller shops and restaurants along the waterfront opened by 7am. I stayed in two different places. The first one, Packer Choices Hostel, along St 19, was quite nice, new, and clean. I stayed in an 8 bed shared, female dorm. The dorm had 2 private baths, and the WiFi worked really well. Check out my clip here (sorry for the bed head! hahaha!!). I stayed there for a couple of nights and then went around the corner to my company provided guesthouse. Nawin Guesthouse was in a little alley off of st 178. It was just 2 blocks from the riverfront. I stayed on the 6th floor, and boy did that trek build up my glutes! No lifts, so reserve a lower level floor if you are not fond of climbing stairs. It was also clean and cozy, and the staff were super helpful. Wifi worked, and there was cable TV ( I am now addicted to watching Masterchef!)
Okay, so enough about hotels, on-wards to food! Since my last trip to Cambodia, things have changed drastically! A whole lot of development has been going on, and prices have risen a bit. Beer used to be 55 cents, now I saw it for 88 cents! The torture! :p. Food prices did rise a bit as well. I normally ate a large breakfast, and later a large dinner. Each would cost around 7 USD. Oh, and USD is the preferred currency. Cambodian Riel is pegged at about 4000-4200 Riel to 1 USD. USD is used for larger transactions, and Riel for change and smaller payments. Example, 5.50- would be a 5 dollar, and 2000 riel. Or a motorbike ride would be a about 2000-4000 riel. Good luck finding any Riel outside of Cambodia. Just walk with US Dinero and you will get riel along the way.
Okay, so back to food! Best places were along the waterfront, or surrounding back streets. I dined at Viva! Mexican restaurant. It was just a short walk from the night market. My vegetarian burrito was divine! That meal, and my Cola and Ankor beer, was about 9 USD. Some other good places were, Mekong 24 hour, Anjali, Bojangles (no connection whatsoever to the US fast food chain), and La Patate ( on Sisowath Quay, #277G). These were some of my favourites, but you will not be bummed out with vegetarian choices. For breakfast I normally had a baguette and omelet with juice or soda, which was around 5-6 usd. La Patate is a Belgian owned place which also operates a hotel along the riverfront. I had delicious Belgian fries for only 2 USD.
Also, the international shopping center Aeon recently opened up in Cambodia. So you can also find great food there. Korean fast food chain Lotteria, Burger King, and Dairy Queen, are just a few of the chain restaurants found in PP. It was only a 2.50 USD ride from the riverfront to Aeon. The journey was about 7 minutes via tuk-tuk.And with tuk-tuks, state your price first. This is a great guide offering insights on tuktuks.
So after noming away on delicious food, I carried on searching for other interesting sites and shopping. St 178 is also known as Art Street. Many times if you tell your tuk-tuk driver the street number, they would have 0 clue ( as I learned). But if you say a site or name that it is famous for, then you have a better chance at getting there.
Along Art Street and its surrounding alleyways and side streets, you can find cutesy stores selling all sorts of traditional/ regional items. Cambodia is a developing nation, so I tried to shop at places that were fair-trade and encouraged development for the disable or poor. Here is a Tripadvisor review for one such place so you can browse at your leisure Friends N Stuff. FNS had a nail salon as well as an adjacent restaurant. My colleagues and I went to dine there one evening but they were booked. So maybe make a reservation if you are keen on dining there. According to the reviews, the food was quite splendid and it was all for a good cause. I bought a few knick-knacks as souvenirs for another colleague at FNS. Another great charitable organization that I shopped at was Cambodia Crocheting Sisters. This organization helped women living in the city dump to overcome poverty by selling crocheted items. I found their outlet in Russian Market.
Sadly there are still many children who wander about the streets asking you to buy their bracelets, or asking you for money. I did see several tourists purchasing items. One such colleague did and ended up with about 10 kids asking him for money a few minutes later! I generally will not give money as it continues the cycle of poverty. Here is a link about street kids in Siem Reap.
Shopaholics rejoice! You can find a lot of great deals in Cambodia. Seeing as it is the site for factories to many name brand stores, you can buy Abercrombie shirts for 5 USD! I have seen those same shirts for over 50 bucks in the mall back home in Florida! If you take a peak through the Russian Market or Central Market you can find these items. I am more fond of the Thai elephant design so I picked up a few items with those prints. Basically if you trek through SE Asia my suggestion is just walk with the clothes you are wearing and a spare outfit and Pjs. Buy your clothes along the way. You can replace your entire wardrobe for less than 50 dollars. Haggling is almost a sport within those markets. Sellers generally will say a price that is double their actual selling rate. Once you state your price a mini haggling game ensues. If you walk away the price magically drops. If you find a good seller then purchase more items to get a better deal.
Tricksy the Triceratops even decided to venture out and explore the city one day. I am sure Cambodians were wondering why a yellow stuffed toy was posing along the streets of Phnom Penh!
That is all for now my sexy darlings! The next blog post will go over immigration and the new airport in Phnom Penh. I will also go over the new KLIA2 in Kuala Lumpur.