Landing at Phnom Penh airport, straight from the modern fast pace of Bangkok. Loading our luggage into a tuk tuk and praying it didn’t fall out of the sides. Changing our money from US dollars to Cambodian Riel and discovering that Riel is useless, most people pay with dollars. Phnom Penh is just madness. All traffic is tuk tuk’s or mopeds, no cars can be found. Especially no taxis.
I stayed in the capital for three weeks completing the first stage of my TEFL training. 21 other fresh-off-the-boat teachers, living in a pretty grim hotel, spending monday to friday, 9-5 in lectures and leading our own lessons.
Phnom Penh highlights
The Killing Fields
If you are visiting Cambodia, a day spent in the Killing Fields is necessary. The Khmer Rouge campaign led broad state-sponsored crimes against humanity and genocide. The death toll of this horrific time is uncertain, however a UN report surmised that between 2 – 3 million people were murdered. To understand the Cambodian culture and social mentality, you must understand the harrowing history of the beautiful country.
Imperial Palace, Phnom Penh
It cost around $5 for a private tour, which was great. Our guide was informative and friendly. Also, the Imperial Palace has some pretty impressive Buddhist art and pottery which I found more interesting than the palace itself.
An Angkor beer is around 50cents, so most of my Cambodian nightlife memories are fairly hazy. The bars are fun, they’re hot, a fair amount are located on rooftops or along the Mekong river. Go with friends, or make some there. Everyone is friendly and there is lots of opportunities to dance and be silly. Did I mention the beer is 50cents?
Side note; also be careful of your belongings. My partner was showing our tuk tuk driver how to get back to our hotel on his iPhone, and two guys on a moped swung by and grabbed his phone straight out of his hand.
Central Market, Phnom Penh
As you would expect, Central Market is all out Cambodian craziness. Expect heat, noise, new scents, new sights. The coffee is sensational and you can grab some cool kitschy gifts and knock off items if you have the courage to start haggling. I bought some sunglasses that I lost almost immediately, it was so sad.
Phnom Penh, you are intense and beautiful, but certainly crazy. I am sure there is so much more to discover in you, I wish we could have had longer than three weeks.
Thank you so much for reading!