Trip: October 2017
Below is our Top 5 Things To Do in Phnom Penh, part of the Just Carrying On – Top 5 Things To Do series. These lists are favorite activities, eats, and drinks from our travels around the world—in no particular order.
Phnom Penh was our second stop in Cambodia, after visiting Siem Reap, in October 2017. We spent three nights in the city.
1. Sunset drinks over the river at FCC
We sat at one of the seats that gazed out over the river and ordered our cocktails while Jason read aloud the interesting history of how the Foreign Correspondents Club came to be. We came for the sunset and saw the sky change colors before the clouds opened up and a torrential downpour caught the hawkers and street vendors and meandering tourists. It was a great perch to observe city life along the river before heading to the National Museum for the traditional Khmer dance.
2. Traditional Dance Show
When the free traditional dance show we wanted to attend was no longer being offered, we splurged on the $15 USD tickets to see a show at the National Museum put on by Cambodian Living Arts, a very cool local nonprofit. The multiple dances were artistic and creative. Through movement and storytelling it provided insight into Cambodian history and a glimpse of what was lost in the war, as many artists were targeted in the genocide. It was absolutely worth the money.
3. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
We were surprised to find the museum in one of the typical neighborhoods of the capitol. We soon learned that it was the actual holding site of the genocide, before people were carted off to the killing fields. The complex was formerly a school, converted to a place of so much misery. It was a hard place to be. We also felt that knowing and connecting with the history of the Cambodian genocide was important, as well as learning of the role the U.S. played in bombing Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Learning about the genocide, seeing the dance show, and connecting with the food people eat are all different ways to attempt a glimpse into another culture’s life. Be sure to get the excellent audio recording that accompanies the museum tour and gives the history and context.
4. Architecture Walking Tour
Jason took Melissa and Olivia on a self-guided architecture walking tour of the city, which we knew embarrassingly little about upon arrival. We learned, through the beautiful buildings in various stages of disrepair and restoration, of the French colonial and Chinese influences in Phnom Penh, as well as the things that were lost in the war. The city is a fascinating blend of history and industry. Were it not for the walking tour we wouldn’t have spent nearly as much time looking up.
Self-guided tour PDF can be found here
After an amazing meal at Marum in Siem Reap, we were very curious about the sister restaurant Romdeng in Phnom Penh. Could it hold a candle to our memory of Marum? Indeed, it could. We didn’t have reservations but luckily arrived just before six, in time to get a table and indulge in the two-for-one happy hour drinks. The food was equally as delicious and creative as Marum. The passion fruit coconut cheesecake was the crowd favorite among a typically chocolate obsessed group. The plate was licked clean. (No photo, but we assume the ingredients came from a fresh market like the one we passed by above 🙂 )
First, an amazingly indulgent (for us) all-you-can eat brunch for $11 at Khema Pasteur. We also ate a delicious lunch at the Central Market. We passed an Australian couple eating squid who told us it was delicious so we sat down at the vendors table and ordered what they had. It was indeed delicious, with a myriad of sauces and spices that reminded me of the complexity of Mexican food. They were heading to Siem Reap so we told them about our favorite tuk tuk driver (whom they later explored Angkor Wat with) and they told us about the great town of Kampot, so we headed there next.
Top 5 Things To Do in Phnom Penh is part of Just Carrying On – Top 5 Things To Do series, which offers our best travel recommendations from around the world.