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Phnom Penh

Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in phnom penh

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Asia : Southeast Asia : Cambodia : Phnom Penh
The Royal PalaceThe Royal Palace
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The Royal Palace

Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Despite its reputation as a 'rough' city, Phnom Penh is easy to get around and is a great introduction to Cambodia.

phnom penh Travel Guide :

Phnom Penh

Understand

For western visitors, even those who have visited other Asian cities, Phnom Penh can be a bit of a shock. It is very hot and (in the dry season) dusty, its infrastructure is undeveloped, and it is a very poor city - much poorer than, for example, Bangkok or Saigon. The visitor who cannot adjust to rubbish filled streets, fluctuating electricity supply, and large numbers of beggars, should probably give Phnom Penh a miss.

Those who find themselves struggling with Phnom Penh's current state should recall the terrible times the city has been through in recent decades. In 1975 it was choked with up to 2 million refugees from the war between the then U.S.-backed government and the Khmer Rouge. After its fall to the Khmer Rouge in April, it was completely emptied of civilians and allowed to crumble for the next four years. Most of the already small class of skilled professionals were murdered or driven into exile. The city fell to the Vietnamese Army in 1979, but the new Cambodian government had no money to spend on urban improvement until the peace settlement of 1992.

As Cambodia's economy has recovered a new rich class has arisen in Phnom Penh, and a crop of new hotels and restaurants has opened to accommodate them and the tourist trade. But there is as yet very little between the extremely rich and the extremely poor. Tourists often have little choice but to stay at expensive hotels and eat western food, since Phnom Penh has not yet developed the capacity to provide cheap but clean accommodation or cheap but safe local food. All the guide books warn the visitor against eating food bought from street stalls, and the visitor sees at once why.

Phnom Penh

Get in

See Cambodia for more information on getting into Cambodia.

Phnom Penh

By plane

Phnom Penh's Pochentong Airport (PNH) is Cambodia's largest international airport and most flights into the country pass through there. There are daily flights from all major regional airports (Bangkok, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore) as well as from Luang Prabang in Laos. Airlines include Bangkok Airways, Lao Aviation, Shanghai Airlines, Thai Airways, Silk Air, Dragon Air, among others. Malaysian low-cost carrier Air Asia (http://www.airasia.com) has also started flying daily flights from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, making Phnom Penh a cheap gateway into Cambodia.

Visas are available on arrival for many nationalities. The airport has a post office, bank, restaurants, Duty Free shop, news stand, tourist help desk, Business Center, as well as a Dairy Queen, the only western fast food franchise in the country.

Taxis from the airport run about $7 US. For visitors on a budget without a lot of luggage, it's worth walking out to the main road to catch a moto-taxi for $1-2.

Phnom Penh

By bus

There is extensive bus service to Phnom Penh from both Thailand and Vietnam, as well as Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) in the north. To the south there are regular services to Sihanoukville. Many buses and "mini-buses" (usually 10 person vans with 14 people in them) cater exclusively to western tourists. Buses are the most affordable option, but expect delays and close quarters. The main bus station is near the Central market where tickets can be bought (normally without any hassle).

Phnom Penh

By boat

A range of seasonal ferries ply the river between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap in the north, and the southern coast. These are usually much more scenic than the bus ride, but run in $20-$30 range. If taking the speedboat to or from Siem Reap (staging point for the Angkor temples), you have the choice of sitting inside or outside. If you sit inside you may get seasick. If you sit outside you will get both soaking wet and sunburned.

Phnom Penh

Get around

A general rule of thumb is to be sure to negotiate a price before one enters any of these vehicles.

Phnom Penh

By taxi

Vehicles recognizable as taxis are non-existent in the city. There is a taxi service, but one must call and usually wait for a while before the driver shows up. Even then these "taxis" do not have meters and the visitor is advised to address the issue of fare before the trip begins.

Phnom Penh

By mototaxi, motorbike, and cyclo

The Cambodian version of the tuk-tuk consists of a motor-cycle with a cabin for the passenger hitched to the back. They are cheaper than taxis and offer a more realistic experience of the city.

There are also hordes of young men on motorcycles, motodups in local parlance, who will take you anywhere for a small fare. This is quickest way to get around, if your nerves can stand it.

The cyclo, also known as velotaxi or cycle-rickshaw, is another means of transport in the city, although considerably slower then the mototaxis. These three-wheeled vehicles are gradually becoming less common in the city, as mototaxis increasingly choke up the roads, but they are still popular among Cambodians and foreign tourists alike. The nature of the seat lends itself to a quick and easy way to transport a load of goods from one place to another, one should not be surprised to see all manner of items being transported in this way, even other cyclos and the occasional motorbike as well.

Phnom Penh

On foot

Phnom Penh's streets and footpaths are rutted and pot-holed, and are clogged with garbage, stagnant water, parked motos, sleeping people, livestock and building materials. This makes walking anywhere a challenge, as cars and motos will not stop for pedestrians. Phnom Penh has almost no street lighting off the major boulevards and walking at night is not recommended.

Phnom Penh

See

Tuol Sleng PrisonTuol Sleng Prison
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Tuol Sleng Prison
  • Tuol Sleng Known during the Khmer Rouge regime as S-21 this former school was converted into Cambodias most important prison in 1975. More than 10.000 people were tortured here before being killed at the Killing fields south of Phnom Penh. The museum is easily accessible and a must-see not only for everyone interested in Cambodia's horrific recent past. For a introduction and further reading try David Chandler`s "voices from S 21".
  • Sisowath Quay for a real taste of terre indochine and one of the best combinations of south-east Asia and French colonial style, this is the place to be. Look for place with a view of the river, order a cafe au lait (or whatever), and enjoy the atmosphere. The river is extremely dirty but it looks OK from a distance.
  • Royal Palace/Silver Pagoda The Royal Palace and two magnificent pagodas in the Palace Grounds (the Silver Pagoda and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) are among the few public buildings in Phnom Penh really worth seeing. They were built in the 19th century with French technology to Cambodian designs, and have survived the traumas of the 20th century amazingly intact. See them early before it gets too hot. They are in any case closed from 11am to 2pm, when all sensible Cambodians have a nap.
  • Independence and Liberation memorials The impressive Buddhist-style Independence Memorial, commemorating the departure of the French in 1953, dominates the centre of the city. Nearby is the very ugly Stalinoid-style Liberation Memorial, marking the Vietnamese capture of the city in 1979. Although the Cambodians were glad to see the back of the Khmer Rouge, they don't like the Vietnamese much either, and have demonstrated this by neglecting the memorial for 20 years. It seems to be used mainly as a convenient urinal.
  • The Killing Fields About 17km south of Phnom Penh is Cheoung Ek, where the Khmer Rouge killed many thousands of their victims during their four-year reign of terror. Today the site is marked by a Buddhist stupa packed full of human skulls - the sides are made of glass so the visitors can see them up close. There is not much else to see. The road is bad even by Cambodian standards, so take a taxi and not a moto.
  • On your way back from the Killing Fields be sure to check out the shocking Stung Meanchey Garbage Dump where hundreds of the poorest of the poor, including many small children, swarm over mountains of refuse hoping to find anything of value.
  • The national MuseumA little dry but it gives an interesting over view of the art and culture of Cambodia many years ago and is a relief after the Killing Fields/Tuol Sleng
Phnom Penh

Buy

As of October 2005, there is a bigger push from the Cambodian government to use the Riel, the national currency, but most travellers are suprised to find that most transaction are done in U.S. dollars. Take lots of low denomination U.S. dollar notes, but leave your coins at home. In place of coins you will get back Riel, at an approximate exchange rate of 4000 to the dollar. The basic price for everything in Phnom Penh is "one dollar, one dollar."

  • Russian Market and ...
  • Central Market : both offer an experience of vivid commercial life and the opportunity to buy "designer clothing", "original swiss watches" and "software" at prices speaking another language The Russian market is the better option although it's slightly further out of town. It also sells the best ice coffee in the city.
  • Stef Happy Painting, 1 (http://www.happypainting.net/). Has fun and funky paintings of Cambodian life — a welcome relief after visiting some of Cambodia's more heart-breaking attractions. There's a boutique directly beneath the Foreign Correspondent's Club (FCC) in Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh

Eat

Phnom Penh offers some interesting culinary treats you won't find elsewhere in the country. Many of these include French-influenced dining as well as Thai, Vietnamese, and modern takes on traditional Cambodian dishes. The standard pizza-banana pancake-fried rice backpacker fare is also always easy to find.

The best area to wander is along the riverfront where everything from stand-up stalls to fine French bistros can be found. Take great care eating from stalls, however. Peeled fruit and vegetables and anything uncooked should be regarded with suspicion.

Phnom Penh

Budget

Take the cross river ferry to sit on mats and eat cheap hawker food while watching the sunset over the city.

  • La Croisette, Corner of Sisowath Quay and Street 144. French sidewalk cafe. Open all day.
  • Nouveau Pho de Paris, #26E Monivong. International Asian. Popular budget meals.
Phnom Penh

Mid-range

  • Lazy Gecko (23B Street 93 Boeung Kak Lake) has a really, really good hamburger.
  • Frizz restaurant. #335, Sisowath Quay. Traditional Cambodian cuisine.
  • Bali Cafe (379 Sisowath Quay) has pretty good Indonesian food. Try the Tahu Telur (Fried Tofu with Eggs). Be careful ordering water or you'll get the $3 small plastic bottle of Evian!
  • Paris Bubble Tea (285-287 Preah Monivong not far from the New York Hotel) is pleasant and has fun and refreshing Bubble Tea. Try the classic Pearl Milk Tea. 023 990 373
  • Le Duo (Street 322, between Monivong and Street 63) has excellent Italian food. Sicilian born Luigi makes great pastas and pizzas.
Phnom Penh

Splurge

  • FCC.(Foreign correspondents club) 363 Sisowath Quay. Superb views of the river have got their price; favourite expat hang-out. Does particularly good desserts.
  • Le Bistrot, #4D, Street 29. French and Italian. In an old villa.
  • Xiang Palace (Hotel Intercontinental) Chinese. Expensive fine dining. Dim Sum.
Phnom Penh

Drink

Places to hangout after dark include Street 104, which has about ten different style bars to visit. Choose from restaurant bars to girlie bars.

  • OneZeroFour 2 (http://www.104-cambodia.com) has a BBQ on Sundays.
  • Heart of Darkness, long the most infamous nightclub in Phnom Penh, closed in August 2005 after a patron was shot to death. It is expected to reopen by the end of 2005.
  • DV8 (located near the riverfront at #7 Street 148) 3 (http://www.dv8-cambodia.com). Singles bar. Great if you're a single guy.
Phnom Penh

Sleep

Phnom Penh

Budget

Boeung Kak Lake, Phnom PenhBoeung Kak Lake, Phnom Penh
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Boeung Kak Lake, Phnom Penh

Most of Phnom Penh's budget accommodation is clustered either near the riverfront or at Boeung Kak Lake.

  • DV8 Guesthouse & Bar, #7 St 148, tel. 012 620 441/012 776 885, 4 (http://www.dv8-cambodia.com). Small boutique guesthouse located just off the riverfront; ground floor bar, second floor pool table. Rooms from $5 to $25.
  • Rory's Guesthouse, #33 St 178 (facing the Royal Palace and National Museum and 100 meters from the riverfront); tel 012425702 5 (http://www.Rorysirishbar.com). Rooms from $10 to $30.


  • Number Nine Guesthouse, #9 St 93 Boeung Kak Lake, tel. 012 766 225, 012 935 813. Well known and popular.
  • Number Nine Sister Guesthouse, 012 424 240, around the corner. As the name says it's a sister outlet of the original Number Nine, but not as nice.
  • Simon's Guesthouse, #11 St 93 Boeung Kak lake, 012 884 650. Tricky to find but the layout of the rooms allows for a nice, cool breeze.
Phnom Penh

Mid-range

  • Golden Gate Hotel, No.9, Street 278, Sangkat Beng Keng Kang 1, Khan Chamkarmorn (near the Independence Monument), tel. +855 23 427618, 6 (http://www.goldengatehotels.com). Reliable place to stay with a range of hotel rooms, from $15 for a single in the older block to $40 or more for a suite in the new block. Clean, safe and comfortable. Great place for long-term stays, with discounted rates. Restaurants, shops and internet cafes within walking distance.
Phnom Penh

Luxury

There are a surprising amount of 4 and 5 star hotels in Phnom Penh.

  • Raffles Le Royal American owned 5 star hotel. Near Wat Phnom.
  • Intercontinental Hotel A favorite among visiting dignitaries.
  • Phnom Penh Hotel On Monivong, just south of the French Embassy. Newly renovated, the rooms and suites are very nicely appointed.
Phnom Penh

Stay safe

Phnom Penh has a partly deserved bad rep. While your odds of being robbed at gunpoint by cops or soldiers are much lower than in Cambodia's civil war days, your odds of being robbed at gunpoint by common hoodlums are correspondingly higher — official figures (almost certainly underestimates) report an average of 50 incidents per month (Cambodians and foreigners), leading to 5 deaths and 10 serious injuries. Avoid walking at night, try to find a dependable moto driver and don't carry more than necessary. Another serious problem is bag-snatching by thieves on bikes. If you must carry one, try to keep it on the side facing away from the street.


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