Sunday, 18 August 2013

Phnom Penh, basic travel guide

Phnom Penh: the pearl of Asia Cambodia

Phnom Penh. Whether taken from the 1984 film The Killing Fields, or tales of hedonistic backpackers, the words themselves are guaranteed to evoke a particular atmosphere of their own, and for good reason. Phnom Penh, with its mix of chaos rude, shocking poverty, quaint charm and quiet beauty, is unique in the world, and quite a destination in its own right. The French called the "Pearl of Asia", a title he's quick appropriates.

Getting there

Most visitors fly in Cambodia from Phnom Penh International Airport, making it easy to get there. However, some entering the country by bus or theft of Siam Reap, the seat of the great ruins of Angkor Wat. Siam Reap, there are two options to make your way to Phnom Penh by bus along the excellent modern road built by American engineers, or by boat on the river / lake Tonle Sap. It will be available during and after the monsoon, as the dry season will drain the Tonle Sap to the point where the boat traffic on the lake area becomes impossible. Similarly, bus and boat into Saigon in Vietnam is possible with boats up the Mekong River.


To date, Cambodia is one of the countries that require special visas for tourists from almost all visitors. Chances are they will not just stamp your passport when you arrive at customs and immigration. Check with the Embassy of Cambodia regarding the requirements. Most Westerners can not get a visa on arrival, presenting passport photos and pay a slightly higher fee, but avoiding the hassle of passport at the embassy.

In 2006, there was an ATM operating throughout the city, which was a marked improvement. In the case of a technical failure, make all the money you need, mixed between checks and cash travel.


Parts of Phnom Penh that will interest most visitors are located in a small area of ??travel. You will most likely not need a ride to get to most places in the city until the heat and humidity you drain. In addition, walking is strongly encouraged as a way to take in as much of the city as possible.

While taxis, rickshaws and tuk tuk (a tricycle passenger motor) are available, much more common and also more in tune with the way people do things is to hail a guy goes about his business on his motorcycle , tell him where you want to negotiate a price, and hop on the back. Sometimes it will seem most people who drive motorcycle in Phnom Penh moonlighting as taxi drivers improvised. Sometimes these motorcycle taxis part-time do not know where you're going, but they are pretty cool about it so do not be shy about making them get directions they seem to have no idea where they will . As long as you do not quit and they do not lose the price, they will be happy.

Do not rent a bike yourself. Trafficking in Cambodia is chaotic and dangerous even by Asian standards. Only expatriates should even dare to try to move on their own in any kind of vehicle. To illustrate this point, the author has a T-shirt with a winged motorcycle and "Phnom Penh Motorscooter Club" emblazoned on the back. On the front is a target.

The City

Phnom Penh sits at the confluence of the Tonle Sap and Mekong River and is the undisputed center of the country. With a population of 1 million people, it is relatively low compared to its rivals in Southeast Asia (Bangkok weighs 6.7 million euros, for example). The capital of the province of the French Empire until the 1950s, the city remained the capital of sleepy backwater of a country whose export was leading rice until the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975. The civil war that followed their fall lasted two decades. The result was that when Phnom Penh began to leave his past trauma in the late 1990s, it has been well preserved since it was not overdeveloped, and had always something still stood its architectural heritage (which turned out to be a lot). This is not Bangkok or Jakarta, littered with ugly concrete buildings stained by the accumulated pollution of millions of two-stroke engines. While the streets may be littered with trash, the look and feel of the city are such that it takes little or no imagination to see what it must be like in 1965, when he was often called the "Paris of the Orient "and" Pearl of Asia ". The result is one of the most physically beautiful cities throughout Asia, especially along Sisowath Quay, the main street along the river.

The other side of the city is that it is bad. While in general are much Rouge friendly, you should expect to be harassed by street children who sell trinkets, touts and scammers around any place frequented by tourists. The best way to treat them is to treat them as local color (if the local color often unpleasant), and remember that losing your cool in Cambodia is wrong pal important and rarely get you anywhere.


Although smaller than its grandiose counterpart in Bangkok, the Royal Palace is beautiful. Complex closes at noon (sensitive Rouge beat the heat by taking a nap), no photography is allowed and you are required to show modesty and respect for the king (who still lives there!) Not wear short shorts and tank tops. However, the castle, the Silver Pagoda and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha worthwhile. The Emerald Buddha is a relic of precious jade, while floor tiles unique silver Silver Pagoda were lucky to escape looting by the Khmer Rouge.

The National Museum is a good stop for a primer before going to Angkor Wat, if you've been there it will seem disappointing. The infamous giant bats do not live in the roof of the building, after being cleaned during renovations in 2002 (how is that history is in the guides?). Wat Phnom and the stupa hill are doing a nice visit and great pictures. Another Buddhist temple to visit is Ounalum Wat, the largest temple in Cambodia active. The abott is widely regarded as the nominal leader of Buddhism in Cambodia.

No visit to Phnom Penh would be complete without at least two visits to Sisowath Quay. With most of the above attractions located along or near the road to the river, walk during the day. Then be sure to come back for dinner one night while you're in the city.

For a taste of the colonial era, or the heyday of journalism in the decadent 1960s Phnom Penh, be sure to make stops at the famous Raffles Hotel and the Foreign Correspondents Club. While it is undoubtedly the most expensive city for food or drink places, atmosphere both are simply not to be missed.

The Dark Side

Phnom Penh hosts two major monuments of the monstrosity that was the revolutionary regime of the Khmer Rouge. In the city itself is Toul Sleng, a school that was converted into the infamous S-21 prison. While most people who died under the Khmer Rouge were murdered or starved and worked to death in the country, S-21 had 14,000 inmates through his small enclosure under the Khmer Rouge. Only 8 survived.

The others were tortured until they confessed to be reactionary or traitors, and then they were released in the second memorial in Phnom Penh, the Killing Fields of Cheoung Ek. It is a serene-yet-morbid place. The main monument is a Buddhist stupa where hundreds of human skulls were stacked in a tower. The main features of these grounds are the remains of where mass graves were dug, and incompletely to the following: dirt is visibly compacted with bits of bone and clothing. One aspect of the wildest west of Phnom Penh is available on travel to and from Cheoung Ek - "Ranges" of the city, where for a small fee, you can shoot pistols, shotguns , assault rifles, machine guns powered band, and throw grenades. These facilities do not offer the possibility of RPG fire and small tank guns, even if it can be arranged if you are willing to pay a pretty hefty pot of wine.

Worse than this is the ongoing tragedy of Meanchey Garbage Dump Treng, where hundreds of poor people (including children) in the region to look something of value they can find. This is the worst kind of macabre "people zooism" beggars the imagination and how it even gained a reputation as a sordid attraction. A better use of time for those who are curious about the poverty in Cambodia is to visit a reputable NGOs working with the poor as a child Pour smile or an arts and traditional job-training program like Artisans Angkor.


To get an idea of ??life in Phnom Penh, a stop at the 1930s art deco glory Psar Themy, or Central Market, is simply a must. They sell everything from clothing, electronics, jewelry, tourist trinkets, fresh (or maybe not so fresh) meat beef and fish, food, spices, everything. A good tip is that Gap and other clothiers have factories outside Phnom Penh, and denies them (often with very minor defects) wind for the main market for pennies on the dollar. Add a few ways to negotiate your krama (traditional checkered Cambodian scarf)! Another market worth a visit is the "Russian Market", so-called because of its major customers in the days when Vietnam ruled the country.

Ideal lake

Near Wat Phnom, the calm Lake Beoung Kek. A string of guest houses and bars are located on a narrow cul-de-sac street, just far enough from the main streets to preserve a bit of calm. Most guest houses overlooking the lake, with its lotus flowers and small fishing skiffs. It is an ideal place to relax in a hammock with a beer, watch the sunset and catch a cool breeze. Even if you do not stay around Beoung Kek, you may want to visit to get a break from the rest of Phnom Penh. In addition, the open end of the alley is the only center of Islamic studies in Phnom Penh, sponsored by Saudi Wahhabi (the same branch of Islam that gave us Osama bin Laden!)

Night life

An institution of the city dating from the early 1990s is pleased Herb Pizza. Embracing the local tradition of the use of certain drugs in the kitchen, you can guess what they use instead of oregano in the preparation of the pizza! Good Herb is now surrounded by imitators, but do not be fooled and go directly to the original.

Another institution Phnom Penh, bar Sharkey in a noisy environment. A cut above in terms of Sharkey edgy atmosphere is the heart infamous club Darkness. Staying up late: after 3 or 4 in the morning, the cream of organized Khmer and youth spoiled county political elite crime will start to turn up, with their bodyguards in tow. If someone asks you to move, it is advisable to give up your seat. From time to time someone gets shot either in front or behind the bar, but most of the time it's just a nightclub that attracts a large and really weird mix of people. Friday and Saturday nights are always packed.

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