Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Things To Do In Phnom Penh: Part 1

Phnom Penh isn't what I had envisaged it to be. I'd always imagined Phnom Penh as a laid back city with dusty roads and poor beggars begging on five-foot ways but I was rather wrong. Many parts of the city are developed, well planned, modern and quite beautiful, a pleasant surprise indeed. The promenade area for instance can rival that seen in certain parts of Europe. Unlike Siem Reap, there is no restriction on the height of buildings so high rises are a common sight here. 
Phnom Penh is not a very big city and the various tourist attractions are not too far apart. Listed below are things one can do in Phnom Penh. While most things listed are free, getting from place to place, you'll still need to hail a public transport. The tuk-tuks ( a two-wheeled carriage pulled by a motorbike) are easily available and a ride may cost between USD2 to USD5 depending on the distance and your bargaining skill. Somehow the cost of travelling around Cambodia is more expensive compared to Thailand. This is probably due to over usage of the US dollar instead of the Cambodian Riel as all services and products are quoted in USD and prices are always rounded to the nearest dollar.

1. Sisowath Quay
Sisowath Quay is a 3km long riverfront promenade facing the Tonle Sap River. This is a relaxing place to be. You can take a stroll while enjoying the scenic panorama of the river or just hang around and watch life goes by. On the southern end of the promenade you can see the confluence of Mekong River and Tonle Sap River. There are many restaurants and shops along the quay so you will have a handful of things to do here.

2. Independence Monument  
The Independence Monument is located at the roundabout where Sihanouk Blvd intersects Norodom Blvd. This 20 meter high monument was built to commemorate Cambodia's independence from French colonisation(in 1953) and also its war heroes. It is quite a beautiful monument, uniquely designed by a Cambodian architect. You can drop by to admire the structure and also to take a photo or two.
The Independence Monument is the center of activities when Cambodia celebrates its Independence Day each year.
Independence Monument at night

3. Statue Of Norodom Sihanouk 
Just a short walking distance away from Independence Monument lies the newly constructed bronze Statue of the late King Norodom Sihanouk. The cost to built this 4.5-meter-tall statue, housed under a 27-meter-high stupa is a whopping $USD1.2 million.

4.The Cambodia- Vietnam Frienship Monument
The Cambodia- Vietnam Frienship Monument was built in the 1970s to commemorate the former alliance between Vietnam and Cambodia. Apparently, Vietnam played a crucial role in helping to overthrow the brutal Khmer Regime. This monument is located at Botum Park in the heart of the city.

 5. Statue of Samdech Chuon Nath
A statue of a monk can be seen at a roundabout on the southern end of Sisowath Quay. Samdech Chuon Nath was no ordinary monk. He was an ardent protector of the Khmer identity, culture and history, and a conservator of the Khmer language. A statue of the monk was erected to commemorate his contribution to the nation. 
Visit this place to take a look at the statue of a monk whom Cambodia appreciates so much.

6. Wat Phnom
There are a few reasons to visit Wat Phnom. Firstly it is one of the oldest monuments in Phnom Penh and secondly standing at 27 metres above the ground it is the tallest religious structures in the city. 
Wat Phnom is built on the only hill in Phnom Penh which is also a man-made hill. Entrance into the temple ground is free but you will need to pay 1USD to enter the main pagoda aka Wat Preah Chedey Borapaut.  Wat Phnom is a functional Buddhist temple.
Seen here are devotees offering prayers and flowers at one of its shrines.
Behind the main temple building is the main stupa which towers quite high.

Just across the road, in front of Wat Phnom, you can see Electricit√© du Cambodge building which is quite charming.

7. Walk The Streets 
This has always been one of my favourite activities whichever city I visit. Walk the streets and small lanes and see what the locals sell, eat and do. This activity is absolutely free too.

There is a big Chinese community living in Phnom Penh who brought along their culture and tradition when they came to settle down here.

8. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to get an insight into the saddest part of Cambodia's History. What was formerly a secondary school was turned into a torture ground and prison during the Khmer Rouge Regime. Today the premise is a public museum which visitors can enter for a fee. (USD3.50pp)
The classrooms which were turned into prisoners' cells are now used as exhibition halls. Among the exhibits are photos of people who were tortured and perished in the detention centre.
Some rooms were left as they were during the regime. Blood stains could still be seen on the floor of a few classrooms. The victims of the cruel regime were fellow Cambodians who had a different ideology and who were educated in one way or the other. This included everyone who could read or write and this is probably the only era where it is more blessed to be illiterate than to be educated. 

This exhibit of a skull where a bullet was shot through is just a glimpse of cruelty that knew no bound during Pol Pot's reign.

Two survivors of the regime escaped death and live on to tell their stories through books which are on sale near the exit of the museum. You can meet them in person and get their autographs signed on the books you purchased.

9. Buffet At Tonle Bassac II Restaurant 
Another worthwhile thing to do in Phnom Penh is to dine at Tonle Bassac II Restaurant. Eat all you can buffet lunch is only USD8.25 and there is a big variety of authentic Khmer cuisine to try, all in one place. This is worth every cent.(Price quoted is as of time of travel)
Address: No.534, Preahmonivong Blvd, Sangkat Tonle Bassac 

10. Heritage Building Trail

If you are a fan of heritage buildings, there is a list of them around the city. Pay a tuk-tuk driver to move you from one to the other and take all the photos you want. Seen here is one of Phnom Penh's heritage buildings. It is the city's main post office which was built in 1890.

11. Visit Aeon Mall
Take the tuk-tuk to visit Aeon Mall which is Phnom Penh's largest shopping mall to shop or window shop. Aeon Mall is located 4km from the city centre.
Walking around to see the products on display you'll be surprised to see most items are imported and very few are authentic 'Made In Cambodia' products. The things are generally more expensive (than in Malaysia) and the overall cost of living is generally higher (than in Malaysia) even though the average income of the population is much lower. 
Click To See The Complete Series: Things To Do In Phnom Penh: Part II

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