I have to admit that the Cambodian capital disappointed me. And tired me out. Phnom Penh is a huge, loud, polluted, dusty, jammed and averagely interesting city.
We got to Phnom Penh late in the afternoon. The bus stopped somewhere next to one of the main streets. As usual, we didn’t have any hotel reservation, so quickly we became an easy target for tuk-tuk drivers, that jumped on us as soon as we left the bus. We had no idea where we were, we didn’t have a map, nor GPS (I really missed my lost phone with offline maps that moment). We entered one of the modern high buildings looking like a shopping center to find wi-fi and look for a hotel. In Asia many things look like something familiar, but turns out to be something different. The building turned out to be an office, there wasn’t even a coffee inside. We decided to get a tuk-tuk and go to one of the districts recommended by our guide. We ended up in a tiny room without a window, but in an attractive price of 6 dollars. It was late, so we decided to stay there for at least one night.
In the morning we changed the room to one with a window, but also with a view on a busy street. Every morning we were woken up by the tumult of the street endless noise of horns. The moment we went out to the street, tuk-tuk drivers jumped around us. However, we decided to walk to the riverfront to get to know the city better. We realized straight away that it’s not an easy task. There are pavements, but they are blocked with cars, motorbikes and food stands. We had to walk on a very busy street, where everybody drives according to their own rules, beeping their horns every time they want to turn, overtake, slow down, pass, warn or simply inform “i’m coming”.
On the way we visiting an odd Central Market built in 1927 in Art Deco style. It’s an interesting, I’m not sure if pretty, construction with a central dome and four “arms”. You can find there pretty much everything, souvenirs, jewelry, cosmetics, electronics and other useful and less useful things.
After 30 minutes we found a calmer street 178 right by the river. Ah, streets in Phnom Penh have numbers, not names. It would seem that great, it will be easy to move around and orientate yourself in the city. But, attention! It turned out that, yes, some streets are numbered in an organized way, but some numbers suddenly appear in a totally different part of the town. We noticed it when we were looking for a rooftop bar. The street we were looking for was not between 169 and 171 but in a completely different district.
A couple of streets perpendicular to the river close by the Royal Palace were the most pleasant part of the capital. Street number 178, known as Art Street is full of small galleries and shops with paintings and sculptures. Street number 240 is also very nice, with some shops with unique souvenirs and restaurants. That’s where we saw great bicycles with bamboo frames. Modern and extra light, really good idea.
The Royal Palace also disappointed us, but maybe after visiting over a dozen of buddhist temples, we expected something different and special. Silver Pagoda is pretty, but in general the whole complex doesn’t impress as much as for example the royal palace in Bangkok. We were happy though that the palace was not crowded and we could visit it without crowds.
We visited one more temple in Phnom Penh, Wat Phnom and Russian Market.
The most interesting part in the Cambodian capital is the Tuol Sleng museum and Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. It’s precisely because of these two places that you should visit Phnom Penh. Beside, there isn’t much more to see.
More pictures from Cambodia here.