Phnom Penh, Cambodia- Pretty "Phnom"enal.....
This was a really “ph"enomenal trip (get it get it??). I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to Cambodia, to be honest. I booked Phnom Pheh as my last stop because the connector to Beijing was cheaper than any other ones I looked at. I am absolutely glad I did and would recommend everyone to go to Phnom Pheh or Cambodia in general. It is safe, generally clean for southeast Asia, and more importantly- CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP. Your dollar goes so darn far here you will never want to visit Europe again. How far you ask:
1hr massage $7-8
Iced Coffee .50-.75 cents
Pho from a street vendor $1
45 min Tuk-Tuk airport ride $5
Tuk-Tuk ride anywhere $1.50-$3.00
Your money will go farther than you could imagine here. I do think this is the cheapest of the countries I visited in my southeast Asia trip.
I have traveled all over the world, and luckily never needed a visa... Until China, Vietnam, and now Cambodia. The Cambodia visa is not difficult, and you do not have to get it beforehand, but they do want passport pictures, here is a link to the size, as well as the sizes of other passport photos. Once you land, go to the left, there is an area “Landing Visa”, this is where you will do your visa paperwork. You turn it in at the counter and then just go sit down because even though you see the cashier line and want to stand in it to pay immediately, you won't Instead you will stand there for the entire time they are doing the visas until your name is called and you pay. Go sit down and read your book like the pro traveler you are, don't look like a schmuck who has never done this before. You will go to the cashier line when they call your name to give you the passport. Depending on how long you will be in the country, your visa will be $30 or $35 American. YOU MUST BRING CASH TO PAY THEM.
Here is an online e-visa that I am pretty sure I filled out and paid... but forgot about until I got home. This is not necessary to do because you can do the visa in person, and they also charge you an additional $6 for this on-line method.
Once you have gotten your passport with the visa you will need to fill out an arrival/departure card before going through immigration. Fill it out while standing in line because they take FOREVER. After you go through immigration you will need to fill out a customs form. Those forms are on the left side on a table to be done before you walk through customs to leave. By this time, you will have filled out three forms and should be walking out.
Phnom Penh just redecorated their airport and it is really nice and makes my local airports look dingy and old. When you get back to the airport to fly out do not eat inside, there is a restaurant to the right of departures outside and it has great, cheap food. You put $5 on a card and probably won’t spend more than that for one person. I had an entrée, sugarcane juice, and a bottle of water for $4.25. Once you step into that airport everything triples in price. An iced coffee was $1 in the outdoor restaurant is now $4 inside the airport.
Ok NOW let's get on to the fun stuff!
Phnom Penh doesn’t have a train system or bus system; they rely on tuk-tuks. These are moped carriages. They are very cheap and EVERYWHERE, and will consistently ask you if you need one. The tuk-tuks drivers will be in the airport parking lot soliciting customers but are parked outside on the street because they would have to pay a toll to be in the airport parking lot. Some prices wereTo/From the airport, it is $5, most other places $2, although the Killing Field would be a little more especially if you want them to wait for you because it is so far (15 km away). From the Russian Market to Riverside I paid $2. Tell them how much you want to pay and keep moving down the line of them until you get to the person who will take you for that price because they all sit together and someone will take you for your price.
FOOD: Just eat street food, just eat street food, just eat street food. Do not be afraid to eat the street food, you will be missing out on even cheaper great food. I had a bowl of pho from a lady’s cart for $1. It was amazing and probably the only time in my life I have had to say “hold the chicken feet.” I would just stop and buy a Vietnamese coffee or a cup of sugarcane juice to drink on my walk. That stuff was amazing! I don't know how I didn't get diabetes from all the sugarcane juice I drank in Vietnam and Cambodia.
AEON: This is their really nice mall, which was nicer than some American malls I have been in. I was taken to the “food court” there and it was great. It had a huge variety of things to eat, and all of them cooked there for you. Also, in keeping with the cheap pricing, a friend and I had a meal of two sugarcane juices, two entrees, one set of potstickers for a total of $5.25. TOTAL! That was it. The food was great, large portions, and cheap.
Central Market: This is a HUGE market for everything you could ever want to buy. There are mass amounts of vendors inside, outside, down halls, everywhere. The pricing I got was $3 for shirts, $4 for the pants with elastic legs, and $3.50 for shot glass sets. Be ready be bargain, bargain, and bargain. You will find a lot of Nike clothing here as well as the Russian Market mentioned below. Shoes should be around $25-$35 and still negotiate from the original price.
Killing Fields: US $5 Entry, and it is a decently far distance to get to, the tuk-tuk can take you out there, wait for you and bring you back for about $8-$12. This is one of the many locations where the Khmer Rouge regime practice genocide during the mid-late 1970s.
National Museum of Cambodia: This place was gorgeous on the outside. Wow. I feel that it was the epitome of Cambodia culture. It is a $10 entrance fee and the art inside is amazing.
Riverside: This is the area on the river and contains a lot of restaurants, massage salons, and little shops. Definitely, a place to come and eat and hang out. Nothing really special about it but worth the experience.
Royal Palace: It was under construction when I was there, but from afar it looked gorgeous. There is just something about the Cambodian architecture that is stunning. I love it.
Russian Market: This is a smaller version of central market in a very nondescript area which wasn’t easily found. The market sits under a tin roof which means it is hottttttttttt inside. I mean hot. I was dripping sweat walking through, but the prices I got were worth it. I got Nike sports bras for $3.50, Nike running shorts for $3.50, cute dresses for $5, the open leg pants you see all the women walking around wearing for $4 each (I bought 5 pairs), hand-sewn pillowcases for $3 each, and more. I bargained my heart out. If you know you are going to buy a lot of clothing here, then I suggest you bring another suitcase with you when you fly up because these deals are way too good to pass up. For $50 you can literally get a new workout wardrobe. They have other clothes you can buy, but I couldn’t really tell if they were reselling used clothing or if they were new because they were all together. Buy whatever you want but know to look for stains and rips.
S21 Genocide Museum: ($8 US for ticket and audio). 1 ½- 2 hours. This museum is truly haunting. When the Khmer Rouge regime took over the government in the late 1970s they were set on killing everyone to start from “the beginning”. This location was one of many where they did killing, but what made this one so bad is that it was a school and they not only brought back students who went to school there and killed them in the schools, they also used a lot of the students’ play equipment as torture devices. The tour is very detailed as they have put up pictures of the dead after being tortured, the mugshots of the victims, the mugshots of those who were working in this camp. There is equipment that was used to torture still in rooms, and you can see blood stains on the floors and some walls. The number of those killed is in the millions, and those not killed in camps like this were walked, about 15 km, to the killing fields. PLEASE DO NOT TAKE ANY SELFIES AND RESPECT THE REQUESTS FOR NO PICTURES.
This is a random temple we came across that was spectacular. I am not sure of the name of it, but it is off of Riverside.
Here are a few tidbits of information to help your trip go smoothly!
1. Cash is king. Cambodia uses both American money and Cambodian Riel. When you take out money out of the ATM you will get American cash. There are a few places that take credit card, the majority take cash only. Whatever you think you need take out more because if you are like me, you will get sucked in at the markets, and whatever you don’t use you can take home and without being worried about being stuck with a bunch of Cambodian money. When you pay for items they will give you back some combination of Riel and American money.
2. Voltage: Cambodia uses 220V which means if you use your American/Canadian hair dryer or straightener at 110V you will blow your stuff up and probably blow a fuse where you are staying. Don't be that person.
3. You won’t need a mask; the air quality is fine. I rarely saw someone wearing a mask.
4. Don't get ripped off by the tuk-tuks. Don't be that tourist. Whatever say, offer 3/4 of it. They say $9, I say $2 and go to $3.
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