Phnom Penh - Capital of Cambodia
Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and referred to many travelers as the smaller brother of Bangkok. For many travelers Phnom Penh is just a station to visit the famous Angkor temples. However, Phnom Penh has quite something to offer to travelers.
Things to see
Phnom Penh is a big city with a population of around 13 million and the biggest city in Cambodia. The city is capital of Cambodia since 1866. Some of the history you can visit in the National Museum which I recommend to visit.
The Royal Palace is another must visit. Although not as beautiful as the Royal Palace in Bangkok it is a masterpiece in itself. Build in 1866 when the French came to Cambodia and transformed Phnom Penh from a village into the city as we know it today.
The city has countless temples. The oldest structure is the Wat Phnom from the founding days of the city, constructed in 1373. Another beautiful temple is the Silver Pagoda, build in the 1800's.
Khmer Rouge, the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng
Anyone who visits Cambodia should pay a little attention (at least) to the recent history of Cambodia to understand the present situation.
In the late 1970's the Khmer Rouge were in charge. One of their prisons was the Tuol Svay Prey High School or Tuol Sleng which is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in which Khmer Rouge torture devices and photos of their victims are displayed.
Read more about Tuol Sleng, it's an essential visit if you want to understand the present day situation in the country.
French Colonial period
The French were for almost 100 years in Cambodia and even today there are still signs of the French colonial history to be found.
The central market is a good example of the French colonial architecture but in many streets you find traces back although few people these days speak French, to the surprise of many French visitors.
Getting there and away
Phnom penh is a quite easy city to enter. (I cycled into the capital from the northern direction (both Battambang and Siem Reap/Kampong Chaam) without much trouble.
Going out, is equally easy. If you fly out, you can cycle to the airport, about an hour cycling but you probably want your bike packed, so taking a tuk tuk is just as good (about $3-5 depending on your bargaining skill and time of the day).
Phnom Penh is a big city. The easiest way to go around is by taxi. Many taxi drivers offer guiding services too but beware of scams.
Not all taxi drivers do speak English or have the knowledge they pretend to have. Your hotel is usually able to offer a guide for the city or recommend a decent taxi driver.
As a guideline you can hire a taxi in Phnom Penh for about 8 hours for around town use for around $25USD. Pick up from or drop off to the Phnom Penh airport by taxi is $7.50 each way. The advantage of a taxi is of course the air-conditioned comfort on the trip in.
Rickshaw, tricycles are a common sight on the streets of Phnom Penh and they are an easy form of transport.
If you don't want to take the risk of your bicycle being stolen, you can also use one of the many motorbikes. Follow the same procedure as for taxis, some of the motorbike drivers are genuine, others are not. Shop around for the best info.
Accommodation in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh has a wide range of hotels and guest houses. Check your favorite hotel below.
Dragon boat festival and races
I was lucky when I visited Phnom Penh. It was just the days of the dragon boat races. All happened at the riverside and it seemed everyone in Phnom Penh was here.
The boat races, annually held are one of the main events in Phnom Penh and not to be missed. See our additional photo page.
The festival is truly spectacular. The boats are specially decorated and there are many prizes to win, not only for the fastest boat, also for the most beautiful boat and for the dressing of the rowers. Not to be missed when you are in Phnom Penh at the time.
Cycling in Phnom Penh
Cycling in Phnom Penh can be a little tricky as some areas are busy. However, it is by no means as bad as Bangkok is. So if you come to Cambodia, you can use your bicycle to go around.
Phnom Penh has good bike shops. The one I used in 2013 was the Flying Bike Shop. It's located at #131 BEO, St. 52 Pasteur Sangkat Psar Thmey 3, Khan Daun Phnom Penh (tel. +855 23 216 739 (facebook flyingbikes2). For a few dollars they packed my bike and helped me getting a tuk tuk to the airport. Fast and quality service. You won't be disappointed with their service.
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Maps of Cambodia
The Killing Fields
The beauty and the beast. The Cambodian history shows beauty in the form of Angkor. In recent history men showed its worst.
Dragon boat races in Phnom Penh
The Dragon boat races in Phnom Penh are an annual event that is not to be missed. I was lucky to be in Phnom Penh at the right time at the right place