24 Hours in Phnom Penh

Disclaimer: The words “Cambodian” and “Khmer” might be used interchangeably below. Khmer is the predecessor state of Cambodia.

For the Cambodia-Vietnam Itinerary, click here.

I arrived in Phnom Penh around 3PM from Siem Reap. Phnom Penh is an exciting city. Compared to what I initially thought, it is more advance and is rapidly developing. The hostels are priced well.

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia. Ever since the French colonization of the country, the city has been the capital of the country. It is the center for commercial and political affairs of the country. There are still French colonial buildings around.

Since I only spent 24 hours in the city, I am sharing how I did it with more walk than riding tuk-tuk.

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Why Phnom Penh?

Visiting Siem Reap will give you pretty much cultural and pre-historic look of Cambodia. Phnom Penh will show you how this country built its recent past. If you are interested in politics and societal power, Phnom Penh will definitely interest you. Just be sure that when you go to Phnom Penh you will widen your understanding.

How did I get to Phnom Penh?

There is no direct flight from Manila to Phnom Penh.

You have these options:

  1. Fly in to Siem Reap. I rode a bus, Mekong Express, from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. I left Siem Reap early morning, and took a 6hr ride to PP. (Most recommended since no crossing of border)
  2. Fly in to Singapore, then fly in to Phnom Penh.
  3. Fly in to Ho Chi Minh, then ride a van/bus to Phnom Penh.

Where did I stay in Phnom Penh?

Mad Monkey Hostel!

What did I do in Phnom Penh?

3PM – 7PM: Downtown Tour: Streetfood, Royal Palace, Mekong River Walk and Sunset, National Assembly (I didn’t go here), National Museum (I didn’t go here)

7-8PM: Dine

8PM-onwards: Nightlife/Rest

9AM – 11AM: Cheong Uk Killing Field

1100-1130AM: Back to PP Center (Tuol Sleng)

1130-1230: Lunch near Tuol Sleng

1230-200PM: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

In Pictures and Description!

Begin walking from your hostel to the Tonle Sap River. It can be easily identified on your map.

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Based from observation, they have 2 types of streetfood: 1) Fried 2) Veggie (yes, vegetable for streetfood!)
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The Royal Palace was built during the French colonization era. It serves as the residence of the king of Cambodia. This just across the Mekong River! Its Khmer name is Preah Barum Reachea Veang Chaktomuk Serei Mongkol.
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This is the Sisowath Quay Riverwalk where you can view the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. Different flags are displayed. Of course I looked for the Philippine flag! The boulevard was quite busy. With the majority resting on the ledge, locals and foreigners thrive to this area. With the well-maintained landscape, people busy themselves with Sepak Takraw, exercise and religious rituals. The foreigners flock here in the afternoon to witness the river reflect the golden sunset.
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Was able to catch 5 monks (or monks-to- be) resting.

After some tedious walking, I opted to rest in one of the restaurants beside the Royal Palace. Then the dark started to bite. I headed back to my hostel, and on my way back, I finally had the chance to capture these monuments at night.

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Norodom Monument. This was built to honor the late King Sihanouk Norodom, king of Camodia 1941-1955 and 1993-2004. The king campaigned for freedom of Camdodia from France.
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The Independence Monument or “Vimean Akareach”. This was built on 1958 as a symbol of freedom from France. As an important symbol, I heard leaders of the country come here as national events are also held here.
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Of course, people take time to take a picture of these monuments. But I’m also taking my picture!

Upon reaching my hostel, I searched for a place to eat but ended up on a convenience store sipping a cup of noodles. After this, you can go to their clubs by asking tuk-tuks. Just be mindful that tuk-tuks can go costly late night. The tuk-tuk drivers are generally nice. As for me, I just took a look of the clubs since I got really tired of the long walks, and I was reserving my energy for tomorrow’s big buckets.

Sleep.

Before beginning your day, you may want to read first the following:

Khmer Rouge History

Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia

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Woke up early morning for the Killing Field. You really have to ride a tuk-tuk going there because of its distance from the city center.
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Choeung Ek Killing Field.There were multiple killing fields in Cambodia back then. The one here is the nearest in PP. The good thing about this site is they have headphone guide (in English, and multiple languages).
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The site shows the killing area of Cambodians killed by Pol Pot, a radical advocate of communism. He and his troops killed all “unpure” people, those that did not conform to communist belief and practice. Three out of eight Cambodians were killed during his short regime.
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Visitors put bracelets to honor the the victims of this massive killing.
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The guide will tour you to multiple stops at the area, and will explain to you what happened per site. The story can be a bit depressing so prepare your self emotionally as it will take you to a deep and sad past of Cambodia. I think the more depressing part here is how a co-Cambodian killed other Cambodians for mere enforcement of belief.
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I am not including the ground shots to be less illustrative. Today, the monument stands to honor the death of these people. Inside are the skulls and skeletons dug properly labelled with the different causes of death (rod, gun, bamboo, etc).

After that, you can ride a tuk-tuk back to city proper and head to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

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Four months after the Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot’s Troops ) won the Cambodian Civil War, a high school was converted to a genocide place. Tuol Sleng, or Hill of the Poisonous Trees, was born. It was known as the Security Prison 21 (S-21). You will witness here rooms divided to smaller rooms as prison and torture areas, buildings wrapped with barbed wires, windows with iron bars/wires preventing escape. There were also iron bars at the floor where the feet of the prisoners were tied. The complex can handle 1000-1500 people. And almost 20,000 people were killed here. Cambodians were brought here for interrogation, and eventual killing.
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You can see here the hanging place for torture.
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The window was their best bet for light as they were waiting for false hope that they would be released if they cooperate.
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Cambodia has a unique story to tell, especially how its own people fought each other because of conviction to a belief.  Well, more of a one-sided thing. You will see in this trip how selfish and uncompromising people end up killing their own kind.

Pol-pot died of heart failure at age of 73. Read more about that here.

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