From going in a quick Foodie entrance in Vietnam, we took a historical detour to Cambodia on our 3rd day of our 10-day South East Asia Trip. Cambodia was our second to the last stop before landing our last leg in Thailand for another 3 days.
The land of Khmer has a deep-rich but tragic history. Me and my friends are quite curious about their history, so we chose to have a glimpse of it. We visited 2 cities in Cambodia, first was Phnom Penh then Siem Reap. In this entry, I will separate the itineraries and stories of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
This was our Phnom Penh Itinerary:
Day 3 in our SEA Travel
- 9pm- Phnom Penh Arrival
- 9:30pm- Hostel Check in. We booked ours at Homeland Guesthouse
- 10pm-late dinner
- 11:30pm- lights off
From Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam we took the Mekong Van Express Limousine at 3pm going to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It was roughly a 6-hour van ride.
We arrived in Phnom Penh around 9pm, rode a tuktuk to our hostel for check in. Thanks to the passenger next to us that gave us a free ride going to our guesthouse. SAVE! Hahaha. Thanks Ate!
We stayed in: Homeland Guesthouse – Address: #15, Street 304, Sangkat Boeung Keng Kang II, Khan Chamcamon, Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
This guesthouse is near central market and genocide museum which is also known as S21 Prison. Both are worth a visit but food options nearby are very limited. But this place was adequate and the air condition kept us cool. The bed was okay. The shower was hot and has a good water pressure. You may chose other accommodations though.
After settling our bags, we immediately took off to have dinner! We were famished!
We rode a tuk tuk from our guesthouse to this supposed restaurant:
Sinh Foo Guesthouse and Restaurant.. (near national museum)
Address: No.323Eo, Sisowatch Quay, Sangkat Chey Chumneas, Khan Daun Penh, Pnom Penh, Cambodia
Tel : (855) 23 990 168, (855) 16 666 216
Food to eat: Tom Yam Hot pot, Steamed Fish with lemon, Deep fried Spring Roll
To our dismay, the driver did not drop us at the restaurant at all. I was frustrated because of what happened at that time but I had no choice, we were very hungry so we just settled ourselves with street food along the riverside and went back to our hostel grumpy.
2nd day in Phnom Penh: Day 4 in our SEA Travel
- 6:30am- wake up call
7:30am- start Historical City tour
- 11am- lunch in Aeon Mall
- 12noon -resume tour to Killing Fields
- 2pm- Back to hostel
- 3pm-left for Siem Reap
We did not want to spoil our fun just because of our failed dinner,so we just let it slide. We had our breakfast in our guesthouse, there breakfast was very basic, just enough to give our body energy before we can have our lunch.
These are the places we visited in our Historical City tour, respectively:
- Tuol Sleng Genocide museum also known as S21 Prison
- Independence Monument
- Statue of Norodom Sihanouk
- Royal Palace
- Aeon Mall for lunch
- The Choeung Ek Killing Fields
We immediately started our city tour after our breakfast. You may inquire at your guesthouse if they offer half day tour by tuk tuk. You may get their tour as long as it won’t exceed 25 USD. The maximum 25usd is per tuktuk, NOT per person. If they do not offer one, just look for a tuktuk who knows how to speak English or you may contact Lee. This is his number: 012-649-728. Lee was our tuk tuk driver and speaks good english.
First stop: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum also known as the S21 Prison. It was just a few blocks away from our guesthouse. Entrance fee was 3$ and 6$ if with audio guide -Opens at 8am.
The Audio Guide is very helpful to really know about the brutal history of Cambodia. I will not talk about it in details, just experience it for yourself.
The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979. Tuol Sleng means “Hill of the Poisonous Trees”. Tuol Sleng was only one of at least 150 execution centers in the country, and as many as 20,000 prisoners there were later killed.
It was a heart-rendering encounter. It was plain brutal and merciless. We left S21 Prison teary-eyed to our next stop, Independence Monument.
This is another one of Phnom Penh landmarks. It was built in 1958 for Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953. It stands on the intersection of Norodom Boulevard and Sihanouk Boulevard in the centre of the city. It is in the form of a lotus-shaped stupa, of the style seen at the great Khmer temple at Angkor Wat and other Khmer historical sites. The Independence Monument was designed by the influential Cambodian modern architect Vann Molyvann.
During national celebrations, The Independence Monument is the center of activity. A ceremonial flame on the interior pedestal is often lit by a royal or high official on these occasions, and floral tributes line the stairs. Every year, The Independence Monument is visited by foreigners and locals alike. Behind the monument is the newly constructed Statue of Norodom Sihanouk. Source: Wikipedia
Next was the Royal Palace, after having a quick photo op at the Independence Monument and the Statue of Norodom Sihanouk. Entrance fee for the palace was 6.50 USD. Note: Be sure to wear appropriate clothing. No shorts for women, no sleeveless, no slippers allowed. In case, you are wearing shorts, there are pants that are for sale in the entrance that costs 4 USD.
The Royal Palace is a complex of buildings which serves as the royal residence of the king of Cambodia. The Kings of Cambodia have occupied it since it was built in 1860s, with a period of absence when the country came into turmoil during and after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.
Though most of the parts are open for public, I noticed that there is one Palace that is off limits to visitors (I think that’s were there king resides).
We took a lot of photos here, the complex was very instagrammable. Hahaha Here are some of it: Hahaha
Our energy was on the verge of depletion when it was luckily time for lunch. We headed to Aeon Mall. Aeon Mall may be the biggest Mall in Phnom Penh. If you will compare it, it is similarly like Abreeza Ayala Mall here in the Philippines. We just ate at there food court just outside their grocery store. There are few viands that you can choose, and yes they are cheaper and tastier. We haven’t been able to take photos of the food we ate because we were just so damn hungry. Hehe
After we had our stomach full, we headed to our last stop. Another heart-breaking experience, The Choeung Ek Killing Fields. 3$ entrance fee and 6$ if with audio guide. We didn’t bother getting the audio guide this time as we thought we had already consumed too much emotions from the S21 Prison.
It is the site of a former orchard and mass grave of victims of the Khmer Rouge – killed between 1975 and 1979 – about 17 kilometres (11 mi) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This is the place where the Khmer Rouge era executed over one million people in a span of four years! Dreadful!
Today, it is made as a memorial for those who were killed. Upon entering, you will be greeted by a Monument. Inside the monument is a hemispherical glass structure filled with more than 5,000 human skulls. Some of the lower levels are opened during the day so that the skulls can be seen directly. Many have been shattered or smashed in.
After which, we head back to our guesthouse to get our bags and left for Siem Reap. We booked our bus ticket from our guesthouse at 10$ (we inquired and got it the night when we arrived in Phnom Penh). A van will pick you up in the guesthouse and drop you off at the Bus Terminal then hop on a bus going to Siem Reap. I forgot the name of the company. I think it was Mekong bus. It leaves at 3pm.
Phnom Penh Expenses:
Tuktuk to Hostel – 3$ divided 3 = 1$ each
Hostel – 5 USD each
Hostel to Restaurant and back to hostel – total of 6$ divided 3 = 2 $ each
Tuktuk Half daytour fee – 20 $ divided 3 = 7$ each
S21 Prison -6$ each
Royal Palace =6.5$ each
Killing Fields -3$ each
Dinner Allowance -5$ each
Breakfast allowance -3$ each
Lunch Allowance – 4 $ each
Bus to Siem Reap -10$ each
Total: 52.50 USD each
-When we traveled here in Cambodia, we realized that visiting here was expensive compared to the other countries that we were in, but the country has its charm that draws tourist in especially the Siem Reap (There Angkor Wat) and its rich in History.
-Say this when huggling for tuktuk: “T’lai na!” (“So expensive!”)
-always ask and confirm the tuktuk driver if he knows the places that you wish to visit, if not look for other tuktuk driver. You don’t want to be like us who failed our imagined dinner just because the driver did not know the restaurant. Grrr
-most people here only speak simple english, it might be a bit of a challenge in communicating to them
-if you want to do souvenir shopping, always haggle! around 1-2 USD for a fridge magnet just to give you an example.
-take the Mekong Van Express Limousine to Phnom Penh, Cambodia from Ho CHi Minh City, as for us, it was the most convenient land transportation experience that we had when we had our SEA Travel. You can book a seat via there website. Click here. It costs 14 USD with 1 bottled water, a cold wet wipes and a meat bun as inclusion. They will also assist you at the immigration.
– Don’t let the tuk tuk from the bus station charge you $5, $3 at the most. Mostly $2 anywhere in Phnom Penh. The fare is good for upto 4 person in one tuktuk. It’s NOT 3$/person
-In Cambodia, they are using more in USD as their currency rather than in their own local currency. So expect that every expense will be in USD, even the tuktuk’s.