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9 Things to do in Phnom Penh

Siem Reaper > Travel Blog > 9 Things to do in Phnom Penh

Is Phnom Penh your next trip? The capital of Cambodia is a chaotic city, but at the same time manageable and calm, which also has numerous markets, temples and a beautiful promenade along the Mekong River. Buildings and shopping malls have proliferated in recent years, but it remains one of the least developed capitals of Southeast Asia.

Visit Silk Island of Koh Dach

silk island phnom penh
If we still have a day to get away for a few hours, Silk Island is a good place to do it. The best option is to rent a bicycle in Phnom Penh so that you can take a tour of the surroundings of the island and its small wooden houses where locals usually work at the entrance, patiently working silk on a loom. The main weaving center is located a few meters away from the ferry that crosses to the island, where you can buy different models of silk scarves with local stamps to finish the visit.

Discover the history of the S-21 prison

Phnom penh tour
The S-21 prison (or Tuol Sleng museum) is probably the best place to learn about the recent history of the country that between 1975 to 1979 was under the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime that ended the lives of 1.7 million Cambodians, a quarter of the country. The museum is an emotional place that stands as a monument to the thousands of people who were imprisoned and tortured in this former institute that was used as a security prison during the regime. Of the fourteen thousand people known to have entered, only seven survivors are known.

Learn from the past at the Choeung Ek Memorial

Phnom Penh history tour
The former Choeung Ek Chinese Cemetery is nonetheless the best-known site known as the Killing Fields where the Khmer Rouge murdered over a million people during the regime’s four years. The mass graves contained more than 8,000 bodies, many of them former political prisoners detained on S-21 who were discovered when they were discovered after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. Choeung Ek today is a monument marked by a Buddhist stupa where the skulls of many of the deceased separated by sex and age are found in a display case, as well as articles of clothing of some of the deceased. The stupa is also supported by the local community to educate visitors and to show respect for victims.

Tour to the Royal Palace

Cambodia Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is a large building located along the banks of the Mekong River that was built when Cambodia was part of the French Protectorate. The ancient kings of Cambodia have lived in the palace since its construction in 1860, except for the period of the Khmer Rouge regime. Today King Sihamoni resides in the palace, so a large part of the palace remains closed to the public. Visitors can visit the throne hall, a group of buildings that surround it, as well as the Silver Pagoda complex. During the visit, it is important to dress in decorum with pants below the knees and shirts that cover the elbow and shoulders.

Visit Wat Langka

Phnom Penh history tours
It is estimated that there are more than a thousand temples around all of Cambodia and many of them are in Phnom Penh. Among them, the most popular is probably Wat Phnom, whose legend tells that a woman in the 14th century found sacred Buddhist objects in a nearby river and placed them on a small hill located in this place. The temple was built to house these relics and, for this reason, the city was named Phnom Penh whose meaning is ” the mountain of Penh “. Wat Langka is another of the five original temples not to be missed, established as a sanctuary for sacred scriptures.

Shopping at Russian Market

food tour in phnom penh
The Phsar Tuol Tom Pong market is known to tourists as the Russian market due to its popularity with foreigners during the 1980s when most of its visitors were Russians living in the area. Located in the south of the city, 15 minutes from the river on a tuk-tuk ride, the market is a good place to browse its labyrinthine alleys in search of affordable clothing and souvenirs, including jewellery and antiques. Of course, there is also no shortage of food stalls, as in any other Southeast Asian market.

Try a bite at the central market

food tours in phnom penh
However, the central market is perhaps the best place for newcomers to Cambodian food, since it has an infinite number of products and possibilities: rice with prawns, fried noodles or with soup, fish and fruits. Prices are low, around 6,000 riels (US$ 1.5) for a plate of food. At the end of the lunch, we can also take a walk through other parts of the market where they sell gold, silver, old coins, clothing, watches and many other products with negotiable prices.

Taste a plate of Amok

cambodia food tour
Fish amok is a classic Cambodian food, although similar dishes can be found in neighboring countries such as Thailand or Laos. In the gastronomy of the region, the steaming of curry in banana leaves is called Amok and in Cambodian cuisine, it is prepared with fish. In upscale restaurants, amok is served carefully with a banana leaf and a little coconut cream on top, while in local places they tend to serve a boiled version that is more similar to soupy fish curry.

Take a walk along the river

When the sun goes down, the bars in the river area turn on their neon lights with the Angkor beer signs and the activity begins on their terraces offering happy hours and two-for-one drinks. Along the walk, we will find sellers of books, bracelets and food stalls, but there is also a wide variety of terraces with local and international food and even chains like KFC.

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About the author

Vathana has worked many years in the travel industry and has a wealth of knowledge and experience of different cultures and working practices. He really enjoys meeting travelers from other countries to learn and share experiences. Let be inspired by his travel advice and storytelling.